Bolivia Harvest Update

Our fresh crop Bolivians are here and tasting spectacular! Here is the low down on this years harvest and the coffees that we have available.

We love Bolivian coffees! They are incredibly sweet and clean – the kind of coffees that you can drink, cup after cup, and keep coming back for more. We love their versatility, and the diversity of their profiles. Some have a straight-up sugar cane and toffee sweetness, with a balanced acidity, silky mouthfeel and heavy dark chocolate body. Others are more complex and winey, with lovely notes of berries and butterscotch bursting from the cup.

– OVERVIEW –

We have been buying coffee in Bolivia since 2011. Many of the coffees we source from Bolivia come from very small and very dedicated producers including the Mamani Family and Pedro Flores, who own a couple of hectares of land and produce a handful of bags a year. These producers have worked with Pedro Rodriguez for many years, who, through his business Agricafe, has helped to process and market their coffees and connect them with specialty buyers like us.  Many of these small producers are members of the Sol de la Mañana program, which was set up by Agricafe in 2012, and is aimed at sharing knowledge and technical assistance with local producers to create better quality coffees in higher quantities in an effort to make coffee a viable and sustainable crop for themselves and their family.

We are now also getting access to some exceptional lots from the Rodriguez farms. The Rodriguez family began to plant coffee in 2012, and now have 12 farms (half of which are now in production). Their motivation to plant coffee was driven by falling production in the region.  Pedro established his farms to guarantee supply and the future sustainability of his business, and to demonstrate to local farmers what can be achieved with more planning, and the application of modern farming techniques. Under this project, called ‘Fincas Buena Vista’,  Pedro has planted a wide array of varieties, including Geisha, Java, SL28 and Batian, as well as more traditional varieties that are more common in Bolivia, including Typica, Caturra and Catuaí.

We travel to Bolivia every year to select our coffees. All of our cupping and pre-selection is done at Agricafe’s lab in Caranavi.  By traveling to Bolivia to select our coffees we are able to calibrate and give feedback to the producers and the Agricafe QC team, and learning more about the coffees, how they are processed and the challenges and complexities that each of the producers face.

Our sourcing guidelines in Bolivia are as follows:

  • Our purchasing decisions driven by which coffees taste the best on the table. We cup all of the coffees blind, and look for coffees that are sweet, clean and distinctive.
  • Our selections are based on a scoring system, and we buy coffees that are a minimum of 85 points or above.
  • We travel to Bolivia every year to select our coffees. All of our cupping and pre-selection is done at Agricafe’s lab in Caranavi.  By traveling to Bolivia to select our coffees we are able to calibrate and give feedback to the producers and the Agricafe QC team, and learning more about the coffees, how they are processed and the challenges and complexities that each of the producers face.
  • All of the coffees we source are traceable back to an individual producer or group of producers.
  • We pre – contract coffee and volumes each year to help our producing partners and exporters plan and get financing.
  • We strive to get as much information on each lot that we select – from what day it was picked, to the way it was processed, the variety of the lot, and any other relevant information.

 

– UPDATE ON THE 2017 HARVEST –

Early on in the harvest everything was looking incredibly positive for the producers in Bolivia; picking had started early and, for the first time ever, production was up year on year.  Early cuppings also indicated that the quality was exceptional and we all got very excited!

On our trip to Bolivia in August we were impressed to see the impact of the Sol de la Mañana program on many small producers in the Caranavi region. The first group to go through the program had their first year of full production this year, and the hard work of renovating their farms and completely changing their approach to coffee farming was finally being realised. Quality and yields were up, and the producers were energised and optimistic for the future.

Many of the Rodriguez family farms, including El Fuerte, El Arcangel and Don Carlos, were also in full production, and so we had a wide selection of coffees to pick from. We selected some exceptional Caturra and Catuai lots, however sadly were only able secure a handful of Geisha and Java (all which was pre-allocated) as the majority of this crop was wiped out by frost (this coffee ripens much later than the other varieties and was hit by bad weather later in the season when the majority of the more traditional varieties like Caturra and Catuaí had been picked). The Rodriguez family also lost 70% of their crop in Samaipata (a very new region near Santa Cruz) as a result of poor weather.

Overall, despite poor weather at the end of the season, quality this year has been exceptional, and we have selected some really special lots to share with you.  You can check out the full list available here. Pricing-wise, the coffees will be the same as last year (landing at around $16 – $19/kg). These prices are relatively high and reflect the low yields that the producers have had to endure over the last decade. We are paying prices that make it viable to keep the producers in coffee in the short and long term. The alternative for many is coca production (mainly used for cocaine) which harvests all year round and tends to be a more lucrative and reliable crop than coffee. We want to be able to buy from these producers for years to come, and pay higher prices to show our commitment to the farmers in the hope that they will continue to invest in coffee production and maintain their focus on quality. The good news is that the prices this year are matched with exceptional and distinctive quality in the cup.

 

– A BRAND NEW DRY MILL FOR PROCESSING-

All of the coffees this year were processed at Agricafe’s new dry mill, Planta Achocalla which is located in in La Paz. This is its first full year in operation, and it has given them much more control over how the coffee is sorted and processed.

 

– SOME OF OUR FAVOURITES FROM THIS SEASON-

Mamani Manani
The Mamani family is one of the most influential coffee-farming families in Bolivia, known throughout the region for their commitment to quality and the impact they’ve had on local coffee production. We have brought from them every year, and are always impressed. In addition to this lot that has been produced by the entire family, we also have 6 bags available from Mauricio Mamani.

Pedro Flores (Organic)
Pedro Flores has a 10 hectare farm called El Mirador. This micro-lot comes from the most elevated part of his farm at 1,650m above sea level, where the ripening process is slow, allowing the sugars to gradually develop, and creating a very sweet coffee. The result is exceptional.

Copabana “Carmelita” Washed & Natural
Carmela Aduviri has worked in coffee for 40 years. She has a 2 hectare farm in Copacabana and is extremely committed to quality. She has embraced the Sol de la Mañana program, and has recognised that she can live off her 2 hectares of land if she focuses on quality and takes a modern farming approach. We have two lots available from Carmela  – a washed lot and a beautifully processed natural.

El Arcangel
This 100% Caturra micro-lot is from the very first harvest of El Arcangel that the Rodriguez family planted in 2014. Daniela explained that all their learnings from other farms have been implement in the this farm “This is one of our most perfect plantations. Everything has grown as it should, in perfect alignment. We love spending time here… it is a very relaxing place where angels live!”

Don Carlos
This farm is co-owned by Pedro Rodriguez and his general manager and right-hand man, Don Carlos. It was planted in 2013 and is a very unique and meticulously organised farm. Pedro and Don Carlos have trialled several varieties on this farm – this lot is 100% Caturra.