Bring on Bolivia!
Our annual visit to Bolivia involves a 30-hour journey from Melbourne via Sydney to Santiago (overnight), then Iquique (a surprise stop in Northern Chile just to keep things interesting) and, finally, El Alto. El Alto sits above the densely populated city of La Paz at a dizzying height of 4,150m above sea level. We are instructed not to eat too much, (the altitude makes it hard to digest food), drink plenty of coca tea, suck on an oxygen tank if we need it, and take it easy. Walking too fast doesn’t work at this elevation, and even the locals move at a slightly slower than usual pace.
Once we’ve landed, we take the long drive to Caranavi along the breathtaking (literally!) road that tightly hugs the mountain’s edge, with a sheer drop below. As we make our descent, the environment changes dramatically from the cool, rocky, barren and almost moon-like environment of El Alto, to the humid, green, lush, thick vegetation of the Yungas Valley, which is the heart of coffee growing in Bolivia.
By nightfall we have arrived at the Buena Vista mill, where we spend the majority of our time in Bolivia. Here we witness the line-up of taxis winding up the drive to the mill, a daily occurrence from around 6pm. These cars are crammed with multiple family members and their neighbours, and bags and bags of freshly picked, perfectly ripe coffee. On arrival, the coffee is inspected, weighed and processed immediately. As our heads hit the pillow that night, we listen to the sounds of the mill humming into the early hours of the morning, as a steady stream of producers continues to arrive.
In the morning, and the days to follow, we cup in a beautiful lab overlooking the valley. Every time we come here, we are blown away – not only by this view, but also by the extremely high quality of the coffee. This year is no exception.
The latest arrivals from Bolivia are due to land in Australia in January. We cannot wait to share them with you.
This year we have some exceptional lots from Pedro Rodriguez and his family, as well as small micro lots from some of our favourite small producers including the Mamani family and Nicolas Colque. We hope you enjoy roasting and drinking these very special coffees as much as we have enjoyed sourcing them for you.