Carmelita (Natural)

  • Country
    Bolivia
  • Province
    Caranavi
  • Colony
    Copacabana
  • Altitude
    1,500–1,670m above sea level
  • Variety
    Caturra, Catuai
  • Processing
    Natural
  • Producers
    Carmela Aduviri

Sweet and syrupy, with bright Reisling-like acidity and vibrant fruit notes of orange, yellow plum, apricot and pineapple. Chocolate mousse and raisins.

This coffee was produced by Carmela Aduviri from Copacabana, a small and remote settlement located 180 kilometres from La Paz in the heart of the Caranavi province. This region is the epicentre for specialty coffee production in Bolivia, with incredibly high altitudes, rich soil, and wide daily temperature ranges providing the perfect conditions for exceptional coffee.

The inhabitants of Copacabana first began farming coffee around 35 years ago. Farms here are small and traditional. Almost all work is carried out by the farm’s owners and their extended families, with a handful of temporary workers taken on to help out during harvest. All of the producers at Copacabana were born into the Aymara, an ancient indigenous group which lived on the Altiplano (a vast plateau of the central Andes that stretches from southern Peru to Bolivia and into northern Chile and Argentina). The region was known for the world’s highest lake, called Titicaca, and when their families moved to Caranavi, they named their ‘colony’, or settlement, Copacabana.

Carmela has worked in coffee for fourty years while raising eight children.  Her farm, “Carmelita”, is about 2 hectares in size, and is located at an altitude of 1,500 to 1,670 metres above sea level.  Today Carmela manages the farm with her sons Luis and Elvis, and together they have worked incredibly hard on improving and producing the best quality coffee they can. They grow a mix of Caturra and Catuaí variety trees on their farm, whic0h grow in a rich clay soil under the protective shade of native forest trees, whose heavy leaf fall creates a natural mulch fertiliser, and whose canopy provides an important habitat for the many bird and insect species in the area.

The families who live in Copacabana, including the Aduviri family, used to depend on the local market to sell their coffee, meaning low prices and little reliability. Now they selectively pick their coffee cherries and are able to sell their top-grade coffees for substantially higher prices to our partners at Agricafe, which processes specialty lots at its Buena Vista wet mill which is located in Caranavi.

ABOUT AGRICAFE

Agricafe is a Bolivian family business which produces coffee from its own farms and also sources and processes high quality micro-lots from small, quality focused producers of the Yungas region, like Carmela, who they have worked with for many years.

Agricafe was established in 1986, when its founder, Pedro Rodriguez decided to ditch his suit and his accounting job to pursue his passion for agriculture. Over the last three decades, Pedro has worked tirelessly to build the production of, and market for, Bolivian specialty coffee, helping hundreds of local farmers recognise and realise the potential of their land and crops. He works alongside his daughter Daniela, in charge of the marketing and operations, and his son Pedro Pablo, who graduated in Agriculture.

Over the last decade, Agricafe have been working to try and save the Bolivian coffee industry. Despite its international recognition and highly sought-after coffees, production of coffee across Bolivia has fallen dramatically. A combination of ageing coffee plantations, unsophisticated farming techniques and leaf rust have contributed to dramatically reduced yields, and this, combined with the competing coca industry (which is illegal in Caranavi but appealing as it is more lucrative for farmers), has seen coffee production more than halve over the last five years. To try to save coffee production in Bolivia and build a more sustainable future for it the Rodriguez family started a project called Sol de la Manaña.

ABOUT SOL DE LA MANANA

The first of its kind in the country, the Sol de la Manaña program is aimed at sharing knowledge and technical assistance with local producers to create better quality coffees in higher quantities. By doing so Agricafe hopes that coffee production can be a viable and sustainable crop for producers, like Carmela,  in the region for many years to come.

Carmela joined the Sol de la Manaña program in 2015.  As a member of the program, she has followed a very structured series of courses, focused on improving her quality and yield. The curriculum focuses on one aspect of farming at a time, and covers things such as how to build a nursery, how and when to use fertiliser, how to prune, has how to selectively pick coffee. Agricafe also hosts workshops with leading agronomists throughout the year. These forums have allowed the producers to meet one another, share their experiences and discuss ways to tackle problems they are experiencing. Over time the producers have become more experienced and confident and actively sharing their learning with each other.

The results of this program have been profound, with improved quality and quantities for all participating producers. In addition, the producers have become more confident and proactive and engaged as a community and are sharing their learnings and experiences with each other. Daniela explains that this is where the program becomes really powerful:  “We are giving them the tools and know-how, but they are actively choosing to follow our advice and invest in their farms. Now they can see the results, they trust us 100% and helping their neighbours achieve similar results.” 

Since becoming a member, Carmela has built a vibrant coffee nursery and learnt to prune, feed, and manage her coffee plantation in order to increase their yield. The program has helped her invest in her plantation and encouraged her to take a long-term view, and in doing so she has established the foundations for a more sustainable and ultimately more profitable future for her family. Prior to the program Carmela explained that she made around $1000 a year from coffee, and was forced to grow coca (illegal in Caranavi) to supplement her income. She estimates that last year she earns over $20,000 from coffee alone. “Coffee has bought our family together. We used to live far apart, but now my sons are at the farm helping me every day. Coffee is a viable crop for us now.” 

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED

Carmela carefully hand-picked this coffee and delivered it to the Buena Vista washing station via taxi. This meticulously run washing station is owned Agricafe, who painstakingly process each of the exceptional specialty lots they receive separately, allowing for full traceability back to the individual farmer or colony.

Evenings at the mill are always bustling as arrivals of fresh cherries begin in the late afternoon (after the day’s picking) and continue deep into the night. It is widely known around Caranavi that only perfectly ripe cherries will be accepted by this mill and all lots are inspected on arrival prior to processing. In an arrangement somewhat unique to this mill, many farmers use taxis to deliver coffee, and by 7pm in the evening a long line of taxi cabs forms along the road leading to the mill.

After the coffee was delivered, it was placed into a floatation tank and all floaters were removed. The whole cherries were then dried on on raised beds in the sun and turned turned regularly to ensure it dried evenly. The drying was then finished off at a very low temperature in a stationary drier. The coffee was then transported to La Paz where it was rested, and then milled at the Rodriguez family’s brand new dry mill. At the mill, the coffee was carefully screened again by machines and also by hand to remove any defects.

Carmela worked hard to collect and process the cherries for this special micro-lot and carefully hand polished all of the cherries before delivering them to the mill! A whole lot of love and hard work has gone into this coffee.. we hope you enjoy it!

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Read about the Sol de la Mañana program here and Pedro Rodgriguez here and about Bolivian coffee more generally here.