Don Carlos

  • Country
    Bolivia
  • Province
    Caranavi
  • Colony
    Bolinda
  • Altitude
    1,450 - 1,650m above sea level
  • Variety
    Caturra
  • Processing
    Washed
  • Owner
    Pedro Rodriguez and Don Carlos

Floral aroma, full body, caramel sweetness and notes of dates, dark chocolate, orange and honey.

This very special 100% Caturra micro-lot is one of the very first harvests from a brand new farm called Don Carlos that was established in 2014.

Don Carlos is located in the colony of Bolinda which lies in a lush, steep mountain valley around 10 kilometres outside of the town of Caranavi. The colony of Bolinda was founded 52 years ago and was once known as ‘Bolivia Linda’ (‘Beautiful Bolivia’). Over the years this name was shortened to Bolinda, and it is now one of the larger settlements in the area.

This farm is co-owned by Pedro Rodriguez and his employee and right-hand man, Don Carlos. Don Carlos has worked with Pedro Rodgriguez over the last 15 years at Pedro’s side helping him build a visionary business called Agricafe, a coffee exporter that produces its own coffees and works with small local producers to process and buy their coffee, aiming to build long-term relationships with them, based on mutual trust and benefit.

Don Carlos and Pedro Rodriguez were together in the beginning of specialty coffee in Bolivia. He is Agricafe’s longest standing employee. He has played a vital role within the business, and his work can be seen everywhere, including in the creation of the wet mill in Caranavi.

With a young, dynamic and passionate team, including Don Carlos, and Pedro’s son Pedro Pablo and daughter Daniela, Agricafe represents over 1,000 small producers based in the Caranavi province and further afield in the South Yungas region. Many of the Caranavi-based producers deliver their whole cherries to Agricafe’s Buena Vista Mill (which Don Carlos helped Pedro build and manage) in Caranavi. This meticulously run mill processes many of its lots separately, allowing for full traceability back to the individual farmer or colony.

 

Over the last five years, many of the producers that Agricafe works with have stopped producing coffee (many farmers have switched to coca—grown for the drug trade—which provides them with a higher year-round income), and this, combined with falling yields for those still in the coffee game (as a result of leaf rust and simple farming practices) has seen coffee production across the nation more than halve.

In 2012, Pedro Rodriguez responded by investing in planting his own farms to guarantee supply and the future sustainability of his business, and to demonstrate to local farmers what can be achieved with planning and the application of modern farming techniques. Under this project, called ‘Fincas Buena Vista’, Agricafe now has 12 farms, and aims to plant around 200 hectares of coffee in total across them.

To recognise the hard work and care that Don Carlos has poured into Agricafe, the producers, and the mill over the last 15 years, Pedro has given Don Carlos a share in one of Agricafe’s new farms and named it after him.

Established in 2013, Don Carlos is the second farm that the family have planted, and they used the learnings from their first experimental farm, La Linda, to make informed decisions on how to plant and manage the farm.

Don Carlos is a very unique and meticulously organised farm, planted with the careful attention of Señor Don Carlos himself. Situatied at 1,546–1,650m above sea level, coffee here is meticulously organised by variety and is well spaced in neat rows, making picking much easier to manage than on the more traditional farms in the region.  The farm is 18 hectares in total, of which 6.63 are under production. Pedro and Don Carlos have trialled several varieties on this farm, including Geisha, Sl28, Java, Typica, Bourbon, and Red Caturra. This particular lot is 100% Caturra. Pedro and Don Carlos hire pickers from the Bolinda community to carefully hand pick the coffee during the harvest. These pickers are trained to select only the very ripest cherries, and multiple passes are made through the farm throughout the harvest to ensure the coffee is picked at its prime.

 

Despite Don Carlos and the Rodriguez family’s best efforts, production at this farm has been challenging. Whilst the farm has the perfect conditions to produce exceptional coffee, the farm is surrounded by plantations that have been affected by Roya (Leaf Rust). In 2016, 30% of the crop was lost. After a strong and carefully planned nutrition program, the farm has recovered, although its yields are still low, quality is exceptional. The good news is that Don Carlos and the Rodriguez family have learnt a lot about how to successfully combat this disease, and their learnings have been rolled out to their own farms and shared with their producing partners, so that they too can protect their farms from the devastating impact that this fungas can have.

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED

This very special lot was picked on the 22nd of July 2017 and processed on the same day at the Rodriguez family’s Buena Vista Mill. It was pulped and then fermented in water for 17.5 hours and after washing it was dried on raised beds in an open greenhouse with adjustable walls that can be raised to allow maximum ventilation. The shade of the greenhouse provides protection against the sun and ensures that the parchment does not break, allowing the coffee to dry slowly. While drying, the coffee was turned regularly to ensure it dried evenly, and carefully inspected for any defects (often more visible in wet parchment).

Once the coffee was dry, it was transported to La Paz where it was rested, and then milled at the Rodriguez family’s brand new dry mill. There, the coffee was carefully screened again by machines and also by hand.