Carmelita Coco Natural

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

Intensely fruit-forward, with wine gums, passionfruit, purple grape, port wine and a big, syrupy body. Very distinct.

This coffee was produced by Carmela Aduviri in Copacabana, a small and remote settlement 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 to produce exceptional coffee.

The inhabitants of Copacabana first started farming coffee around 40 years ago. Farms here are small and traditional, and almost all the work is carried out by the farm’s owners and their extended families, with just a handful of temporary workers hired to help out during harvest. All of the producers at Copacabana are Aymara, an ancient indigenous people that originally 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 is known for the world’s highest lake, called Titicaca. When the Aymara first moved to Caranavi, they named their ‘colony’, or settlement, Copacabana.

Carmela has worked in coffee for 40 years while raising seven children. Her farm, Carmelita, is just over two hectares in size and sits at an altitude of 1,500–1,670 metres above sea level. Today Carmela manages the farm with her son Elvis, and together they work incredibly hard on improving and producing the best quality coffee they can. On their farm they cultivate a mix of Caturra and Catuaí variety trees that grow in rich clay soil under the protective shade of native forest trees. Their heavy leaf fall creates a natural mulch fertiliser, and their canopy provides an important habitat for the many bird and insect species in the area.

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

ABOUT AGRICAFE

Agricafe is a Bolivian family business owned by Pedro Rodriguez and his daughter Daniela and son Pedro Pablo. The trio’s mission is to build the production of, and market for, Bolivian specialty coffee. To do this, they have invested efforts and funding across the entire specialty coffee production chain, including buying coffee from hundreds of local farmers, establishing state-of-the-art wet and dry mills, launching producer training programs, and planting new coffee farms across the regions of Caranavi and Samaipata.

Over the last decade, Agricafe has been working to try and save the Bolivian coffee industry. Despite its international recognition and highly sought after coffees, the production of coffee across Bolivia has decreased dramatically and has been at risk of completely disappearing. A combination of ageing coffee plantations, traditional and very unsophisticated farming techniques and diseases such leaf rust have resulted in significantly reduced yields, and this, combined with the proliferation of the competing coca industry (used for cocaine), has seen coffee production more than halve.

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 Mañana (which translates to ‘morning sun’) in 2015. They invited the entire Mamani family (including Juana and Juan) to be founding members, along with 10 other leading small producers in the region.

ABOUT SOL DE LA MAÑANA

The first of its kind in the country, the Sol de la Mañana program is aimed at sharing knowledge and technical assistance with local coffee producers to help them renovate their farms and improve yield quantities. By doing so Agricafe hopes that coffee production can be a sustainable and financially stable crop for smallholder farmers like Carmela for many years to come.

Carmela joined the Sol de la Mañana program in 2015.  As a member of the program, she follows a very structured series of courses focused on improving both quality and, critically, yield at her farm. The curriculum hones in on one aspect of farming at a time and includes information on building and maintaining a coffee nursery, when to prune and use fertiliser, how to avoid and treat leaf rust, and how to selectively pick coffee.

The results of this program have been profound, with improved quality and quantities for all participating producers, including Carmela. The producers have also become more confident, more proactive and more engaged as a community and sharing their learnings and experiences.

 

Since becoming a member, Carmela has built a vibrant coffee nursery and learned to prune, feed, and manage her coffee plantation in order to increase her yield. The program has helped her invest in her plantation and encouraged her to take a long-term view towards coffee farming, and in doing so she has established the foundations for a more sustainable, and ultimately more profitable, future for her family. Prior to participating in the program Carmela explained that she made around $1000 a year from coffee, and was forced to grow coca (which is illegal in Caranavi) to supplement her income. She estimates that last year she earned 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 by 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 7 pm a long line of taxis forms along the road leading to the mill.

After being picked and weighed this coffee was carefully washed and laid out to dry on raised African beds, and turned every hour. After about one week on the raised bed, the coffee was placed in a coco dryer. We have not seen coco dryers used in coffee before, however Pedro is always innovating and trialling different processing techniques, and found that these driers help to dry the coffee slowly and consistently. The coffee sits in the large steel vats for around 35 hours at temperatures no higher than 40 ˚C and is turned every 30 minutes.

Once the coffee was dry, it was transported to La Paz where it was rested, and then milled at Agricafe’s dry mill, La Luna. At this state-of-the-art mill, coffee is meticulously hulled and sorted using machinery, and is also sorted carefully by hand under UV and natural light. The mill is one of the cleanest and most impressive we have seen – you can read more about it here.

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 a tonne of 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.