Julio Paye

  • Country
    Bolivia
  • Province
    Caranavi
  • Colony
    Copacabana
  • Elevation
    1,500-1,670m above sea level
  • Variety
    Caturra
  • Processing
    Washed
  • Producers
    Julio Paye and Lupe Medina
  • Farm Name
    Finca San Bartolomé

Dried apricot, red apple and plum, with great intensity and clarity. Good structure, balanced with caramel sweetness and pecan.

This coffee was produced by Julio Paye Mamani and Lupe Medina 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 elevations, rich soil, and wide daily temperature ranges providing the perfect conditions for exceptional coffee.

The inhabitants of Copacabana first began farming coffee around 40 years ago. The 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 that 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 ‘colonia’, or settlement, Copacabana.

 

Julio and Lupe have a three-hectare farm called San Bartolomé, which is named after Julio’s father. Julio has lived in the region since he was 10. He inherited the farm from his father and together with his wife, Lupe, he has farmed the land for 25 years.

For many years Julio and Lupe (like many families in Copacabana) used to depend on the local market to sell their coffee, meaning low prices and little reliability. However, over the last decade, they have focused on producing specialty coffee. Now, they selectively pick their coffee cherries and sell their top-grade coffees for substantially higher prices to our partners the Rodríguez family at Agricafe as part of their Sol de la Mañana program. This initiative is aimed at improving infrastructure and farming practices at farms in order to create a more sustainable future for coffee in Bolivia.

Head here to learn more about the wonderful Sol de La Mañana program, and here to learn more about the incredible work the Rodríguez family and Agricafe are doing in Bolivia.

Julio and Lupe joined the Sol de la Mañana program in 2016.  As members of the program, they have followed a very structured series of courses, focused on improving their 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.

The results of this program have been profound, with improved quality and quantities for all participating producers, including Julio and Lupe. “Sol de la Mañana has opened my eyes. I genuinely enjoy making an effort and learning because it’s been an opportunity to change my life.” Julio explained. Since joining the Sol de la Mañana program, Julio and Lupe have drastically renovated their plantation, and now have 3 hectares of very healthy trees, that is neatly organised in well-spaced and neat rows. At the base of the farm they also have a vibrant nursery, and five years on from joining the program, the family are starting to gain exceptional yields from this investment of the farm of more than 30 bags per hectare (prior to 2016,  the farm yielded less than 6 bags/hectare).

Perhaps most critically – the family’s involvement in Sol de la Mañana has made Julio fall in love with coffee. Historically coffee for him was simply a cash crop but not his passion. His time was split between his small shop in town (that sells soft drinks) and the farm.

“Now all I want to do is be here”. Julio explained. “I have found my passion”.  

These days Julio spends most of his days on the farm and gets help from his son Dario, who is still in school, in the afternoons. Lupe manages their soft drink shop each day, and Julio takes over in the evening. Their days are long, and very busy, but as their coffee farm grows, the family hopes to be able to focus 100% of their time on the farm.

On one of our most recent visits to Julio’s farm, we asked what his hopes and dreams were for the future. “Now that I have more financial security, I want to help the community of workers who help me pick the coffee. I want to help them improve their lives and pay them more.” He explained. Julio has also built a small house for their family on the farm and hopes to one day move from Caranavi to live there. “I want to call San Bartolomé my home”

Already the farm feels like home. Lupe has lined the coffee plantation with beautiful flowers, and the family have also planted oranges, lemons and tangerines on the farm, that they sell at the local market.

 

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED

Along with a small team, Julio and Lupe 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 7 pm in the evening, a long line of taxi cabs forms along the road leading to the mill.

After being inspected and weighed, this coffee was carefully sorted by weight using water and floaters were removed. It was then pulped and ‘dry fermented’ in PVC tanks without water for around 48 hours. The wet parchment was then carefully machine-dried for 106 hours using a ‘guardiola,’ a horizontal, rotating drum that gets rid of moisture by creating a warm, consistent flow of air around the coffee.

Once the coffee was dry, it was transported to La Paz where it was rested before being milled at Agricafe’s dry mill, La Luna. At this state-of-the-art mill, the coffee was first hulled and sorted using machinery, and then by a team of workers who meticulously sorted the coffee again (this time 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.