South America 2018: discovering bolivian coffee
Last June we embarked on a new trip to South America: Bolivia was the first stage of our research, aimed at getting to know new coffee estates.
Not having any Bolivian coffees in our assortment, we wanted to take a first step to better understand and get to know more closely the reality of the coffee in this country, its customs and traditions, its main economic sectors and its territory.
A very enriching experience that we want to share with you, in a travel diary
23 June 2018
At 1:30 in the morning we arrive at the airport of La Paz, known as the highest administrative capital of the world, located on the Andes plateau at more than 3.500 m above sea level.
We sleep only three hours; the jet-lag and the cold night make resting rather difficult. Late in the morning, we cross La Paz together with Felix, a friend and organizer of this trip. La Paz is a huge city, built in a basin of immense dimensions, behind which stands the majestic Illimani mountain.
Together with six other people, including Felix, we head towards the city of Caranavi, located in the Rio Yara valley. Under a leaden sky and occasionally immersed in the clouds we cross long and narrow mountain valleys. The colours of the landscape are magnificent, the colourful skirts and the long black braids of the local women are eye-catching.
The city of Caranavi is considered the Bolivian coffee capital; for this reason, we keep on searching in the air the typical smell of the beneficios, that is, the facilities where the coffee is processed so that the ripe cherries become parchment coffee (for washed coffees) or dried cherries (for natural coffees).
Felix explains that this processing takes place much higher, over 1.300 m, which is why the smell of beneficios is not much perceivable.
25 June 2018
Today we begin to visit the first estates, accompanied by Viktor Kalla. Viktor is a small producer of the Caranavi area who speaks Aymara, the traditional language of the Central Andes. He owns several hectares of plantations and is part of a small organization of 64 producers who grow organic coffee between 1.300 and 1.650 m asl.
In the afternoon, we have a short meeting with the organization CORACA (Corporacion Agropecuaria Campesina) and take the opportunity to visit some of the producers who are part of it. One of them is Santos Mamani, the president of the organization, who works in the community of Collasuyo and whose estates are located at 1.400 m asl. Among his several activities he also produces natural coffee and affirms that he exports over 15.000 lbs of specialty green gold.
We continue with the visit to the estates of Nicolas Colque, the youngest of the producers: a determined person, with a strong personality, who owns several hectares of land where different varieties (Geisha, Caturra and Catuaì) are grown, and from which he obtains a production of about 150/200 bags of parchment coffee (i.e. after a wet-processing, the coffee beans are still enveloped by the (dried) endocarp, which has a protective function).
Nicolas has divided the estate and, consequently, the production of his coffee in traceable batches. He has also built a brick room for drying the coffee through hot air flows produced by an oven placed outside, so that the whole drying process is reduced to just three days.
A great accomplishment for a small producer!
Felix tells us that Nicolas produces a coffee with a very interesting organoleptic profile, with a high citric acidity and a fruity taste.
The day has been tiring but we are really excited about these new connections.
For further details see the interview with Nicolas Colque …