South America 2018: discovering bolivian estates
Our trip to Bolivia, in search of new coffee farms, has allowed us to get in touch with new cultures, cities and coffee realities. Before reading this story, read the article about the first part of the journey.
26 June 2018
The alarm rings long before dawn. It is not easy to get out of bed but we have no choice: we must drive to the municipality of Alto Beni, but the access road is closed from 7:00 to 17:00 for roadworks. In the municipality of Alto Beni we meet Juanito Rodriguez, who cultivates two hectares of coffee, which he then sells as mote (i.e. coffee in parchment with 60% of humidity).
To safeguard his harvest, he has to face a big problem: the Mono Martin, a Cebo monkey that lives in the surrounding forest and is fond of ripe cherries. Juanito and his brother spend their days wandering through the finca with a slingshot, to shoo as many monkeys as possible and limit the damages.
Later we meet another producer, Oliver Crispin, who owns some acres of the Mundo Novo and Typica varieties, located at a lower altitude, around 900-1.000 m asl. His farms are still traditional ones: they were created during the great colonization in 1976 and Oliver inherited them from his father.
27 June 2018
A downpour wakes us up. Apparently, it is something common here. In the morning, Norberto Mamani picks us up and takes us to the Central Alianza, in the Cherro Uchumachi area where, since 2005, the APECNA association (Ass. Productores Ecologicos Café Nueva Alianza) is located, of which he is the president.
We meet several middle-aged producers belonging to the second or third generation of coffee families. Here the estates are higher, between 1.500 and 1.800 m asl and produce, on average, 350 bags of 50 kg of coffee yearly. They produce almost exclusively red and yellow Caturra and red Catuaì varieties.
28 June 2018
At lunch we visit the coffee shop “Typica”.
It is a very nice and tastefully furnished place: there are coloured and vintage chairs, tables with slightly retro crochet decorations and a long and low counter, where it is possible to prepare coffee using different brewing methods. Both the pastries and the sandwiches are cute and delicious.
Here we also taste some coffees:
- Uchumachi, with a chocolate aroma, a gentle citric-malic acidity, notes of yellow fruit, a good body and a long aftertaste of sweet chocolate. After cooling, there are hints of jute, perhaps due to a low-level roasting;
- San Lorenzo, with aromas of tropical fruits, a very pleasant acidity, a light and slightly tannic body, less pronounced than the previous one;
- Espresso prepared with Nicolas Colque’s coffee, well roasted.
After work, Cecilia takes us to Origen; we stop to visit the Lake Titicaca, on the border with Peru.
It’s a clear sunny day and the light is so strong that it’s hard to keep our eyes open. On the surface of the lake, we can see some islets floating on the water; they are entirely built with totora reeds (a plant that naturally grows on the shores of the lake). Our guide tells us that they were built by the Uros to escape from the attacks of the Incas and to protect themselves in the water. At the moment, these little villages are inhabited only by fishermen.
Once in Origen, we immediately go to visit Felix’s new coffee shop.
The multi-level location is large and has a nice back yard. There is also a laboratory that distinguishes this place from all the others.
We cup six different types of coffee and, at the end of the cupping, together with Felix we decide which are the best ones. We both agree on the winners: Nicolas Colque’s coffee from Collasuyo and the one from the Calama Community of Caranavi.
This first stage of our astonishing journey through the Bolivia highlands ends here. We thank all our friends for their hospitality, the organization and their welcome and we board the flight to discover Peru!