Altitude: 1580m above sea level
Varietal: Red Caturra
Processing Method: Fully washed
Supplier: Melbourne Coffee Merchants
Tasting notes: Jasmine and orange blossom aroma, candy sweetness, and creamy mouthfeel with notes of lychee, red berries, watermelon, and fruit tea. A complex and elegant coffee.
From Melbourne Coffee Merchants: “This coffee is the very first production from a very new farm called Alasitas (which means “Buy Me” in the local Aimara native language) that was planted in November 2014.
Alasitas is a small farm owned by Pedro Rodriguez. Over the last decade, Rodriguez has worked tirelessly to build the production of, and market for, Bolivian specialty coffee, helping hundreds of local farmers recognise and realise the potential of their land and crops.
Alasitas is located in the colony of Bolinda, which lies in a lush, steep mountain valley around 10 kilometres outside of the town of Caranavi. Bolinda was founded 52 years ago and was once known as ‘Bolivia Linda’ or ‘Beautiful Bolivia’. Over the years this name was shortened to Bolinda, and it is now one of the larger settlements in the area.
Pedro Rodriguez entered the coffee industry 30 years ago, ditching his suit and his accounting job to pursue a passion for agriculture. Fifteen years ago, Pedro recognised the potential for specialty coffee in Bolivia, and over the last decade he has built a visionary business called Agricafe, which focuses on forging long-term relationships with producers, based on mutual trust and benefit.
With a young, dynamic, and passionate team, including Pedro’s son Pedro Pablo and daughter Daniela, Agricafe represents over 1,000 small producers based in the Caranavi province as well as further afield in the South Yungas region. Many of the Caranavi-based producers deliver their whole cherries to Agricafe’s Buena Vista Mill 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 the application of modern farming techniques and a scientific approach. 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.
Alasitas is 20 hectares in size, 16 of which are under coffee. The farm sits at about 1,580 metres above sea level. This high altitude helps to ensure a slow maturation of the cherry because of the stable night-time temperature and mild day temperatures. The slow maturation leads to an increased concentration of sugars in the cherry and bean, which in turns helps to produce a sweeter cup of coffee.
Pedro and his family have invested a lot of time and effort into trying to make this a ‘model’ farm that other producers in the area can learn from. The coffee 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. Pedro has trialled several varieties on this farm, including Geisha (planted at the highest parts of the farm), Java, and Red Caturra. The farm boasts a very vibrant and flourishing nursery at its centre that contains tens of thousands of plants.
This very special lot was picked on the 19th of July 2016 and processed on the same day at the Rodriguez family’s Buena Vista Mill. It was pulped and fermented for 16 hours, then washed and carefully laid out to dry 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.”