Anjilanaka Organic Bolivia
- February 2017
- Written by : Benjamin Morse
Assistant Director of Operations / Green Coffee Buyer
The natural landscape of Bolivia, with its high altitude mountain ranges, climate extremes, and abundance of fertile soils, should give Bolivian coffee farmers a distinct advantage when it comes to producing exceptional quality coffees. That said, Bolivian specialty coffee is still a somewhat rare bird. Bolivia exports only a very limited supply of specialty quality beans each year. Due to substantially higher production costs and generally lower yields, farmers in Bolivia often turn away from coffee as a cash crop in favor of more lucrative ventures like coca or quinoa. Economic opportunities are steadily improving for Bolivians. A farmer, who in the past may have made a living growing coffee or working as a picker during the harvest season, can now find increasingly better financial opportunities working in the mining industry or moving to Bolivia's ever growing urban centers. Additionally, as a landlocked country, the export of coffee from Bolivia can also be quite challenging. To overcome these many obstacles and source the best coffees Bolivia has to offer requires a dedicated partner with a strong commitment to coffee quality and a solid vision for the future of coffee in Bolivia. Intelligentsia Coffee is very fortunate to have maintained just such a partnership for over a decade with Bolivian coffee producer and exporter Pedro Rodriguez and his Agricafe organization.
Pedro Rodriguez, his son Pedro Pablo, and his daughter Daniela are the heart and soul of Agricafe and they are actively positioning their organization to be the leader in specialty coffee production in Bolivia through major capital investment and expansion of the business into all aspects of specialty coffee production. Their Buena Vista wet mill is a state-of-the-art coffee processing facility nestled on a hill overlooking the Bolivian city of Caranavi, and is the nerve center of Agricafe coffee production. It can be simply described as one of the cleanest, most efficient, and transparent processing facilities in the specialty coffee industry. Each night during harvest season, smallholder coffee farmers from the Caranavi region and beyond, bring the coffee cherries picked that day to the Buena Vista mill. Agricafe employees inspect the cherries to determine their quality. The highest quality cherries are assigned micro-lot status while all others are processed as special grade. The cherries are weighed and the farmer is paid in cash for that day's delivery based on a pre-determined and published rate. Meticulous records are kept on all of the lots purchased and processed at the mill. Agricafe has positioned itself as a very reliable resource for small farmers in the mountains surrounding Caranavi.
In response to the significant issue of low coffee productivity facing the smallholder farmers that make up the bulk of Agricafe's annual coffee suppliers, Agricafe created the "Sol de Mañana" project. Sol de Mañana is a coffee farming school of sorts that works with producers in the Caranavi and Irupana regions providing technical assistance, equipment, and materials to renovate older, underperforming coffee plantations. The project is spearheaded by Pedro Pablo Rodriguez. The program aims to advise and assist farmers in the construction and maintenance of a vibrant coffee nursery, aids them in the removal of old, overgrown, and often times, Roya ravaged trees, and helps to strategize and carry out the replanting of a new farm with a focus on long term, sustainable, and ultimately, profitable farming practices. Sol de Mañana also works with the farmers to develop consistent and sustainable pruning strategies.
The initiation of our Anjilanaka Bolivia project coincided with Intelligentsia's decision in 2007 to expand our operations to Los Angeles, California in the form of both a new roasting facility and our, now famous, Silver Lake Coffeebar. We chose the name Anjilanaka (pronounced on-hee-lah-nah-ka), the indigenous Aymaran word for "the angels", to honor both the Bolivian farmers that produce these amazing coffees and our new home in the "City of the Angels". This year's beautifully grown, certified organic Anjilanaka coffees come to us as a direct result of the efforts of the Sol de Mañana project's work in the coffee producing areas surrounding Caranavi known as Colonia Copacabana and Colonia Collasuyo. Many of our most highly regarded smallholder producers from these areas, including Julio "Cuchi" Gonzales and his wife Juana, Carmelia Aduviri, and Nicolas Colque have contributed their phenomenal coffees to this season's Anjilanaka. Year after year, the quality of the organic coffees grown by these reliable producers, in tandem with Agricafe's Sol de Mañana project, continues to impress. Through an organized and intentional focus on raising the quality of Bolivian coffees, the Sol de Mañana project and Agricafe is assisting these talented and dedicated farmers to continue on a path toward an ever more successful and financially stable future in coffee.