Colonia Llust'a 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. In the past, many who would have made a living growing coffee or working as a picker during the harvest season, are 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 a bit challenging. To overcome these 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 at Agricafe.
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 is simply one of the cleanest, most efficient, and transparent 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. The 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 established itself as a very reliable resource for small farmers in the mountains surrounding Caranavi.
IIn 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 la Manaña” project. Sol de la Manaña is a coffee farming school of sorts that works with producers in the Caranavi, Irupana, and Llust'a regions providing technical assistance, equipment, and materials, to renovate older, underperforming coffee farms. The project is spearheaded by Pedro Pablo Rodriguez. The program advises and assists 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 strategize and carry out the replanting of a new farm with a focus on long term, sustainable, and ultimately, profitable farming practices.
Llust'a is a mountain in the Bolivian Andes that soars to 4,420 meters and is found in the Department of La Paz. Colonia Llust'a is located in the region surrounding this enormous mountain and is made up of 95 smallholder coffee producers. This beautifully grown and processed 9 bag micro-lot, we are calling Colonia Llust'a, comes to us from farmer Esteban Quispe and is a direct result of the efforts of the Sol de la Manaña project and its work with the farmers of this colony. Esteban and his family own and operate a small coffee farm in the region situated at between 1750 and 1850 meters. The farm is comprised of heirloom Typica and Caturra coffee trees. In 2015 Esteban partnered with Agricafe through the Sol de la Manaña project to build a small wet mill for the farmers of Colonia Llust'a. Agricafe furnished Colonia Llust'a with a new de-pulping machine and provided Esteban with the necessary training needed to process his own harvest as well as the coffees harvested by his neighbors. The results have been nothing less than extraordinary. We at Intelligentsia are delighted to have even a small amount of coffee from this remarkable producer available to offer to our customers and we look forward to developing a lasting relationship with Esteban Quispe and the many farmers of Colonia Llust'a to ensure our access to these exceptional coffees in the years to come.