September 2020

We have just finished tasting the new shipment samples from our friends at Agricafe in Bolivia. This year we are buying an assortment of traditional washed and natural coffees. There will be some familiar names on the counter and hopefully they will arrive before Christmas.

Agricafe is owned by Pedro Rodríguez and is run with the help of his children Daniela Rodríguez and Pedro Pablo Rodríguez. Agricafe has been exporting coffee from Bolivia for over thirty years and around ten years ago Pedro realised that the coffee industry in Bolivia was in such a steep decline that it wouldn’t survive much longer. A lot of the farms were reliant on growing coca to make ends meet and coffee wasn’t valued beyond the organically certified but commodity grade quality that was mostly being produced. Pedro knew that there was potential for great quality coffee with the combination of micro-climates and altitude in Samamipata and Caranavi but getting access to it was problematic.

Pedro’s first step in trying to rescue and develop a specialty coffee industry in Bolivia was to set up the Fincas Los Rodríguez program. Applying the knowledge gained from studying agriculture and with the help of agronomists, Pedro has developed the farms to grow and harvest high quality coffee. This naturally piqued his neighbours’ interest and soon enough a group of local farmers came to ask Pedro how he was growing such great coffees. A program called Sol de la Mañana was created over the next few months and took the farmers through a series of talks, workshops and study. Small changes were made first, better pruning, timely application of fertilizer and good harvesting techniques. The farmers realised the quality of their crops when they were paid more for their improved coffee. Alongside this increase in quality, the quantity also increased as the trees were receiving the care they needed. The program has now extended to over 50 farmers and the full course takes seven years to complete. Coffee is an annual harvest so it can take a few years to see the results from any changes.

Agricafe now has a varietal research farm called Finca Floripondio which has 51 coffee cultivars planted. Pedro and his team are investigating which cultivars do particularly well in Bolivia and what they require in terms of nutrients and care. The Java varietal has adapted particularly well and we have a few lots of this varietal from a couple of different farms coming to us later this year.

The coffee crop is still small in comparison to what it could be, and has been, in Bolivia. But Pedro has shown there is a way forward for the industry there. They continue to adapt their agronomy and develop their processing techniques. They have help from specialists across Central and South America but are also developing their own methods and protocols to suit their environment and climate.

We’re looking forward to the new crop to arrive from Bolivia later this year. For now the new crop from our competition in Huila (before COVID-19) has arrived and to start things off we have Finca Abisinia and Finca La Piragua on the counters. These coffees are tasting great, full of red fruit juiciness.

With our thanks and best socially distanced wishes,