Bolivia Don Carlos Catuaí Micro-Lot Filter Coffee

$ 13.00$ 60.00

Tropical with lifted acidity, brown sugar sweetness, passionfruit, mandarin, hints of florals and chocolate mousse.

Owner: Pedro Rodriguez & Don Carlos
Region: Caranavi, Bolinda
Variety: Red Catuai
Process: Semi-Washed
Altitude: 1,450 – 1,650 masl

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This very special 100% Catuaí micro-lot is one of the very first harvests from a brand new farm called Don Carlos that was established in 2014. A tiny amount of coffee has been produced from this farm, and we feel very fortunate to share the first selection from this coffee farm with you.

Don Carlos 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.

This farm is co-owned by Pedro Rodriguez and his employee and right-hand man, Don Carlos. Don Carlos has worked with Pedro Rodgriguez over the last 15 years at Pedro’s side helping him build a visionary business called Agricafe, a coffee exporter that produces its own coffees and works with small local producers to process and buy their coffee, aiming to build long-term relationships with them, based on mutual trust and benefit.

With a young, dynamic and passionate team, including Don Carlos, and Pedro’s son Pedro Pablo and daughter Daniela, Agricafe represents over 1,000 small producers based in the Caranavi province and further afield in the South Yungas region. Many of the Caranavi-based producers deliver their whole cherries to Agricafe’s Buena Vista Mill (which Don Carlos helped Pedro build and manage) 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.

To recognise the hard work and care that Don Carlos has poured into Agricafe, the producers, and the mill over the last 15 years, Pedro has given Don Carlos a share in one of Agricafe’s new farms and named it after him. Don Carlos is a very unique and meticulously organised farm, planted with the careful attention of Señor Don Carlos himself. Seated at 1,450–1,650m above sea level, coffee here 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 and Don Carlos have trialled several varieties on this farm, including Geisha, Sl28, Java, Typica, Bourbon, and Red Caturra. This particular lot is 100% Red Catuai. Pedro and Don Carlos hire pickers from the Bolinda community to carefully hand pick the coffee during the harvest. These pickers are trained to select only the very ripest cherries, and multiple passes are made through the farm throughout the harvest to ensure the coffee is picked at its prime.

How This Coffee Was Processed

This very special lot was picked on the 28th of July 2016 and processed on the same day at the Rodriguez family’s Buena Vista Mill. It was pulped and then fermented for 18 hours and after washing it was dried 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. Each lot is comprehensively cupped and evaluated by Wilfredo Calles, Head of Quality Control at Buena Vista Washing Station.

The coffees from Bolivia are spectacular – they are always incredibly sweet and clean. They are the kind of coffees that you can drink, cup after cup, and keep coming back for more. We love their versatility and the diversity of their profiles. Some have a straight up sugar cane and toffee sweetness, with a balanced acidity, silky mouthfeel and heavy, dark chocolate body. Others are more complex and winey, with lovely notes of berries and butterscotch bursting from the cup.

Although commercial development of coffee in Bolivia began in the 1920s, today the country contributes only a tiny fraction to the world’s supply. Roughly 95 percent of Bolivia’s coffee is grown in the Yungas, a fertile region on the eastern slopes of the Andes northeast of La Paz (one of Bolivia’s two capitals). The Yungas possesses many of the essential conditions for growing excellent coffee, including extremely high elevation and reliable wet and dry seasons. However, Bolivian coffee suffered from a poor reputation in the past due to problems with transport and production methods, and frequently received a low price as a result.

Adding another layer of complexity is the geography and under-developed infrastructure of Bolivia, which has historically made the production and export of coffee a challenge. Coffee cherry collected in the humid Yungas valleys had to travel along high mountain passes to reach processing plants in La Paz and onward to the seaports in Chile or Peru, a long journey that resulted in extreme variations in temperature that were detrimental to coffee quality. The most infamous of these roads was the “Camino de la Muerte” (Road of Death) which at its high point reaches in excess of 15,000 feet.

In an effort to combat these challenges, USAID collaborated with the Bolivian government by launching a program in 2001 to showcase the region’s ability to produce high-quality coffee and to present farmers with an alternative to coca production which has been prevalent in this region. Wet mills were built in the Yungas so the moisture level of the coffee could be brought down prior to shipment over the Andes. Coffee production and quality increased significantly in the following years, and things were again made easier for coffee producers when a new route bypassing the Camino de la Muerte was completed in 2006. The Bolivian Coffee Association (ACEB) and the Cup of Excellence competitions also put a great deal of work into increasing quality awareness in Bolivia. While challenges still exist, Bolivia has come a long way in terms of quality and we continue to be amazed by the wonderful specialty coffees the country is capable of producing.

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