Alasitas, Natural Red Caturra, Bolivia 2018
Flavour description: Big bodied with a jam like mouthfeel. With a high sweetness and a medium acidity. Flavour notes of red dessert wine and honeydew melon and a finish of raspberry jam.
Colour to describe flavour: Hot pink
Flacour category: Adventurous
Producer: Pedro-Pablo, Daniela and Pedro Rodriguez of Agricafé
Location: Bolinda, Caranavi, Bolivia
Varietal: Red Caturra
Picking Period: July to September 2018
Elevation: 1580 masl
Processing: Natural processed. This is a natural processed coffee. The natural process means that the coffee is dried within its cherry before the beans are taken out. The coffee is dried directly under the sun for the first couple of days and then covered up in the drying house with a controlled temperature and airflow. The cherries are consistently moved by hand on strict schedules for even rotation and drying. Towards the end, the coffee is moved together as a pile to slow down the drying even more. The total drying time is about 20-25 days.
Roast: Light to medium to present the natural characteristics of the coffee.
It is time to release our second coffee from Alasitas this year! This is the nano lot of natural processed Caturra from Alasitas, Bolivia. We only have 40 kilo of this coffee! We are also buying the nano lot of washed Gesha, which will be release later this summer.
We love to present this Bolivian coffees to you, for the potential impact of the future of Bolivian specialty coffee production, but also for the sugary, clear taste profile. To showcase how good Bolivian coffee can taste, the Rodriguez family has planted different varietals on their own farms such as this red Caturra as well as the Gesha from the Alasitas. The taste profile of this Red Caturra from Alasitas is a little wild to us, but we like it. With a high sweetness and red dessert wine from the natural processing method.
About the Rodriguez family
The Rodriguez family own their own mills, processing and exporting coffee for farmers in the Caranarvi and Sud Yungas region. The family has been sourcing coffee from small coffee producers for three decades, but the steady decline of coffee production has put the sustainability of their export business in jeopardy. Without the intervention of people like the Rodriguez family however, the future of coffee production in Bolivia is at risk of disappearing.
The family has taken on the challenge of increasing the production of Bolivian coffee by planting their own new coffee plantations.
In 2014, the Rodriguez family bought land in Caranavi region to showcase their practices and educate other producers in sustainable farming, as well as increasing the overall volume at their mills. They prepared the land on 20,6 hectares and planted Red Caturra, Java and Geisha. The name of the farm is Las Alasitas, which in the Aimara native language means “buy me”. This coffee is natural processed which brings a very dessert wine like touch to it. It has strong notes from the fruit left on the bean but still has a lot of vibrancy to it.
Caranavi, located 150 kilometres north of La Paz city, it is seen as the centre of Bolivian specialty coffee production. With the super rich soil, combined with high altitudes, for me it is the epicentre for coffee production in Bolivia. We’re very proud to present this Bolivian coffee to you all, for the impact it will have on the livelihood of the people working for the Rodriguez family as well as the future of Bolivian specialty coffee. But don’t forget the sugary, clear taste profile.
The Rodriguez family has in the last three years introduced a sustainability model for the producers who supply them at their mill, and built this on three mantras: economical sustainability, social understanding, and environmental awareness - Sol de Mañana. This means that we're also buying coffee from individual producers that are getting extra support from the Rodriguez family in prevention of leaf-rust and how to produce higher quantity as well as quality. In our current offerings from the Sol de Mañana project we also have Carmelita. This year, the Roudriguez won the SCA Sustainability Award for Sustainable Buisness Model.
Bolivia’s high altitude (in Alasitas case, 1580masl), the breath-taking nature, the coffee history, and the quality of the cup with its clear taste profile making it a very special place. Bolivia’s past is interesting—although it’s a commercially viable coffee exporting country, its production has always been small. The conditions, although challenging, are exceptional for growing coffee, and this produces a very rich agriculture built on a long history of farming on a very difficult terrain. In 1991, there was a government led initiative to encourage the endogenous population to participate in coffee farming, which led to a fractured system counterintuitive to quality. The arrival of the Cup of Excellence Program in 2004 allowed buyers to find the quality coffee for which Bolivia was already known, but that had become difficult to source.
The main problem for producers was (and, to some extent, still is) that they are unable to make enough money to be sustainable. To subsidize their income, they looked to other crops, mainly coca (the crop that is used to produce cocaine, which is legal in Bolivia). Encouraged by the government, coca is four times more profitable and is much easier to grow than coffee, and this sadly led to coffee producers turning their back on coffee or just abandoning their farms.
Coca farming involves a lot of chemicals and fertilizers that are not good to the soil and land, so farming coca leads to the soil being infertile and overworked. Over time, coca-farmed land is unusable for any crop. Bolivian governmental support for growing coca has led to a break-down of relations with the USA, who had previously supported Bolivian agriculture and economy in the early 2000s. The resulting war on drugs in Bolivia has since led to many initiatives to help coffee farmers, with things like the Cup of Excellence being financially supported by USAID.
As if these difficulties weren’t enough to overcome, the arrival of leaf rust in 2013 (a fungus that attacks the leaves of a coffee tree and makes it impossible to photosynthesize) meant that the country lost over 50% of its production that year alone. The combination of both government policy and leaf rust means that Bolivia’s coffee production has dropped by over 70 % in the past ten years, leaving the county a minor player in the world of coffee.
This means that to find the very best coffees from Bolivia, we pay a higher than normal price compared to other coffee producing countries—but this isn’t a bad thing. The small volumes available and current demand for great coffees mean that, for once, coffee producers are on the forefront.