To me this coffee represent what Bolivian coffee can be, both flavor wise and as a trading model. The taste profile is super sweet, typical for Bolivian coffee. The sweetness in this case enhances the coffees velvety, silky mouthfeel and gives a quite big body. The coffee has a acidity of mandarine, flavor of milk chocolate and a hint of peach and citrus zest with a fresh bergamot finish. Calque is doing an absolutely stunning work with this one, and cheesy enough, you can truly taste their effort through the cup.
Last year this coffee was market as Collasuyo being the colony where the farm is located. But this year we want to enthuse the producers, Colque.
Meet the couple Colque
In the small colony of Collasuyo in Caranavi region Maruja and Nicolas Colque are doing a careful job at their farm called “ La Florida”. It’s a total of 12 hectares where the couple produce and process their coffee, consistently planting more and more of the land with coffee. Maruja original family name is Mamani but they refer to themselves as "the Colque family".
19 years ago Nicolas started working in the coffee industry, starting off as a coffee picker earning 1.20 USD per week. This was at the age of 14 whilst his grandmother provided him with food and shelter. In 1999 Nicolas invested his savings from the picking work and bought the farm in the colony of Collasuyo, this farm was to be shared with his future partner Maruja.
Maruja and Nicolas were starting to plant and sell coffee already after a few years, but the prices they were receiving for their product were to low. Back then there was nearly no specialty coffee produced in the country and no infrastructure around it, yet they were focusing on building it after fully organic guidelines since they saw a higher market price for this, but not enough to cover the costs of production. In 2010 Nicolas and Maruja therefor sold the farm and moved to Brazil to improve their quality of life. However, they soon changed their mind; ”It was not what I expected, I worked over 8 hour in a sewing plant, we lived with 20 families locked in a room of poor conditions.”, says Nicolas. Six months later the couple returned home to the colony Collasuyo and bought back the farm and decided to name it La Florida. The last decade the specialty coffee has improved in Bolivia (reed more below) and Colques journey has motivated the couple to produce more and higher quality coffee they are getting better payed for. They are fully focusing on producing high coffee quality exported through the exporter Rodrigues (Agricafe) that we're buying this coffee through.
Maruja and Nicolas are a part of the Rodrigues sustainability program called Sol de Mañana where the farmers can attend classes in how to create a higher quality with less leaf rust. Colques was one of the first five farmers staring off in the project three years ago and they are a shiny example of the Sol de Mañana project of improving quality and quantity as preventing leaf rust with organic fertilizers.
Last year the couple Calque had planted two more hectare of the farm and when visiting in August they just planted another couple of hectares of coffee. Their farm looks like a perfect pattern and is extraordinary well-organized.
Muraja moving the beans on the raised beds. During the warmest hours the coffee is covered in plastic.
Drop Coffee and Colque
Through our exporter called Daniela and Pedro Rodrigues (and also producers of coffees we’re buying as La Linda and Alasitas) I've met and been given the opportunity to work with Niclolas and Maruja. Visiting them last year we had of course brought their coffee roasted by us in Sweden and we brewed it together at the farm. However, they were very used to drinking their coffee themself, roasting and brewing it at themself, without any electricity. Tasting the coffee they had a clear idea of their product and how they want it to taste - sweet and silky with notes of tropical fruits. Just that consistent strive and knowledge about their very own product amazes me about Maruja and Niclolas. They are picking the cherries a little extra mature since it improves the sweetness, planting more Caturra since they find it tasting more tropical... their is not a decision made on this farm that doesn't correlate with consistently improving cup quality. So, did they think our roast was better? No, not necessarily. ;)
We’re all about the same age, me and Maruja and Nicolas. Yet their life experiance and knowledge in their profession amazes me. I couldn't be more greatful for Drop Coffee to work with this skilled and genuinely kind people as the couple Colque. In a few months I’m back and I’ve promised to take a lot of picture from their coffee being drank around Sweden, Europe and the world.
Bolivia as a coffee producing country
Talking about this origin I have to start by saying that I have fallen in love with Bolivia, the people, the country, and their coffee. Bolivia’s high altitude, the breath-taking nature, the coffee history, and the quality of the cup with its clear taste profile makes 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 subsidise their income, they looked to other crops, mainly coca (the crop that is used to produce cocaine, 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, even worse, abandoning their farms.
Coca farming involves a lot of chemicals and fertilisers that are not good to the soil and land, so farming cocaleads 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 previouslysupported 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 photosynthesise) 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 have to pay a higher price—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 front foot.
General facts of this the coffee from Colque
Producer: Maruja Mamni and Nicolas Colque
Location: Collasuyo, about 40 km from Caranavi city, Bolivia
Farmname: La Florida
Varietal: Caturra 75%, Catuaí 15% and Typica 10%
Harvest: June to September 2016, harvest peaking in July
Elevation: 1550-1650 masl
Exporter: Agria Cafe (Daniela and Pedro Roudriuez)
Processing: Full-washed and dried on raised beds
Organic: Yes, this coffee is produced by fully organic guidelines
Flavour description: This is a very sweet cup with a velvety, silky mouthfeel and a quite big body. The coffee has a acidity of mandarine with low to medium intensity. Flavor of milk chocolate and a hint of peach and citrus zest. Fresh bergamot finish.