Photo Credit: Agricafe
November see's us mark another year, with a collaboration with Ozone Coffee Roasters and with good reason.
For those unfamiliar, The Snobby Collective and Ozone Coffee Roasters go way back, so far so that it was a casual conversation about how we felt it was important to share the story behind the coffee, to highlight the people, the humans whose lives are centerd around coffee, often for many generations before them, if we want to provide better outcomes that result in sustainable and ethical coffee for this and future generations. Unbeknown to the team, we were in the planning stages of our wee subscription and they had echo's that we were on the right path. Needless to say, They supported us from the beginning, something we are forever grateful for. We haven't forgotten our roots, as so, we continue to mark November with anther collaboration outstanding coffee from our mates!
This time, its an unexplored origin with its own set of challenges, lets head to South American, specifically, Bolivia and gain some insight into:
Following his passion for agriculture Pablo Rodrigues made his foray into the Bolivian coffee industry in 1986, forming family business Agricafe. During this time, Pedro has witnessed and lived the ups and downs of the industry, with his passion for coffee enduring to see him become one of the pioneers of Bolivian specialty coffee. With daughter Daniela and son Pedro Pablo, the trio have spent the past decade working to bring Bolivian coffee into the specialty market. To achieve this vision, Agricafe have made considerable investment across not just their 12 farms, but with local small lot holders too. Working to progress all sectors of the industry from land use and what to cultivate, to processing (wet and dry milling) right through to finding a market for the green coffee and taking care of the export. These significant investments in time, money, infrastructure and processed have lead to Agricafe being a guiding light and sign of hope that high quality coffee can be sustainable and profitable. Currently, the average small lot holder produces 2-4 bags per hectare, with an average farm size of 1-3 hectares, farmers are producing approx 10 bags per year. Agricafe believe that in order to be profitable and sustainable, farms need to produce 30-35 bags per hectare. Developing a mentoring program called Sol de la Manana, Agricafe provides training and technical know how to small lot holders to help them improve quality and yields, which in turn help to improve incomes. “If we do nothing, coffee in Bolivia will disappear” - Daniela Rodriguez Quote credit: Melbourne Coffee Merchants.
When looking at coffee production, Bolivia is immediately fascinating. One of the highest altitude (1400m – 2100m) and lowest latitude growing regions in the world, with its warm valleys, its the remoteness that has resulted in something unusual. A lack of cultivars. With coffee production in Bolivia beginning about 140 years ago, its high quality varieties such as Typica and Caturra varieties that dominate production, but in spite of this, quality wasn’t always a focus for Bolivia. Historically farms were owned by the wealthy, until government reforms saw the division of land into 1.5-8 hectare lots and there distribution to some 23,000 families in 1991. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that quality became a focus, with the help of US funding. The challenges that stopped Bolivian producers producing quality coffee are familiar to many origins. Challenging geography, with its steep hills, winding roads (or lack of roads in rural areas) and absence of essential infrastructure (wet mills) leading to coffee being pulped on the farm, ahead of being transported to centralised facilities further away. During the journey, wet parchment was exposed to the elements and temperature extremes, taking their toll on coffee otherwise grown in perfect conditions. In addition to the US funded infrastructure, farmers gained access to training and financial assistance, followed by the arrival of the Cup of Excellence program in 2004 bringing Bolivian coffee to the world stage. These key elements combined made it possible for quality focused producers to enter the specialty coffee market.
Coffee production in Bolivia pales in comparison to neighbouring Brazil. Around the beginning of the US funded coffee program, production sat at approximately 110,000 bags, ten years later it had began a steady decline to just 77,000 bags per year. Staggeringly similar to that of just one of Brazil's larger farms. This decline has continued to a mere 22,000 bags in 2017. Of the various factors at play, one is Coca. Inspite of the US funding of the coffee industry, part of their anti drug initiative, coffee farming fights directly with Coca for land in which to cultivate. Coca with its year round harvest, higher yield and ease of picking, makes for higher profits for farmers. The implications don’t however stop at the obvious illicit drug industry, virgin rain forest is often illegally felled to make way for coca production, with farming practices often leading to the land becoming infertile over time. This begs the question of why production has declined in the face of the assistance from the US. The answer: Ex Coca farmer, President Evo Morales stopped all US aid soon after gaining power in 2006. The lack of a national coffee board or governing body effectively leaves farmers to fend for themselves with the various issues they face, including climate change and Roya (coffee leaf rust).
Producer: Rodreges family
Farm: Fincas Caranavi
Altitude: 1650 M.A.S.L
Tasting notes: Orange Nectarine Brown Sugar Black tea finish