Highland profiles, post-harvest perfection

SCA Score

85.0 - 85.0



Price (USD/kg)

$5.74 USD - $9.64 USD

Traditional coffee-growing regions: Los Yungas region and the Caranavi province
Upcoming region: Samaipata, a small community in the Florida province
Typical harvest: June to November
Altitude range: 1,200 m to 2,100 m above sea level
Main processing method: Fully washed
Main varieties: Typica and Caturra followed by Catuaí and Bourbon
Average production: Around 80.000 bags of 60kg
Number of smallholders: Around 17.5 thousand farmers, most of which are smallholders (under 5 hectares)

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The Bolivian altiplanos are dotted by hundreds of coffee-producing communities. They are not towns as such, nor villages. Bolivians call them colonies and they can have as little as 30 families each. Unlike in neighbouring Brazil and Peru, farmers are largely isolated here. The rough condition of the roads, maintained by locals without government support, makes coming and going an unsettling journey.
Blended in with the mountains
Isolation and limited access to cities are some of the reasons why coffee production in Bolivia is so small. Though the country experienced a relative boom in commercial production in the 1950s, a leaf rust crisis in 2012 led to a dramatic drop in volumes. In 2020, Bolivia produced only 75.000 bags. Meanwhile, Brazil’s production went beyond 60 million bags.
Leaf rust is not all. Coffee also competes with coca leaf production.“Coca has four harvests a year, it has a market all year round, the price is stable and the income more profitable”, explains Daniela Rodriguez Eulert of Agricafe, a family business with 35 years of experience in Bolivian coffee and more than 20 in specialty. Agricafe is one of Algrano’s first partners in the country next to Co-operativa Agrícola Cafetalera San Juan.
According to Daniela, the appeal of coca and the leaf rust both led to many producers abandoning their plots to go to the cities in search of work or to other regions to work as miners. “Fifteen years ago, Bolivia exported around 110,000 bags of coffee. This dropped first to 50,000, then 30,000 and now 20,000. The leaf rust was especially hard on the country because many coffee plantations were old and had no management, so the plants were vulnerable.”
Through twisting roads and blockades
Exporting coffee from Bolivia is also a challenge that contributes to extra costs. The only landlocked coffee-producing country in South America, Bolivians have to wait long for containers, fill them and drive them all the way to Chile through twisting roads on the back of trucks. There might be delays at the border and roadblocks along the way led by protesting cocaleros. This is why “we always have a plan B, C and D in Bolivia”, laughs Daniela. 
Daniela remembers that Agricafe used to work with 5,000 farmers at its peak, a number that plummeted to only 500 in recent years. This is why the family decided to grow their own coffee. Today, they have 12 farms. “It is a passion. We have terroir, we have altitude, we have soil. We have to carry on. My father Pedro (who started Agricafe) used to work in Bolivia’s central bank near the Yungas but he loved nature and had an entrepreneurial spirit. That is why he quit his job and became a coffee exporter and then farmer. As a family, we believe that positioning Bolivia in the market is something beautiful”, Daniela says.
A diverse landscape reflected in the cup
For Daniela, one of Bolivia’s strong suits is its diversity. “The area of Caranavi has many mountains and each has a different profile due to changes in temperature and exposure to the sun. Copacabana and Bolinda are 40 minutes to your mill and bring us cherry. Uchumachi is 1:30 hours away. Some bring us parchment. Some blend varieties like Taypiplaya, others focus on a single variety. All this impacts the flavour. Copacabana is more traditional with citrusy notes like orange and mandarin. Uchumachi tastes more like dry fruits and plum with a lot of sweetness.”

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