We will be donating proceeds from each sale of the Las Alistas to the South Australian Bushfire Appeal - helping families affected by the fires rebuild.
Bergamot, jasmine, passionfruit and vanilla.
Elevation: 1,600–1,650 masl
Variety: Geisha (Gesha)
Producer: The Rodriguez Family
Sourced By: Melbourne Coffee Merchants
This tiny 400kg Geisha micro-lot is from a farm called Alasitas which 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.
Las Alasitas is owned by the Rodriguez family. The Rodriguez family has a family business called Agricafe, that produces coffee from its own farms, and sources quality micro-lots from small producers in the Yungas region. The trio’s mission is to build the production of, and market for, Bolivian specialty coffee.
Coffee production in Bolivia is, and always has been, very small. Pedro began his journey in coffee by working with small producers in Caranavi, building a wet mill to process their coffee, and educating producers to selectively handpick their cherries. He also started to process small micro-lots from each of the producers, and because of the unique combination of heirloom varieties, rich soil and incredibly high altitudes, the results were outstanding.
However, despite increased international recognition for its quality, coffee production in Bolivia began to rapidly decline over a very short period of time for many reasons. Some farmers switched to coca – grown for the drug trade and illegal to produce in Caranavi – because it provided them with a high year-round income. For those still in coffee, their yields were also declining as a result of ageing coffee plantations, unsophisticated farming techniques, and leaf rust. The combination of these factors resulted in the nation’s coffee production decline by more than half.
When MCM started buying coffee in Bolivia 2010, annual production was 70,000 bags. In 2016 it was a devastating 22,000 bags
In 2012, as leaf rust started to obliterate the production in many small farms, Pedro and his family began to invest in their own plantations, fearing that coffee production in Bolivia would disappear completely. This, they recognised was critical to guarantee a minimum level of supply and thus ensure the future sustainability of their business. They acquired land in Caranavi near their Buena Vista mill and created their first farm, Finca La Linda. “This is where the dream started,” Pedro says.
Today Agricafe has 12 farms and around 130 hectares of coffee under the banner of ‘Fincas Los Rodriguez’. Seven of these are in Caranavi, in the department of La Paz, and the remaining five are in Samaipata, in the department of Santa Cruz in Bolivia’s east.
Seven of the Finacas Los Rodriguez farms are in Caranavi, in the department of La Paz, and the remaining five are in Samaipata, in the department of Santa Cruz in Bolivia’s east.
The Rodriguez family’s approach to coffee production has been extremely methodical, innovative and scientific. Along the way, they consulted leading specialty coffee agronomists from around the world to help them produce exceptional coffee and build sustainable and healthy farms. A wide range of varieties have been trialed, along with different farming techniques, to optimise quality and output. They have carefully documented their findings at every step of the way and continue to innovate and invest in improvements to produce the very best quality coffee they can.
The Rodriguez farms are some of the most organised and beautiful MCM have come across. Coffee is well spaced in neat rows and meticulously planted by variety, making picking and lot separation much easier to manage than on more traditional farms in the region. The farms are vibrant, luscious and healthy, and produce exceptional quality and yields.
Alasitas was planted in 2014 and is 20 hectares in size, nearly 16 of which are planted with coffee. The farm sits at about 1,600-1,650 metres above sea level. This high altitude helps to ensure a slow maturation of the cherry because of the stable night-time temperature and mild day temperatures. The slow maturation leads to an increased concentration of sugars in the cherry and bean, which in turn helps to produce a sweeter cup of coffee.
Pedro and his family have invested a lot of time and effort into trying to make this a ‘model’ farm that other producers in the area can learn from.
Pedro and his family have invested a lot of time and effort into trying to make each of their plantations a ‘model’ farm that other producers in the area can learn from. Their learnings have also been shared with local producers through a training program that the family has developed called Sol de la Mañana.
At La Linda, Pedro hires pickers from the Bolinda community to carefully handpick 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.
These crates ensure the coffee is not damaged during transport and also allows the coffee to breathe, preventing unwanted early fermentation.
This coffee was carefully picked and processed on the same day at the Rodriguez family’s Buena Vista Mill. After being weighed it was carefully sorted by weight using water and floaters were removed. It was then pulped and ‘dry fermented’ without water for around 48 hours. The coffee was then dried slowly and carefully in a mechanical dryer (for around 75 hours with temperatures no higher than 40 ˚C). When the coffee reached 16 % humidity it was rested for 5 hours in a silo, and then carefully dried until it reached 11.5% humidity.
Once the coffee was dry, it was transported to La Paz where it was rested, and then milled Agricafe’s dry mill, La Luna. At this state-of-the-art mill, the coffee is meticulously hulled and sorted using machinery and also a team of sorters who carefully sort the coffee by hand under UV and natural light. The mill is one of the cleanest and most impressive MCM have seen- you can read more about it here.
Alasitas means “Buy Me” in the local Aymara native language. The name comes from a festival called Alasitas, which is a festival of desires and honours the Andean god of abundance.
Starting at noon on the 24th of January every year (which also happens to be Pedro Pablo’s birthday!) Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, comes alive with a sense of promise, wishfulness and whimsy. The scene may seem strange to someone unfamiliar with this cultural event that has its roots in pre-Colombian Aymara traditions and has evolved over the centuries to incorporate elements of Catholicism and Western consumerism, but to locals, Alasitas is an important fixture in their calendar.
During the festival, thousands flock to La Paz to buy miniature items – cars, hours, university degrees, suitcases full of cash, potential spouses – of everything they want in the coming year. It can be something material, or something that brings luck – like a chicken that will help you find love, or a frog that will bring you good fortune. All miniatures are blessed by a Yatiri (a spiritual leader in Aymara culture) and offered to the Ekeko, the Andean god of abundance. Miniatures are exchanged with family and friends, in a hope that their dreams will be realised, and in turn, you will also be blessed with abundance.
Reciprocity is at the heart of the Alasitas festivals and it is for this reason that it is a fitting name for the farm. The Alasitas farm is one of the largest the Rodriguez’s own in Caranavi and was created with the vision of becoming a model farm local coffee growers could learn from, and be inspired by, thus helping them realise the vast potential of their land and crops.
Read about the Sol de la Mañana program here and Pedro Rodgriguez here and about Bolivian coffee more generally here.