Join us in taking a closer look at Bolivia as a coffee origin.
Bolivian coffee is primarily grown in the Yungas – a band of forests growing along the slopes of the Andes. This is the Caranavi Province, located just northeast of the city of La Paz. It’s a fertile land that is excellent for growing coffee, and ranges from 800-1800 meters above sea level.
For many years, the only way to access the coffee farms of this region was via the Yungas Road – a steep and winding route that led from the city of La Paz into the Andes. This path was the one link between Bolivian coffee farms and the rest of civilization until the early 2000s. It has been called “The World’s Most Dangerous Road” or “Death Road”, and currently attracts mountain bikers looking for a high-elevation thrill. These days, there is a paved, two-lane road that allows for faster and safer traffic to move between La Paz and the coffee villages to the northeast.
The History of Bolivian Coffee
As the poorest country in South America, Bolivia has historically had a number of problems. Transportation of goods over the Yungas Road was a monumental issue for years, and the overworked coffee farmers had no reason to care about the quality of their product, knowing they would be underpaid whether it was good quality or not. Coca farming was a much more lucrative business than coffee.
USAID made huge strides in Bolivia in the early 2000s, by building wet mills in the Yunga forests. Processing at origin made the quality of the coffee increase dramatically, and helped a new generation turn toward coffee instead of coca. The swelling popularity of the Fairtrade and Organic movements also assisted in boosting the Bolivian economy, and improved the caliber of coffee coming from the country.
Thanksgiving Coffee and Bolivia
This year’s crop of coffee from Bolivia landed at the Thanksgiving Coffee headquarters in late January, making it our latest arrival for February 2018. We continue to be impressed with how much Bolivian coffee has improved in the 40+ years that we’ve been sourcing and roasting it.
Co-founder and CEO Paul Katzeff writes about his first time roasting Bolivian coffee in the late seventies:
“It was not memorable. Like most coffees from South America that were not from Brazil, Venezuela or Colombia, it was poorly prepped and inconsistent from sack to sack. It was long before coffee was even called ‘Specialty.’ Coffee farmers in Bolivia were not selling or even thinking about producing better quality. Their market was used as filler for the multi-national brands. My interest back then was only because I was exploring new possibilities, seeking treasure where treasure had not yet been found. Bolivia came into its own as an origin within the last 10-15 years and quality has improved steadily into a well-prepared, sweet and bright flavor profile. Bolivia has come a very long way in a very short period of time.”
Thanks for taking the time to dig into the origin of your coffee – check out our light roast Bolivian coffee below:
Bolivian Coffee Origin Specifics
REGION: La Paz, Caranavi Province
ALTITUDE: 800-1800 meters above sea level
GENETIC VARIETIES: Typica, Catuaí, Caturra
CERTIFICATION: Fair Trade, Organic
PROCESSING METHOD: Washed
DRYING METHOD: sun-dried on patios