Agricafe is one of the best and leading producers of coffee in Bolivia. It was said that it would be difficult to establish a new relationship with them, as their customers include some of the most famous roasters in the world. However, due to the combined efforts of various people, they welcomed us. This is the first time in ten years that they have welcomed a new Japanese client and we were the first foreigners to visit the Agricafe this year due to Covid-19.
When we arrived at the Agricafe’s mill, which is a short ten-minute drive from the city center of Caranavi, we were stunned by its appearance. It was a completely different world from the simple smallholders deep in the mountains that we had visited yesterday. It was a beautifully appointed facility and was a sanctuary of Caranavi.
We first greeted the founder Don Pedro. He exuded a quiet atmosphere and you could sense his integrity and kindness even though he wore a facemask. After briefly introducing each other, he said that he regretted that we had to do the cupping in a separate room to prevent the coronavirus infection. He said that he would love to do cupping in the same space next year. I was strangely convinced that his sensibility has had created this perfect world of Agricafe.
After having a very fulfilled cupping session in the morning, we visited a farm with Pedro’s son Pedro Pablo in the afternoon, who is in charge of the production department. The facility inside the famous Finca Las Alasitas is like a resort and the Argentinian-born staff served us a gorgeous lunch that we would never have in the city of Caranavi. I surrendered myself to this perfect world of Agricafe and thought about many things as I soothed away the fatigue of my dusty trip. “What is the difference between Agricafe and other local producers?” It was clear that Don Pedro had a special talent but the gap between them was just huge on another level. We moved to the farm from the facility and interviewed Pedro Pablo.
He states, “It was 1986 when my father Pedro founded Agricafe. I was born in 1988 and my sister Daniela was born in 1986, so she was born in the founding year. Currently, I am in charge of production and my sister is in charge of customer relations. When I was a child, Agricafe produced commodity coffees but we started producing specialty coffees about 15 years ago. My father was one of the people who brought the Cup of Excellence to Bolivia, which opened Bolivia’s coffee to the world. The world of coffee is still new compared to the world of wine, so I am sure it will continue to grow in the future.”
“I have a lot of respect for my father. He is sincere and faithful to his customers and friends, and above all, he is open-minded and receptive to new technologies and sensibilities. I think this is the reason why Agricafe is always at the forefront of the times. My sister and I work in different fields and my father is the one who mediates between us. My sister and I disagreed about the logo designs for the new collections a while ago and my father was the one who mediated.”
“Since our production volume is limited, we value small companies who can be in long-term relationships rather than trying to do business with large companies or increase our customers’ base. Overall, Covid-19 didn’t have a huge impact on our business this year, as some countries decreased the orders while others increased the orders.”
“In terms of coffee quality, the most important thing for us is ‘clean cup.’ In recent years, various processing methods and fermentations have become popular but we value washed process with ‘clean cup’ the most. We don’t process natural coffee unless we get an order. This is partly because the climate in Caranavi is not conducive to natural products, but also because if the natural processing does not work, we have to discard them. To maintain the Agricafe brand, we do not sell failed products to others. We place great importance on producing the same products with great care.”
“When I start talking about coffee, I really can’t stop it. It’s a blessing I can work with my family in the work that I am passionate about. Working away from the city is a challenge for our generation. Bolivia’s coffee was threatened with extinction due to rust disease in 2013, so we have to pass on this passion to someone else for the sake of coffee sustainability. If we continue to work hard, we can continuously produce quality coffee and share it with the world. Sustainability is achieved by a will. Many people don’t concentrate on coffee in Bolivia but produce coca leaves and fruits in parallel, but if they have a strong will, they can always support their family and live a rich life through coffee production.”
With a strong will, they are willing to change and cooperate with new initiatives like ours, while preserving a perfectly organized world. It is this attitude that has brought Agricafe to this level of development. This is where Don Pedro’s heart lies for the people and attention to detail.
Before leaving the farm, a funny incident happened. The drone that our photographer was operating had gone missing. Pedro Pablo laughed and said, “We’ve had more than ten drones disappear here so far,” and called around to help us find them. The drone seemed to have been caught in a tall tree near the farm and the people working on the mountain climbed up the tree using ropes and other tools to retrieve it. When the photographer got the drone back, he jumped for joy feeling relieved and everyone smiled. Pedro Pablo handed out beers from his cooler to the workers, and we all had a relaxing evening chatting and working together. I am sure they will remember us as the Japanese who lost the drone. In the end, such a scene will be remembered the most in memories.