We returned to the capital city of Bolivia, La Paz from Caranavi on the last day in Bolivia where we did our last cupping at Juan’s dry mill. Juan had prepared several lots in addition to the ones from the producers we had visited. Among the lots, there were Bourbon Natural and Geisha Natural that were particularly unique.
I really wanted to include them in the offer list and asked him about the producers. He pointed to a man who looked like a university student hanging out in the courtyard and said, “That’s him.” That was Fernando.
He was wearing a hoodie and jeans and even looked innocent when he smiled, but he was the producer who won first place at the President’s Cup last year. (He also won first place at the President’s Cup held in February 2021 and sold his coffee for about 350 US dollars/kg.) He was there by chance and Juan stopped him saying, “I have a customer coming from Japan.” This is the precise reason it’s worth visiting coffee origins because we have such encounters.
After a cupping session with Juan, I talked to Fernando who was sitting in the courtyard.
He said, “I was born into a fruit farming family in Caranavi and not coffee farmers. I was interested in agriculture from an early age and majored in Agriculture at the university. As I learned more about agriculture, I realized that I wanted to work with crops that would contribute to Bolivia, so I decided to study coffee production.
The world of coffee was fascinating and the more I learned about it, the more I was drawn to it. When I was looking for a place to study abroad to further my coffee education, I met Mr. Price Peterson, the owner of the most famous coffee farm in Panama, La Esmeralda.
Mr. Price invited me to come and work at La Esmeralda after I graduated from the university. Thanks to him, I could also start a family in Panama. I still missed Bolivia, so I bought a small plot of land five years ago and started a coffee farm.“
“Our farm is integrated with the forest and we grow our coffee while keeping the native plants and animals that live in the forest intact. In the beginning, I was told that I would never be able to grow coffee here, but I didn’t let preconceptions get in the way, and I have come this far.
What I am focusing on is researching varieties. For example, the Geisha harvest time coincides with the rainy season at my farm and there is a risk that the cherries will not be in a good condition, but by improving the variety, we can harvest them before the rainy season. We brought an unnamed variety from Costa Rica and crossbred them with Geisha. We keep experimenting with varieties and processing methods like that, so this year we will have twenty different nano lots.“
When we finished the interview and talked about our specific offer, Fernando said, “I’ll discuss it with my wife,” and quickly started calling his wife. Fernando is a very reserved man, competing under the name of his young son in the competitions, and only peeking out from behind his wife’s shadow at the recent online event. Today, he is probably still working on his enthusiastic research and creating many super lots that will surprise the world. We can’t wait to see what the next crop will bring to our coffee experience.