We traveled with Juan to the Caranavi area to meet with the smallholder who processes at Juan’s place.
It was a six-hour drive from La Paz, the capital. It was already dark in the night when we arrived at our hotel in Caranavi. The resort hotel was deserted due to the effects of Covid-19 but I was told that it was the only hotel in Caranavi with internet access and hot water and we settled in for a few days.
We headed to a farm called Finca Senda Salvaje the next morning. The name of the farm means “wild road” and it is said that wild animals such as jaguars roam around the farm. The owner of this farm is a couple, Mr. & Mrs. Carmelo. When we passed through the gate of the farm, a boy and girl, and dogs were running around. The older brother had got the younger sister’s hair cut as a prank.
Mr. Carmelo is like the leader of the producers in the Caranavi area and the new community of producers is emerging around him. Andy from 4 Llamas, a new generation of producers, has been researching on production and fermentation next to Mr. Carmelo’s farm for the past two and a half years. Andy’s experiment with new fermentation processes is being tested on Mr. Carmelo’s coffees and the cross-generational collaboration makes it possible to bring wonderful coffee.
We talked to Mr. and Mrs. Carmelo over a cup of coffee.
Mr. Carmelo stated, “We worked as quality managers for the Cup of Excellence over a decade ago. We were exposed to a lot of great coffees from a lot of producers and we started to think that one day we would like to produce our coffee. When I brought samples from various production areas back to the headquarters for analysis at the time, I noticed that the coffee from an old lady’s land had an excellent quality. The old lady was too old to run the farm, so we paid a little extra and bought the land so that she could live a comfortable life. We were confident that the coffee from her farm would surely win high-rankings in the tournaments.”
“The farm is characterized by dark and nutrient-rich soil that is pockmarked with blotches. I knew from experience that this type of soil would produce good coffee. I like the Java variety because it is disease-resistant and easy to harvest and the cherries grow evenly. Also, it can be harvested within a year of planting. Shade trees are ceibo trees. They grow fast and the leaves turn to fertilizer quickly, so it is very useful. For some reason, people say that my coffee is very easy to roast. I think you can also taste the flavors that are unique to this land.
“My wife and I both had parents who were coffee and fruit producers. My parents had a 5-hectare-size farm but they mixed all the coffees and shipped them out. When I started separating them by the variety and thought about the fermentation methods, everything changed. I improved it better than what my parents were doing. I also tell my children to do better than what we do.”
“We have exported coffee to Canada, the U.S., and Japan, all distribution was halted six years ago when the rust disease broke out. Since then, we have been producing coffee only for the domestic market, and this time for TYPICA will be our first export to other countries. The next time, I would be happy to work with a buyer who is like a partner who keeps his promises.”
Within walking distance from the hotel in Caranavi, there is Mr. Carmelo’s family home and a cafe run by his wife and daughter across the street. In Mr. Carmelo’s house, there is a room with a sample roaster and a pile of green beans waiting to be roasted.
The morning after I visited Mr. Carmelo’s farm, I woke up a little early and went to his wife’s cafe to buy coffee. When I arrived in front of the store, a pretty girl was setting up a table with an espresso machine, a cupping table, and a V60 coffee dripper. On the shelf were several COE award plaques. I could see a beautifully decorated birthday cake in the refrigerated case. She said that her daughter is an accomplished pastry chef. The mother noticed me and smiled as if to say, “Oh, it’s you.” I liked her very much. When I told her that I enjoyed her lunch yesterday, she said slightly jokingly, “Maybe it was because you had it with Andy because he is handsome.” The mother supports the farm and the family. Needless to say, the coffee the mother made for us was warm and delicious.