When I heard that we were going to visit a producer who is a regular winner in the international competitions and won second place in the Cup of Excellence 2005 and first place in the Presidential Coffee Cup Tournament last year, I imagined visiting a well-equipped farm and facilities like Agricafe. My expectation turned out to be wrong.
Mr. Celso’s family welcomed us into the tin-covered warehouse-like building. Mr.Celso was sitting sleepily wearing a tired shirt while his wife was smiling and laughing as she carried her daughter in her arms. Chickens were running around inside the building and there was a simple kitchen in the back. It’s hard to believe this is the mill/residence of one of the top producers in the country. I don’t want to sound rude but I wonder where they have used the money that they got from the competitions so far. This is when we realized there is much more to learn from Bolivia than meeting the producers.
We talked with Mr. Celso on the farm who said, “The longer I talk, the sleepier I get.”
Mr. Celso states, “I was born in the northern part of La Paz. My father had a coffee plantation and we moved to Copacabana when I was ten years old. My siblings worked in Santa Cruz but I was the only one who stayed on the farm. I liked coffee very much. This farm is located at a high altitude and has good dark soil with sand in it. We also own several other farms.”
“When I was a child, we used to plant Typica trees at 2-meter intervals but they are susceptible to diseases, so we are growing Geisha, Caturra, Catuai, and Icatu. There are more and more new varieties. The kind we are proud of is Geisha. I like the smell of lemongrass and Geisha has a similar scent to it.
Mr. Celso states, “Bolivia started the Cup of Excellence (hereafter COE) competition about ten years ago and that’s when I started entering the competitions. I won second place in the COE in 2005 when I was thirty years old. I still have a good relationship with the American company I met at the time and they have been buying micro lot from us. My motivation for participating in the competition is to be recognized for my work. The lot that came out well are entered into the Presidential Coffee Cup Tournament.”
“What is the secret to winning top prizes? It is very basic but we only select the matured cherries and process them in a clean mill. Also, I try not to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides because they worsen the taste. I pull out the weeds by hand. I hope that my coffee will continue to reach customers all over the world.”
Although Mr. Celso says that the secret is to select only the matured cherries and process them in a clean mill, there must be something more to it than that. The cherries are stored in handmade baskets cut out of polyethylene tanks (though this has nothing to do with the taste) and chickens are running around in the mill.
I don’t know whether Mr. Celso has a special skill or the power of the farm but the only thing I know for sure is that he has been winning first place in the international competitions. I would like to continue having a relationship with the producer Mr. Celso and I want to get to know his secret.