ALTITUDE: 1 600 masl
ARABICA VARIETAL: Java
PROCESSING: Coco Natural
OWNER: Los Rodriguez
In the cup: Bright yellow peach, pineapple, vanilla and cream. Sparkling acidity, with a clean finish and great structure.
This tiny 240kg Java micro-lot is from a small and relatively new farm called Waliki. The name is Ayamara greeting meaning “how’s everything” to which the answer is ‘all good’ or ‘Hakuna Matata’.
Waliki is located in the colony of Bolinda, which lies in a lush, steep mountain valley around 10 kilometres outside of the town of Caranavi, in the department of La Paz in Bolivia. The colony of Bolinda was founded 52 years ago and was once known as ‘Bolivia Linda’ or ‘Beautiful Bolivia’. Over the years this name was shortened to Bolinda, and it is now one of the larger settlements in the area.
Waliki is owned by the Rodriguez family. The Rodriguez family has a family business called Agricafe, that produces coffee from its own farms, and sources quality micro-lots from small producers in the Yungas region.
Agricafe was founded by Pedro Rodriguez, who entered the coffee industry in 1986, ditching his suit and his accounting job to pursue his passion for agriculture.
Coffee production in Bolivia is, and always has been, very small. Pedro began his journey in coffee by working with small producers in Caranavi, building a wet mill to process their coffee, and educating producers to selectively handpick their cherries. He also started to process small micro-lots from each of the producers, and because of the unique combination of heirloom varieties, rich soil and incredibly high altitudes, the results were outstanding.
However, despite increased international recognition for its quality, coffee production in Bolivia began to rapidly decline over a very short period of time for many reasons. Some farmers switched to coca – grown for the drug trade and illegal to produce in Caranavi – because it provided them with a high year-round income. For those still in coffee, their yields were also declining as a result of ageing coffee plantations, unsophisticated farming techniques, and leaf rust. The combination of these factors resulted in the nation’s coffee production decline by more than half.
When we started buying coffee in Bolivia 2010, annual production was 70,000 bags. In 2016 it was a devastating 22,000 bags
In 2012, as leaf rust started to obliterate the production in many small farms, Pedro and his family began to invest in their own plantations, fearing that coffee production in Bolivia would disappear completely. This, they recognised was critical to guarantee a minimum level of supply and thus ensure the future sustainability of their business. They acquired land in Caranavi near their Buena Vista mill and created their first farm, Finca La Linda. “This is where the dream started,” Pedro says. Waliki was planted four years later and is located right next to La Linda.
Today Agricafe has 12 farms and around 130 hectares of coffee under the banner of ‘Fincas Los Rodriguez’. Seven of these are in Caranavi, in the department of La Paz, and the remaining five are in Samaipata, in the department of Santa Cruz in Bolivia’s east.
Today Agricafe has 12 farms and around 130 hectares of coffee under the banner of ‘Fincas Los Rodriguez’.
The Rodriguez family’s approach to coffee production has been extremely methodical, innovative and scientific. Along the way, they consulted leading specialty coffee agronomists from around the world to help them produce exceptional coffee and build sustainable and healthy farms. A wide range of varieties have been trialed, along with different farming techniques, to optimise quality and output. They have carefully documented their findings at every step of the way and continue to innovate and invest in improvements to produce the very best quality coffee they can.
The Rodriguez farms are some of the most organised and beautiful we have come across. Coffee is well spaced in neat rows and meticulously organised by variety, making picking and lot separation much easier to manage than on more traditional farms in the region. The farms are vibrant, luscious and healthy, and produce exceptional quality and yields.
Waliki is one of the Rodriguez family’s newest farms and was planted in 2016. They decided to call it Waliki as this phrase was always one of the first things they were greeted with when talking to local producers and pickers and demonstrated the local community spirit and camaraderie.
Waliki is 3.62 hectares in size. The farm sits at about 1,600 metres above sea level. This high altitude helps to ensure a slow maturation of the cherry because of the stable night-time temperature and mild day temperatures. The slow maturation leads to an increased concentration of sugars in the cherry and bean, which in turn helps to produce a sweeter cup of coffee.
Pedro and his family have invested a lot of time and effort into trying to make each of their plantations a ‘model’ farm that other producers in the area can learn from. Their learnings have also been shared with local producers through a training program that the family has developed called Sol de la Mañana.
Off the back of the success of their farms and the insight the family has gained into building sustainable and profitable farms, the Rodriguez family has created a producer mentoring program called ‘Sol de la Mañana’.
Pedro has trialed several varieties on this farm. This particular lot is 100% Java.
HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED
At Waliki, pickers from Bolinda community are hired to carefully handpick the coffee during the harvest. These pickers are trained to select only the very ripest cherries, and multiple passes are made through the farm throughout the harvest to ensure the coffee is picked at its prime.
These crates ensure the coffee is not damaged during transport and also allows the coffee to breathe, preventing unwanted early fermentation.
After being picked and weighed this coffee was carefully washed and laid out to dry on raised African beds and turned every hour. After about one week on the raised bed, the coffee was placed in a coco dryer. We have not seen coco dryers used in coffee before, however, Pedro is always innovating and trialling different processing techniques, and found that these driers help to dry the coffee slowly and consistently. The coffee sits in the large steel vats for around 35 hours at temperatures no higher than 40 ˚C and is turned every 30 minutes.
After being picked and weighed, this coffee was carefully washed and laid out to dry on raised African beds and turned every hour.
Once the coffee was dry, it was transported to La Paz where it was rested, and then milled at Agricafe’s dry mill, La Luna. At this state-of-the-art mill, coffee is meticulously hulled and sorted using machinery, and is also sorted carefully by hand under UV and natural light.
(Info courtesy of Melbourne Coffee Merchants)