News from the Farm

August 12, 2017

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Why will Bolivian coffee be more difficult to find in the international market?

In previous blogs we have already covered some of the reasons which contributed to the decline of production and exports of Bolivian coffee over the past ten years. The primary reasons mentioned were competition with coca production, disease such as the coffee rust, and inadequate management. The cumulative result is that coffee exports declined from a peak of 120,000 70kg bags per year more than ten years ago to under 30,000 bags last year.
Another factor which will put more pressure on exports, especially those of higher quality coffee is the current boom of local consumption. We are experiencing an unprecedented explosion of new coffee shops, some are very sophisticated, in all urban areas in the major cities of La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. In the past, coffee in coffee growing countries was usually of poor quality because the best coffee was saved as the cash crop for export, and many consumers in the local markets lacked the knowledge or income to afford high quality coffee. This has changed drastically in recent years in Bolivia.
I was able to count 13 coffee shops in a three block area in San Miguel,  an upscale commercial area in La Paz. Only one - Juan Valdez, belongs to an international chain.
Some of these shops offer, in addition to espresso based drinks, coffees from the best farms in Bolivia, prepared in Chemex, aeropress, French press and other methods, as well as cold brews.
While this is in the upscale area of town, even the less wealthy shops and restaurants are upping the quality of their coffee products based on customer demand.
Scarce supply and increasing demand caused prices to shoot up in the domestic market independently of world prices. For the small producer it is now more convenient to sell in the local markets, avoiding the costs and hassles involved in exports.
So, international consumers, enjoy it while you can. Soon, buying direct from the farm like the Apasionado Coffee model might be the only way to compete with local coffee markets.
June 25, 2017

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2017 harvest in full swing

We are into the 2017 harvest! This year because of colder temperatures and late rains, we think that the harvest will extend at least until The end of September because the cherries are maturing slower and less uniformly.

We currently have some branches that have mature cherries, green ones, and flowers all on the same branch. We normally do the dry processing in November/ December  after the harvest is done and  the coffee aged for few months.
This year I processed a small quantity from the early harvest just in case there are orders for Apasionado, as I ran out of coffee from the 2016 harvest. This coffee is ready to ship, although it is not representative of the entire harvest. This batch is sourced from the lower elevations . It consist of cherries that mature more rapidly and therefore are smaller. It tastes good and it's a good sign of the coffee to come.

In the video below you can see the sorting process. It is critical to the high quality coffee we produce, which is why our coffee gets sorted at least twice during the processing stages. The coffee is sorted first right after it is picked, as seen here. Then it is sorted again after it has been de-pulped and fermented. And then, it is sorted again when drying.

And, as always, we have some beautiful views of the farm. The tree below is called an Achiote Tree, or the Lipstick tree.

Also, here are a few pictures of the ancient pre-Colombian terraces that create steps on our farm, and give it the name "Tacanas." The terraces help to keep water from running straight down the hill, preventing erosion, and helping to use the power of nature to water the trees rather than needing irrigation systems.

 

April 07, 2017

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Help stop deforestation from coca with Apasionado Coffee

As some of you may have read in other sections on our website, deforestation through slash and burn tactics is a real threat to the area of the cloud forest in the Yungas region where our finca is located. Coca saps the soil of essential nutrients, meaning the land on which it is grown is only viable for a few years before another section must be cleared. In addition, coca is grown as a mono-crop, replacing farm and forest areas that have traditionally been polycultural, supporting many different plants and a diverse ecosystem. 

Now, the Bolivian government has passed a law allowing for increased coca production in the region, threatening to destroy most of the forest, almost doubling the acreage that can now be dedicated to coca growing from 12,000 hectares (29,640 acres) to 22,000 (54,340 acres).

This new law is another reason to support Aapasionado Coffee by adopting and planting more trees. The law will accelerate deforestation and land deterioration, as well as increase the food insecurity risks for local people in the Yungas region, where government statistics show that already 80% of the agricultural activity in the area is dedicated to growing coca. This region, which used to be a net exporter of food, now imports all the food that it consumes. Food has become more expensive as a result, and families are struggling to provide healthy food when they once grew most of what they ate.

With every tree you adopt, we plant a second, in an effort to take back land being lost and to share advanced farming techniques with other local farmers to encourage high quality coffee over coca. We promote polycultural farming practices, where our coffee plants grow in among bananas, tangerines, papayas, avocados, tall grasses, flowering trees, and other plants. We don't sell the other edibles that grow on our finca aside from the coffee. The workers can take these home, and the birds and other animals flock to our property in search of edible foods too, since they cannot live on coca either.

So please continue to support what we are doing to protect snails, mushrooms, and sections of forest in the Yungas valley.

It's been a rainier season than most years, so the mushrooms and snails are thriving! And of course, it has meant many amazing rainbow views.

Help us protect these vistas for generations to come by adopting a tree today.

Thanking the Pachamama- Challa 2017

Every year, we go to the Calle de Las Brujas, or "witches street" in La Paz, to buy the necessary materials to bless the farm and make offerings to the Pachamama, or mother earth.

Ttraditionally, prople bless things and make offerings at the same time as Mardi Gras, which is the same as Carnival in Bolivia.  It is a large celebration and blending of native and Catholic cultures going back to the time of the Spanish conquest.

The Pachamama is the earth mother, a highly revered goddess in the Andian culture. The Challa is a ritual where you decorate whatever is to be blessed -- a house, a new property, a new baby -- and then burn a bundle made up of sugar effigies of the various items you need for the coming year. 

Then you offer alcohol and sometimes food, tobacco, or coca to her. Making these offerings to the Pachamama ensures protection, and good fortune.  Or in our case, good harvest for the coming year!

Here's a picture of Darío, who adopted a tree and is also a visiting barista from Buenos Aires participating in the Challa. 


February 04, 2017

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Experimenting in 2017

Hello Apasionado Coffee Lovers!

Thank you to all those new adoptees who joined us through holiday gifts at the end of 2016, and thank you to all those previous adoptees who spread the love further this past year by adopting a second, third, or even 8th time for friends and family.

 

To kick off 2017 we wanted to share with you about our new and upcoming projects... as many of you know, last summer we launched the Cascara Cherry Tea as a new product. Cascara cherries are the outer fruit that surrounds the fruit pit, or coffee bean.

Traditionally, this cascara was often used by locals to make a tea, but in most commercial endeavors it is tossed as waste, or at best, used as compost. In an effort to practice more of a "nose to tail" approach in our production, we were inspired to find more uses for the cascara. We started with the tea, which has gotten very positive reviews from those of you who have tried it, but now we are getting crazy.

Over the past couple of months Yehuda has been experimenting with coffee vinegar. The dark one has cascara added to it.


As far as we know there is no coffee vinegar on the market. It is made from the liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the fermenting vat. After the coffee cherries are picked they are sorted into different quality grades, rinsed, and set in a fermenting vat for between 12-36 hours until they reach the right point and then the beans are separated from the outer fruit (or cascara- which in Spanish means peel or shell).

This video from a while ago shows the coffee beans being separated from the cascara.

The beans go through their normal coffee process, which is rinsing, another sorting and then drying, and the cascara cherries are now set out for drying to make the tea (if you want to read more about the processing, go to the Coffee Science tab).

The liquid in the vat from the cherry fermentation is what is being collected now for the vinegar.This liquid has been fermenting for three months and it tastes good compared with some of the vinegar that we have at home. We'll see how it tastes in three more months... if it's good, you can look forward to coffee vinegar gift options for Christmas next year ;-)

 

We are thankful for you!

This week on the farm, we are so thankful to all of you, our adopters from around the world for adopting trees. It is rare for a coffee business as small as ours to be able to reach people in so many places around the world and to be available in all of these markets.

US, Canada, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, UK, France, Italy, Denmark, Lithuania, Bolivia, Australia, Singapore and the Phillipines.

We are so excited that our model has resonated with so many people from around the world, touching you, and inspiring you to want to support our efforts. As it is Thanksgiving week in the U.S., we just wanted to say that we are thank you!

What we are doing is also getting recognition at a local level in Bolivia, as is evident by the fact that our Finca was used as a site for a training for the Ministry of Education in an educational program for coffee agriculture.

The Bolivian ministry of education has started a program designed to recognize and certify competence in agricultural practices. We had a bunch of coffee producers and would be producers evaluated and certified on our finca last week.

Evaluation of a coffee producer certification in progress.

Just a reminder, as you begin your holiday shopping, adopting a tree is a fantastic holiday gift and this year you can either receive our amazing coffee or delicious cascara cherry tea with each adoption! And, our coffee and cascara cherry tea make excellent additions to holiday meals and family visits.

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