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A few years back we had a lot that was produced by various smallholder farmers from the small town of Copacabana, which lies about 180 kilometres from La Paz in the heart of the Caranavi coffee-producing region. Then in 2016 things changed a little, and the lot came from just one producer in the area. His name is Vincent Paye. That year I described him as a beacon of hope in a tough growing region, and that beacon has continued to shine brightly.
Caranavi is a lush and fertile region. It has steep slopes and valleys that provide excellent conditions for growing high-quality coffee, and they also support a diverse range of native flora and fauna. The area has rich volcanic soils and regular rainfall. Coffee growing heaven!
The colony of Copacabana has a collection of small farms that are each around five hectares in size (although Vincent has ten hectares). The farms range over an altitude of 1,300 to 1,700 metres above sea level (m.a.s.l.), and they benefit from an average annual temperature between 15 and 26°C. This lot comes from Vincent's farm, which is very similar to neighbouring farms and is at an altitude of around 1,550 m.a.s.l. These traditional farms use no chemicals or pesticides and follow the principles of organic farming not because of certification but because they want to look after their farms and land in the best way they possibly can.
The main harvest runs from May to September, peaking around July and August. The cherries are handpicked when they're fully ripe, and they're then delivered to the central mill, called Buena Vista, where they are fully washed.
Bolivia is a challenge and is going through some tough times: dwindling crops, ageing plants, lack of varietal diversity, and ageing producers with children who have little to no interest in carrying on the family business. But then there are people like Vincent who are doing wonderful work to buck that trend. He's been planting new stock, working hard with his family, and increasing his yield – and also increasing the quality of his coffee.
Imagine a fresh segment of orange with chocolate drizzled all over it. Behind that there's a sweetness that reminds me of dark honey, and on the aftertaste there's a delicate dried apricot.