A PT's Coffee Roasting Co. Direct Trade Partner Project featuring Rusty's Hawaiian coffee farm in Ka'u. PT's Coffee Roasting Co. will carry a limited run of Rusty's Hawaiian Yellow Caturra early this summer.
Here is a quick glimpse of our recent trip to Finca Villa Loyola in Colombia. We had the honor of visiting our friend, Padre Gerardo Arango, one final time before he passed away unexpectedly in late summer. While we were there, we met the new farm manager, Jose Luis Almeida and his family as well as the local community of pickers and processors. We visited the small school on the farm and observed the processing of the harvest at the farm's mill. We are excited to bring you this coffee in January and to share with you more stories from Finca Villa Loyola!
We were first introduced to the Senda Salvaje Association in January of 2011. It was a unique coincidence, there was a micro-lot that had been originally prepared for the Bolivia Cup of Excellence but the competition had been cancelled. We were in the right place at the right time to purchase their lot in 2011. The quality of that micro-lot impressed us and our curiosity led us to visit Bolivia in September 2011. On that trip, we met Juan Yujra, producer of the lot we had received. We wanted to see their farm and evaluate their harvest first-hand. Over the course of the year, we developed a closer relationship with this farm and formed a Direct Trade partnership with Juan Yujra and the farmers of this Association.
In early July, 2012, we returned to Bolivia to see our friends and partners once again. Senda Salvaje translates loosely to "wild path," an untamed trail. It's a very apt name as the journey from Caranavi to Senda Salvaje takes many twists and turns, over and around mountains on a single lane, dirt road. We were led there by Carmelo Yujra and his wife Daizy, and Juan Yujra met us at the farm. We were very impressed with the condition of the farm. The soil is rich and dark and there is a natural spring that provides plenty of water. They have also created a simple, yet efficient washing station that utilizes several stages of floating and sorting before the coffee is dried on raised beds.
We look forward to our continuing Direct Trade relationship with Juan and the rest of the farmers at Senda Salvaje.
Bolivia is a landlocked country in the central part of South America. Bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest, and Peru to the west. Coffee production in this nation is limited to the Caranavi area primarily, with a smattering of small scale producers in areas like La Asunta, Palos Blancos, the Traditional Zone and Yapacani.
In September of 2011 Jeff and Maritza Taylor, coffee buyers for PTs, ventured down the very narrow, dangerous, dirt roads that criss-cross through the Andes Mountains to reach the Caranavi area and returned with some truly lovely coffees. During that trip, travel conditions and short available daylight for traveling kept Jeff and Maritza from being able to travel directly to Tres Estrellas. But, ASOCAFE Quality Control set out a cupping table and the coffee truly shined.
In July of 2012, Jeff and Maritza returned to Bolivia and found the roads passable. They rode with their friends, Carmelo and Rene from Senda Salvaje, through the rough terrain to reach the mountain of Tres Estrellas. Delia Blanca, along with her sons, led Jeff and Maritza up the steep slopes of the farm, and the trees looked amazing.
Soon, they were on their way to the mill, where Eliceo Huanca was waiting. It is evident that Eliceo and his wife Delia are proud of their farm, and that their sons are eager to learn more and new techniques for farming and milling. We are proud to call them a Direct Trade partner.
I was working a bar shift at our cafe, PT's at College Hill, when Jeff and Maritza told me that I would be taking my first farm trip. It was exciting, and I only had six weeks to prepare.
As I began my research on Bolivia, I started to realize that this journey was going to be a study in contrasts. The geography and climate itself serves as an illustration of the extremes we would encounter on my inaugural trip to origin. In the Yungas Valley, between Caranavi and Coroico we visited our Direct Trade partner farms. Even at the beginning of July, in the dead of the Bolivian winter, the weather was moderate and I could see why it is such an ideal region for growing coffee. During the day, the sun is strong, the air is not too dry, and the temperature is pleasant in the lower 80's. At night, the humidity rises and temperature falls into the lower 60's, perfect.
As we left the tropics of Coroico to travel up the Old Yungas Road to La Paz, the weather changed dramatically with every passing mile. I could see why the old "El Camino de la Muerta" was such an attraction to bicycling tourists. As we road towards the capital, we pulled over numerous times to let groups of gravity-assisted mountain bikers pass by as they coasted the descent of over 11,000 ft. Less than four hours later, we came to the end of the road at the La Cumbre Pass, just outside of La Paz. There, we stopped to experience the gathering at the statue of Christ and watch the cholitas bury potatoes to freeze at the small, shallow lake. In a matter of a few hours, we went from a rainforest, to a mountain lake in freezing temperatures. This was also my first, and only experience of altitude sickness. At home, I live right at sea level, and although I had already been in Bolivia for a week, I was not prepared for the rarefied air of 15,000 ft. (that's 3x the height of Denver), especially since we were coming directly from Coroico, which is only at 3900 ft.
Once we were in La Paz, it was time to take in the experience of the Bolivian city. Just as anywhere else in the world, the rural and urban lifestyles are quite different from each other. Still, deep in the heart of the city, there was still a touch of the land around it. We walked through the largest open market I've ever seen, where cholitas and other farmers, ranchers, and artisans brought their goods to sell. After all, this is the country that rejected McDonald's.
The city was also a place where it was easy to see the economic and cultural divides that seem to trouble Bolivia. With a majority population of indigenous recently electing the first indigenous president of Bolivia, there is still a struggle to gain representation. As we walked through one of the main plazas, we passed by a permanent tent city where protesters would camp after making the 580 km march to save the TIPNIS, an ancestral home to many of the indigenous, from the construction of a large highway.
This demonstration of strength was echoed as we traveled up to El Alto to see the fighting cholitas with one of our Direct Trade partners, René Viadez. Here, women fight alongside men in a display of equality and self-confidence, all while wearing their traditional garb. We had the opportunity to talk to the Champion Belt holder, Jenifer Dos Caras. She, like the rest of the women fighters, is a true indigenous cholita. During the week, she supports her family as a nurse at one of the local hospitals. On Sundays, she delights and riles the consistently sold out crowds as one of the Titans of the Ring's favorite characters. At all times, she is a proud mother.
Dos Caras, of course, means Two-Faced, and Jenifer told us that she enjoys the flexibility of being able to play both "Good" and "Evil" characters in the ring, and that she often hears from fans about how they are uplifted and inspired to see her be so powerful in the fights. We adopted the name Dos Caras for our Bolivian coffee in honor of Jenifer and what the cholitas of Boliva represent. This name also reflects how this coffee is produced many farmers of Bolivia. During this trip, we were delighted by how many coffees scored well on our cupping table and, while we couldn't buy a large amount from all of them, we wanted to bring back as many of them as we could. To make this possible, we decided to create Dos Caras as a way to offer each farmer's coffee, with each one getting their turn in our roaster. Dos Caras is not a blend, it is a single origin thats "face" will change throughout its season as we feature each farm.