Country Profile - A Bolivian Oblivion

In my last blog post I spoke briefly about the influx of Bolivian coffees we are seeing showing up on the shelves of different cafes, ours being no exception. You know how those lil’ homemade panini machines have a little light on them that stays off for a while and you put your stuff in there and you’re like … “uh, hullo? Are you on?” And so you open it up and touch the plate only to find that you almost accidentally just made a digit sandwich? Then you realize, “ohhhhh, no lights means it’s doing its work, and when the light pops on, that means it’s done!!!” Well, Bolivia is a panini machine and the light is ON BRIGHT and telling you to take that sandwich outta there! Or …  start brewing up some Bolivian coffees because we have got numerous offerings from both Phil & Sebastian and 49th Parallel right now. I don’t bring them all in every single week because out of the 4 or so coffees on the shelf each week, they could all be different Bolivian offerings, and that would be confusing. “Hello, Welcome to Bolivian coffee by Parlour.” That’s how bright that light is. 

Ok! Let’s learn something about Bolivia and coffee. High above the cafe in our secret coffee lair / office, I blew the dust off a couple o’ old (nope they are new) books and cracked open the section on Bolivia. Here is a real cool book that you should buy. Maybe one day we will make a section on the site or on this blog that lists some resources. Whaddaya say? Good idea?

The conditions for growing coffee in Bolivia are, in many ways, ideal. For starters, the geographical space is not much different from coffee giants Ethiopia or Colombia. However, it hasn't always been the case that Bolivia has produced great coffees. Coffee exporting has been made difficult by fluctuating market prices, and this addictive little chemical compound is sometimes more economically stable than this one

Bolivia is landlocked and quite mountainous, making it difficult to transport coffees. I mean, it is really mountainous. Drive a bit too far to the left and you plumet into a Bolivian oblivion. It looks much like this. Don’t die!

Farmers have struggled finding appropriate means of transportation to prevent coffees from inappropriately fermenting or even freezing on the journey. So…. either the coffee dies with the truck driver when they go careening down a cliff, or it dies in the bosom of mother nature, who we presume, never wanted you to taste what she’d produced in the first place. Ideal? You decide.

Our roasters have teamed up with amazing farmers whose production and methodical processing / transporting results in some pretty ideal green coffee beans. We could say so much more about Bolivian coffee and it’s rise to world dominance, but I will leave you with these fascinating little beans:

  • Bolivia produces coffee. Brazil produces coffee. One large Brazilian farm can produce as much coffee in a year as every single farm in Bolivia combined. 
  • Bolivian coffee farms are disappearing. Wait, what? Slow down Houdini. Since specialty farms share a similar elevation to coca farms they have the potential of being replaced for a different type of stimulant. That sucks for coffee drinkers. Where is the Walter White of coffee? (Note: coca farms do switch to farming coffee from time to time - paying a higher price for the work that goes into specialty coffee helps make coffee farming a more sustainable endeavour)
  • James Hoffmann from Square Mile coffee roasters has written a cool book that I stole loads of information from — I linked to it above. He says “Coffees in Bolivia are typically traceable down to a single farm or cooperative.” Cool one James. 
  • It is rare to find a particularly fruit-forward tasting Bolivian coffee. Most are sweet and clean. 

Here are the Bolivian coffees available from our Roasters at this exact moment — not all are on our shelves. Talk to us, tell us what you want to see in your hands, and we will try to get it there.

49th Parallel - Estrella Organic                           $22.00

49th Parallel - Buena Vista Peaberry Organic    $19.00

Phil & Sebastian - Nueva Llusta                           $18.00

(This original blog post was edited on March 24, 2015 @ 8:33PM - the first version of this post included general reference to some of the issues concerning the drug trade and its consequences on coffee farmers. It was brought to our attention that the general nature and tone of the writing could be seen as rehashing old stereotypes concerning Latin America. We have the utmost respect for the countries and farmers who produce our coffees and are sincerely apologetic for any misunderstanding or offense.)