A complex coffee with a full bodied feel and plumy notes. Bolivia has a special place in our hearts and this coffee does not disappoint.

Our Grower

Asencio Ticona and his family, migrated from La Paz to Yungas – Caranavi to dedicate himself to the production of coffee. When he started out in coffee, the market was favourable and it was not until 2001 that Asencio started to consider the potential there was to be producing great tasting coffee and thus obtain a better premium. Ever since then, Asencio has been focused on improving the quality of his coffee, including participating in the Bolivian Cup of Excellence.

Finca Llusta is a 12 hectare farm, of which 4 are cultivated with great tasting varietals like typica, caturra and catuai. Asencio gained technical assistance to analyse the soil composition of his farm in order to determine what applications to make to the soil to enhance the health of his coffee plants. From these, Andres is now planning to initiate an organic fertilization program.

  • Coffee: Finca Nueve Llusta
  • Name of farm: Finca Llusta
  • Owner: Asencio Ticona
  • Altitude: 1.690m
  • Varietals: Typica, Caturra and Red Catuai
  • Processing: Washed and dried on african beds
  • Town: Comunidad Nueva Lusta.
  • Region: San Lorenzo – Caranavi
  • Country: Bolivia
  • Size of farm: 12 hectares
  • Area under coffee: 4 hectares

Bolivia

In Bolivia, specialty coffee is grown at an altitude of 1,200 to 2,000 metres above sea level and is mostly centred around the province of Caranavi, 3 hours north east of La Paz. Other commercial commodity grade coffees are also grown at altitudes below 1,000 metres in the province of Santa Cruz.

Bolivia is a paradise for micro lots and the average farm area is around 3 to 5 hectares. Bolivian farms are normally run and managed as family businesses where every member of the family contributes at all stages of production. Since the arrival of the Cup of Excellence programme in 2004, Bolivia has opened up to the world and the quality has been improving every year. These small producers have managed to gain international market access and we have been able to develop a fantastic relationship with our exporter and producers from Coroico, Sud-Yungas and Caranavi.

There are also a great number of cooperatives and associations officially linked to the Bolivian Federation of Coffee Growers and Exporters (FECAFEB) now gaining market access abroad.

Bolivia is a landlocked country and exports are typically shipped out of Peru. The country also boasts the world’s most dangerous road, the infamous ‘Death Road’ that connects the Yungas coffee-growing region with the capital, La Paz. For the last 30 years, agricultural trade was transported along this road creating huge bottlenecks and numerous fatal accidents. It took 3 decades and 10 governments to build the new highway that has been operating since 2006, by-passing to the north one of the most dangerous sections of the old ‘Death Road’. As a result, this has provided a massive improvement to agricultural transportation and the development of the Yungas region.

The main coffee regions are Caranavi, Coroico, Nor & Sud Yungas, Inquisivi, Provincia Ichilo, Samaipata and Mairana. The main coffee varieties cultivated are Tipica, Catuaí, Criollo, Caturra and Catimor.

The coffee cherries are washed by the wet method and mostly dried on African beds. Depending on the distance of the farm from the nearest mill, coffee cherries may be delivered direct for processing or the coffee may be pulped at the farm, dried and delivered in parchment.

This is a great complex coffee with a full bodied sweetness and a ginger tang.

Our Growers

Kinunu washing station lies on the shores of Lake Kivu, a large ‘inland sea’ along Rwanda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a magical place, with Bourbon coffee trees growing down steep, fertile hills right to the shore of the lake (whose surface elevation is 1460m).

Kinunu is one of two washing stations owned by SOCOR ltd. This privately owned business was founded by the local Kubwimana family, who have recently partnered with KZ Noir, a Kigali-based specialty coffee investment company managed by Gilbert Gatali. This well-run and quality focused organisation is helping to manage and improve the quality of coffee processed at the family’s washing stations.

Kinunu buys cherries from 1,796 farmers who live and grow coffee near the washing station and also has partnerships with several local cooperatives and farmers’ associations. Almost all of these farms are very small – typically less than a quarter a hectare each, which farmers use to produce both coffee (300 – 800 trees per farm is normal) and subsistence food crops to feed their families. This year (2013) a total of 309,069kg of cherry was delivered to Kinunu. The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station in a multitude of ways – in baskets on farmers’ heads, on bicycles, in trucks (which pick up cherries from various collection stations in the area) and even by boat.

At Kinunu the cherries are carefully hand sorted to make sure only red cherries are accepted. They are then pulped the same day – almost always in the evening – using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades. After pulping the coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12 hours) and then graded again using flotation channels that sort the coffee by weight (heaviest usually being the best). The beans are then soaked for a further 24 hours, before being moved to raised screens for ‘wet-sorting’ by hand – this is a task almost always carried out by women.

The sorted beans are finally dried in the sun on raised screens (‘African beds’) overlooking the lake, and sorted again several times prior to milling.

Unlike almost all other washing stations in Rwanda, SOCOR has its own dry mill on site at Kinunu and so does not have to rely on a central mill in Kigali (the capital – where mills are traditionally located). This means that SOCOR can oversee the whole supply chain – and so can ensure that it has full control of the quality process from farm to export. As part of this process, SOCOR’s quality control team – some of whom have participated as jurors in several Cup of Excellence competitions – cups lots daily to ensure quality and consistency.

SOCOR employs over 1400 staff at peak season. The organisation has also hired a fulltime agronomist, who is training local farmers on best practices in coffee farming, with the aim of increasing both yield and quality.

Employees at all levels receive training in not only their immediate role (be that, for example, sorting coffee, managing the wet mill, quality control cupping or accounts) but also in the entire coffee chain. The idea is to motivate and inspire employees by encouraging them to feel part of a bigger chain that stretches from their washing station to coffee consumers worldwide.

SOCOR has recently helped to build a secondary school in the area where their farmers are located and, with other partners, has also built a playground at the same school. It also offers advances on school fees to employees and farmers that deliver to the washing station.

  • Washing station: Kinunu
  • Farmers: 1,796 smallholder farmers deliver to Kinunu washing station
  • Varietal(s): Red Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully washed and sun dried on raised screens
  • Owner: SOCOR (Kubwimana family and investors)
  • Altitude of washing station: 1,500 metres above sea level
  • Altitude of farms: 1,500 – 1,700 metres above sea level
  • Town: Rubavu
  • Region: Boneza Sector, Rutsiro District of Western Province
  • Country: Rwanda

Rwanda

Lying almost in the centre of the continent, Rwanda is a fertile, mountainous and compact nation – roughly half the size of Scotland and smaller than most US states. Officially Africa’s most densely populated country, it has been inhabited since the Iron Age (if not earlier) and its seemingly endless terraced hills are scattered with dwellings. The 11 million strong population is still largely rural – around 90% of Rwandans are engaged in agriculture of some kind, though much of this is subsistence farming.

While travelling around this vibrant, welcoming country it is almost impossible to believe the scale of the violence in 1994, when more than an eighth of the population was massacred in only 100 days. From this unimaginable destruction, Rwanda has regenerated in an extraordinary way. It is now considered one of the most stable countries in the region, and its economy has grown by an annual average of 7-8% since 2003. Coffee, along with tea exports and tourism, has been a key driver of this growth.

In global coffee terms, Rwanda is a small but by no means insignificant producer – with some tremendous potential. In 2010 it produced a total of 433,00 bags – to put that into perspective, that’s over three times more than Bolivia produced in the same year (140,000 bags), but only around half that of Kenya (850,000 bags) and some 17 times less than African coffee giant Ethiopia (7,450,000 bags!).

With no coastline of its own, Rwanda’s coffees must first be sent 1,500km overland to Mombasa (Kenya) or Dar-es-Salam (Tanzania) – a process that usually costs more than shipping the container from Africa to Europe or the US!

Unlike its East African neighbours, Rwanda has no large estates. The majority of its coffee is grown by some 400,000 small-scale farmers and their families, most of whom own less than quarter a hectare of land each. All of Rwanda’s coffee is Arabica, and 95% is one of several long-established Bourbon varieties.

Despite Rwanda’s huge potential for quality production, its specialty coffee industry is still young. The first private washing station was built in 2001, with the help of USAID-financed projects, PEARL (now SPREAD) and ADAR. These transformational programmes were aimed at switching the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality – and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market.

Many new washing stations have sprung up since 2001, allowing co-ops and local private buying groups to process cherries themselves – and therefore sell them on to international buyers for far higher prices. Before the proliferation of these washing stations, the norm in Rwanda was for small farmers to sell semi-processed cherries on to a middleman – and the market was dominated by a single exporter (whose monopoly status made for even less flexibility on price). This commodity-focused system – coupled with declining world prices in the 1990s – brought severe hardship to farmers, some of whom abandoned coffee entirely.

Today, it’s a different picture. Farmers who work with the washing stations have seen their income at least double. Meanwhile, following a dry run in 2007 with the ‘Crop of Gold’, Rwanda held its first Cup of Excellence competition in 2008 and since then has introduced many more buyers to the exceptional Bourbon coffees that this country produces.

We love the refined sweetness of this coffee and the long chocolate aftertaste.

Our Growers

The Alvarez family have been growing coffee in El Salvador for over 100 years and across four generations. Their award-winning farms are located on the lush green hills of Santa Ana, in the west of the country, whose rich volcanic soils and mild climate provide ideal conditions for growing coffee. The beans which together make up El Borbollón come from two small neighboring farms – La Reforma and El Cerro. They are hand-picked and collected in traditional hand weaved baskets by pickers who have been specially trained to select only the best and fully mature coffee cherries.

The Alvarez family offer considerable support to local communities, with schools for children aged from 5 to 15 years and health clinics provided free on their farms. The family is also committed to developing sustainable practices in order to protect and preserve the natural environment. All of their coffee is grown under a canopy of shade trees, which enrich and conserve the soil and provide an important habitat for birds and other wildlife.

  • Coffee: El Borbollón 100% Bourbon
  • Farm(s): La Reforma & El Cerro
  • Varietal(s): 100% Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully washed and sun dried
  • Altitude: 1,300-1,500 metres above sea level
  • Temperature: 18-22ºC average annually
  • Rainfall: 2,000mm average annually
  • Owner: Alvarez Family
  • City: Santa Ana
  • Region: Santa Ana Volcano
  • Country: El Salvador

El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest of the Central American nations but don’t let its diminutive size distract you. It produces exceptional coffees to a consistently high standard. We buy selected single varietals such as Orange/Pink Bourbon, Red Bourbon and Pacamara.

Approximately 60% of the coffee produced is the Bourbon varietal, which is characterised by an exceptionally clean, bright and sweet profile with strong citrus tones. Notably, El Salvador is the birthplace of the Pacas and Pacamara varietals, the latter being a hybrid of the Pacas and Maragogype. The famous Pacamaras from El Salvador typically create a bigger body, with tropical fruits, syrupy mouthfeel alongside the citrus brightness and characteristic yellow grapefruit aftertaste. 95% of the coffee produced here is shade grown.

The majority of coffee is produced from farms considered to be medium sized in comparison to other Central and Southern American producing countries. The coffee produced is a result of the farmers’ passion and expertise. Combine this with a skilled picking and milling workforce, and this creates some truly wonderful coffees.

The coffee producers are supported by the Consejo Salvadoreño Del Café which does great work in supporting and promoting El Salvadorian coffee, both domestically and overseas. Through their work, there has been a tireless drive to stimulate export markets for the growers and to maintain and improve the quality of the coffee produced in El Salvador. As they say in El Salvador….Drink it and Smile!

These lovely Icatu beans from the highlands north west of Rio de Janeiro have a light coffee flavour with a hint of spice, perfect for all day drinking.

Our Grower

Fazenda Canta Galo is located in green, hilly country near the town of Areado in South Minas Gerais, at around 800 to 1120 metres above sea level. The coffee farm was founded in 1968, when José Carlos Vieira da Silveira created plantations of Arabica varietals Mundo Novo and Catuaí. Fazenda Canta Galo now produces several single varietal coffees including this 100% Icatu. As well as having a great passion for coffee farming, José Carlos was a far-sighted businessman, always striving to learn cutting-edge coffee management techniques, and so provided his farm with a good basic infrastructure and excellent management practice. After José Carlos died in 1991, his family continued to grow the coffee he loved. The farm is now owned by José Carlos’ widow, Vera Lúcia Oliveira da Silveira, and managed by the couple’s two children, Isaías Pio da Silveira and Andréia Oliveira da Silveira. Isaías and Andréia are following in their father’s footsteps, seeking production excellence. They have implemented in Fazenda Canta Galo what they call a ‘self-sustainable management system’, whose goals are maximum quality and client satisfaction while respecting the following requirements:

• Agricultural planning (strategic and operational)
• Traceability of lots
• Preserving the environment
• Social responsibility

The farm is very well equipped and follows strict guidelines to maintain the intrinsic quality of its coffees. During the harvest and production process, it makes use of the following facilities: a washer; two pulpers, 5,800 square metres of concrete patios; 250 square metres of suspended terraces, with a hot house for beans pre-drying phase; three pre-driers; two mechanical driers to dry the beans; storage and resting bins.

Environment

Only 120 of Fazenda Canta Galo’s 400 hectares are used for coffee plantations and processing. The remaining area is used either to protect the environment or for agricultural diversification. A total area of 60 hectares is set aside as a nature reserve, and creeks, springs and other water courses are designated as preservation zones, protecting ground at a 30-metre radius of their banks. Liquid residues from the coffee process are used for ‘fertirrigation’ of pastures that were previously subsoiled. Consumption water and residue water are analysed at least once a year, and waste is collected to protect the local ecosystem.

Social responsibility

Fazenda Canta Galo has 30 permanent employees that work on the plantations year round. During the harvest season, from May to September, an average of 100 temporary employees are taken on to work at the farm. Labour and employment laws are respected and child labour is totally prohibited. Farm employees’ school age children go to a local public school – a school bus provided by the Municipality of Areado/Alfenas picks them up at the farm and brings them back at the end of every school day. Individual protection equipment is mandatory for the farm’s employees. Safety training is also provided for specific duties, and there is a registered nurse for first aid care and personal and family health guidance.

  • Coffee: Fazenda Canta Galo 100% Icatu pulped natural
  • Farm: Fazenda Canta Galo
  • Varietal(s): 100% Icatu
  • Processing: Pulped Natural
  • Altitude: 800 – 1,120 metres above sea level
  • Owner: Vera Lúcia Oliveira da Silveira, and her children, Isaías Pio da Silveira and Andréia Oliveira da Silveira
  • City: Areado
  • Region: Minas Gerais (Sul de Minas)
  • Country: Brazil
  • Certification: Brazil Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA)

Brazil

Brazil is by far the world’s largest coffee producer – in 2010 it produced 48,095 million bags of coffee, over a third of global production! Coffee was introduced to the country back in the early 18th century. The story goes that in 1727 the Brazilian government sent a dashing soldier – Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta – to smuggle coffee seeds from French Guiana, under the cover of mediating a border dispute. The Lieutenant is said to have turned his charms on the governor’s wife, who slyly gave him a bouquet spiked with coffee seedlings at a farewell state dinner.

Some two million hectares of the country are now under coffee, of which the vast majority (70%+) is Arabica. Much of this is destined for the large multi-national roasters and is known simply as ‘Santos’ (after the port it is shipped from in São Paulo state – not a producing region). However, Brazil also produces some truly exceptional coffees and micro-lots, proof that speciality coffee does not have to be limited to just the small-scale grower.

Like in India, Brazil’s burgeoning middle class has prompted rapid growth in the domestic market for its coffee. Consumption has been increasing by around 5% annually and Brazil may soon overtake the US to become the world’s biggest coffee consumer.

The primary growing regions are Sul de Minas, Matas de Minas, Cerrado, Chapadas de Minas, Mogiana, Espirito Santo, Paraná and Bahia. Here, a huge number of traditional and experimental varietals such as Bourbon, Mondo Novo, Icatú, Catuaí, Iapar and Catucaí are cultivated. Farms range in size from small family plantations of less than 10 hectares, up to massive estates in excess of 2000 hectares – some of the bigger Brazilian estates singlehandedly produce more coffee each year than Bolivia’s entire output!

Historically, much of the coffee grown in Brazil was processed using the washed method. This is now changing and the natural and pulped natural methods are also increasingly employed. These processes are used to enhance different characteristics of the coffee and to bring out different traits. Indeed, some large estate process their coffees by each method in order to offer contrasting cup profiles.

The Brazil Speciality Coffee Association (BSCA) works to build long lasting, sustainable relationships between quality growers and coffee professionals, both large and small. The BSCA works on both international and domestic levels to raise the standards of Brazilian coffee and coffee agriculture. Internationally, it promotes fine Brazilian coffee and helps growers to meet the exacting standards of speciality coffee buyers worldwide. On a domestic level, the BSCA works with farms to continually improve sustainable farming practices and ensure the provision of social care to workers.

This is a sweet full bodied coffee with a long apply aftertaste and medium acidity.

Our Grower

Situated close to the highland town of Marcala in the district of La Paz, Finca La Florida lies at the very heart of an area famed for its exceptional coffee. Blessed with steep hillsides and abundant sunshine these high grown beans are fully washed immediately after harvest and sun dried to lock in their flavour.

Proud of their coffee heritage and the region’s indigenous Lencan culture the farmers work hard to protect the quality and reputation of their coffee and this region remains one of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of Honduras.

Honduras

Honduras is a big producing country, with a lot of untapped potential for specialty lots. Coffee has historically been one of Honduras’ leading exports (alongside bananas) and since the mid-2000s total annual production has all but doubled – in the 10/11 crop year Honduras ranked as the world’s sixth largest Arabica producing country and Central America’s top grower, with a yield of 4,326,000 bags (all Arabica varietals).

Until relatively recently almost of all of Honduras’ production was aimed at the commercial market – and the country was seen as a lower-priced commodity exporter. While its Central American neighbours have become famous for high quality lots, specialty has arguably taken longer to discover – and be discovered by – Honduras. The growing conditions are certainly there – fertile soils, altitude (most farms lies at 1000m plus) and agreeable microclimates – but Honduras has struggled with a lack of processing and quality control infrastructure, and a bad name with quality buyers. However, things are changing – the government is investing substantially in coffee and pushing quality.

The country’s national coffee institute, IHCAFE, is offering technical assistance and training to farmers and is working on a project to provide producers access to low interest loans to buy processing equipment. At the same time, it is working hard to build Honduras’ reputation with specialty buyers. In 2004 it helped to set up a national cupping school, which provides comprehensive training for cuppers and is giving young people the opportunity to build a career in coffee quality control.

Honduras has been divided into six well-defined regions or ‘Denominaciónes de Origen’ (‘Designation of Origin’ – a term borrowed from the wine industry and used by several Central American producing countries): Copán (north-west, bordering Guatemala and El Salvador), Opalca (north-west), Marcala-Montecillos (south-west), Comayagua (centre-west), El Paraíso (south-east) and Agalta Tropical (north and east). Each region has its own IHCAFE-sponsored cupping lab, which offers farmers a free cupping service. These six main regions are in turn split into various micro regions, demarcated by geography and cup profiles.

Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done. The country’s production has increased dramatically, but its coffee infrastructure (processing facilities, transport etc) still lags behind that of its better known neighbours. Meanwhile many of the country’s small producers lack any access to finance, so they are forced to sell cherries or wet parchment (partially processed coffee) to mills or exporters at a low price – sacrificing quality and traceability in the process. At the time of writing (August 2012), only around 20% of Honduran producers deliver dry parchment – ie. wash and dry their coffees themselves, for which they can demand a price premium.

Honduras also struggles with high rainfall and drying is a real issue for many producers. The country’s rainy climate makes using drying patios very difficult in some areas – with coffees prone to fermentation. Instead producers are encouraged by IHCAFE to use polytunnels (known as ‘domos’) or solar dryers to dry their specialty lots.

Over 100,000 families are involved in coffee production across Honduras – 95% of whom are small-scale farmers. The country’s main varietal is Catuaí, with a minority of Bourbon, Pacas and Typica.

This is a rich fruit coffee, with a long sweet aftertaste and a beautiful blackcurrant flavour.

Our Growers

Kii farm was established in 1976 under the giant Rung’eto and is owned by small scale farmers.

Located in the Kirinyaga district of Kenya, about 190 Km North of Nairobi, the farm sits near the Mt Kenya forest National Park.

The farm overlooks the famous elephant migration route that connects Aberdare & Mt Kenya Forest. Along with elephants, there are many other wild animals such as Buffaloes and Antelopes Monkeys in the area. These, as well as many others, often find their way into the farm grounds to graze on the grassland or chew on the sweet coffee berries.

The coffee is grown on red volcanic soil and surrounded by Grevillia and other indigenous trees.

  • Coffee: Kii AA 2013 – Lot A57
  • Farm: Kii factory
  • Varietal(s): K7,SL 28 and SL32
  • Processing: Dried on tables
  • Owner: Various small scale farmers.
  • Altitude: 1900 metres
  • Town: Embu
  • Region: Kirinyaga District
  • Country: Kenya
  • Total size of farm: 456 hectares
  • Area under coffee: 400 hectares

Kenya

Coffee growing was introduced in Kenya by the British in around 1900 and by way of Ethiopia. Agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy, employing around 75% of the population and contributing to some 50% of the country’s exports (led by coffee and tea).

Today, the primary growing regions are situated in Kenya’s Central Highlands – on the high plateau just north and north-east of Nairobi, on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya to the north, and in the foothills of the Aberdare Mountains to the west. The majority of the country’s coffee (around 55%) is produced by upwards of 600,000 smallholders, organised into several hundred cooperatives. The rest of the country’s production is by medium and large estates, many of which run their own wet – and sometimes also dry – mills.

Only Arabica is cultivated in Kenya. In the 1950s, several extremely successful hybrids from Scott Laboratories were introduced and these have largely replaced the original French Bourbon stock which had been brought to Kenya from neighbouring Ethiopia. The most well-known are SL (‘Scott Laboratory’) 28 and SL34 – these are Bourbon varieties and lend Kenya the distinctive big body and winy blackcurrant notes for which it is famed. The country’s location on the equator allows for two harvests per year – the main harvest in October to December and a second ‘fly crop’ in April to June. Coffees are usually fully washed, then dried in the sun on raised drying screens – often known as ‘African beds’.

Kenya’s coffee industry is organised around a weekly government-run open auction system, which dates back to 1934. This transparent system has established a pricing hierarchy based on quality, with higher quality lots fetching higher prices. The auctions, which take place at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, are widely considered to be the most transparent price-discovery and distribution system for fine green coffees anywhere in the coffee world, and inspired the model for the Cup of Excellence auctions. There is often stiff competition for the best lots, particularly from better-known estates and co-ops and for the AA grade beans. The grades, however, are simply a measure of bean size, not of defect tolerance (AA is screen 17/18; AB is screen 15/16 with a tolerance for 10% below screen 15). Ahead of each auction, samples of each lot are distributed to the 50 or so licensed exporters – or ‘members’ – of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange where they are cupped and sent on to their customers for selection.

In late 2006, new legislation made it possible for coffee sales to be negotiated directly between producers and buyers – until this point the auction platform had been compulsory. This new system, known as the ‘second window’, was the product of pressure from some farmers and cooperatives, who maintained that the auction system encourages the existence of a long chain of middlemen who erode the farmers’ income. Supporters of the auction, however, claim that the auction promotes a highly effective price-discovery mechanism – and that corruption at cooperative management level is often the real barrier to funds reaching producers.

The government has licensed upwards of 30 independent marketing agents who are now permitted to sell directly to foreign green coffee buyers, bypassing the auction system. Until this change in 2006, all Kenyan coffee at the auction had been sold through three marketing agents who demanded a fee from the grower for their services. These new licensees are required to fulfill certain criteria before being awarded their license – including storage standards and a bank guarantee to ensure farmers are paid.

Today many of Kenya’s small farmers have yet to find a direct path to the international market, though this situation is changing gradually. The auction system, meanwhile, continues to run in parallel, is open to all producers and is the means by which some 90-95% of Kenya’s coffee is still sold.