You'd be forgiven for thinking that Bolivia's high altitudes, beautiful rolling mountains, and rich, fertile soil would be enough for high-quality coffee to flourish. Terroir aside, producing exceptional coffee in Bolivia is exceptionally challenging.
Bolivian coffee exports have been on a steady decline for some time. Poor infrastructure, challenging geography and being a landlocked country has contributed to a substantially higher cost of production and lower yields than other coffee producing regions. As a result, many coffee farmers have turned away from coffee in favour of more lucrative crops such as quinoa or coca.
In response to these challenges, Pedro Rodriguez established Agricafe with the support of his daughter Daniella and son Pedro Pablo. Agricafe is determined to fight the trend of Bolivia's dwindling coffee exports through building long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships with coffee producers throughout the country. With such a high cost of production and low yields, the Rodriguez family see great importance in concentrating Agricafe's efforts towards producing quality over quantity. While they would love to and are actively seeking to increase their yields, they see great importance in being able to deliver superior coffees which can fetch prices which will enable the business to continue to be sustainable.
The Rodriguez family have taken a very thoughtful and resourceful approach to their business. While their primary focus is producing high-quality coffee, they also sell the dried coffee blossom, coffee parchment, and Cascara (which is the husk or skin of a coffee cherry). We purchase this Cascara to make our Cascara Shrub. While these three products are unlikely ever to rival the revenue generated from green coffee sales, they provide an additional source of income for what would have otherwise been discarded.
This remarkable Cascara is a collaborative effort of various smallholder coffee farmers who deliver their coffee cherry to Agricafe's Buena Vista mill in Caranavi for processing. While much of the coffee produced in Bolivia is organic, this is of particular importance for their cascara production, as unlike green coffee, you are consuming the flesh of the coffee cherry which would otherwise be protecting the coffee seeds from any fertilisers or pesticides that would have been applied through conventional farming practices.
We would love to see a market for these byproducts continue to grow. Coffee production is challenging to say the least, and while demand for high-quality coffee is growing, coffee producing regions are some of the hardest hit by our ever-increasing global temperatures.
For many coffee drinkers, little consideration is given to the fact that coffee is the seed of a flowering plant. Products like Cascara help to build value, and provide a greater perspective of where coffee comes from and what it takes to produce and build value in genuinely exceptional coffee.