Latin America produces some of the best coffee beans in the world, such as B. Brazilian and Colombian coffee, but other Latin American countries are often overshadowed when it comes to coffee production. Not that much is known about Bolivian coffee, but this is sure to change in the future.
How coffee came to Bolivia
The beginning of the history of coffee in Bolivia is still uncertain, as there are different versions of how coffee came to Bolivian territory. Everyone agrees on one thing, namely that coffee came to Bolivia at the end of the 18th century.
The first and most popular version is, as some historians speculate, that coffee entered many Latin American countries in the same way. This version claims that the first coffee beans came to Bolivia from slaves who had fled Brazilian territory and carried coffee beans in their pockets.
For the Africans, coffee was their greatest treasure, they took the coffee beans with them everywhere, and so coffee spread to many American areas.
However, there is another version, which is very strong, that says how coffee came to Bolivia. Namely thanks to various monks and high society people who transported the beans from one country to another.
The early years of coffee in Bolivia
The first known growing areas in Bolivia were the Hacienda Diez de Medina and the farm Santa Teresa de Peri, both in the Los Yungas region, as the coffee was perfectly suited to be grown in this area, albeit only for personal use.
Over the years, and in a quest to diversify Bolivian crops, the national government developed various policies to encourage growers to grow these beans. However, these measures did not have the expected success as coffee was not a popular drink in Bolivia at the time, making the coffee a bad deal for local growers.
In the 1950s and 1960s, coffee became popular after an agrarian reform that introduced various methods that explained coffee cultivation and the benefits that came with it.
In parallel with this measure, the Bolivian government built a road network to facilitate the transport of agricultural products.
After the reform and the various measures taken by the Bolivian government, coffee cultivation became very popular, but coffee production was not perfect.
First Bolivian coffee exports
In the years that followed, coffee consolidated as one of the best crops. Given the quality of the product, the government wanted to export its best beans, so in the 1970s and 1980s the agricultural sector received various incentives that would increase the number of coffee producers even further.
The country was in its prime as it exported large amounts of coffee, but there was a problem: the countries that imported Bolivian coffee paid between 20% and 30% less than other countries, which was very difficult for the coffee farmers.
The reason for this was the inexperience of the coffee farmers who had problems with the goods they shipped. Since they still shipped the beans wet, this resulted in the beans arriving with a bad taste or the agreed deliveries were often delayed.
This problem was solved thanks to a United Nations (UN) aid program that intervened to monitor coffee production where the problem became apparent. The UN offered solutions and helped consolidate coffee production in Bolivia.
Characteristics of Bolivian coffee
Currently, 100% of the coffee grown in Bolivia comes from Caravani and Cochabamba (90% and 10% of the total crop respectively), where the Arabica variety Typica is grown because this bean has adapted best to the climatic conditions of these areas, being tropical and humid climates.
Since the early days of coffee growing in Bolivia, coffee farmers have strived to offer organic coffee to the market as it is one of its best qualities. In addition, the coffee is grown at an altitude of more than 1000 meters above sea level, which favors the taste of the coffee.
The entire manufacturing process results in a coffee with a sweet smell and taste, with fruity aromas of pear, apple, tangerine and lemon and after roasting with chocolate and caramel flavors.
These characteristics are found only in some of the world’s most expensive beans, making Bolivia a formidable producer of specialty coffee.
Bolivian coffee exports
According to various statistics, Bolivia ranks 47th in the list of the largest coffee producers for 2018, contributing 0.03% to the world coffee consumption.
While that doesn’t sound like an impressive amount, in 2005, a coffee farmer won the Excellence in the Cup award thanks to beans grown in Bolivia.
How much coffee is produced in Bolivia?
Now that you know what percentage of coffee Bolivia brings to the world, you might be wondering how many tons of coffee Bolivia produces and where does it export its coffee to?
The answer is simple: in the first five months of 2022, 1017 tons of coffee were exported, an increase of 32% compared to the same five-month period in 2021.
As of 2021 figures, the main importers of Bolivian coffee were:
- The United States imported 25% of the coffee produced
- Belgium imported 14% of the coffee produced
- France imported 14% of the coffee produced
- Germany imported 9% of the coffee produced
- Japan imported 7% of the coffee produced
The remaining 31% was exported to countries such as Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
Which is the best Bolivian coffee?
For 2021, the bean produced by Juan Vargas Calani at Villa Tunari in Cochabamba was awarded the 2021 Presidential Coffee after winning the National Quality Cup.
The jury of this competition is made up of national and international tasters who gave the coffee produced by Juan a score of 91.45 out of 100, meaning that this bean met the highest quality standards.
This competition aims to demonstrate the quality of Bolivian coffee in order to stimulate countries’ interest in this product.
After the results are announced, an electronic auction takes place a few days later, where the best qualified coffee beans are sold.
The future of Bolivian coffee
The future of Bolivian coffee is bright as new trends in the coffee market are expected to increase both the production of specialty coffee and the production of various types of organic coffee.
The properties of the beans grown in Bolivia have the best traits that could make Bolivia one of the top exporters of specialty coffee.
Bolivian coffee does not need to fear the coffee of its neighboring countries as it has all the characteristics of the best coffee beans in the world. Bolivia will probably be the most important producer of exotic coffee in the future.