As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Bolivian coffees will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only does my future father-in-law import coffee from just outside of Cochabamba for his company, Bolivia’s Best Coffee, Bolivia was once the home of my bride-to-be, Ashley—the creator of the online comic, Life’s a Grind.
So, yeah—I’m always eager to find a great Bolivian coffee. Much to my surprise, I opened my mailbox a couple weeks ago and saw that a potentially great Bolivian coffee found me.
Furthermore, this coffee was made all the more special even before I brewed it. Inside the package was a handwritten letter (which, by the way roasters, I absolutely love to find in any given package) from my “friends at Kaldi’s” (that made me feel special, too) which informed that a regular customer of theirs—who also happens to regularly pull up a chair here at the Table—stopped by the cafe one day, told them that I had recently reviewed the Anjilanaka from Intelligentsia, and suggested that they send me their current Bolivian coffee for a review.
Thankfully for me, Kaldi’s is a company of the people and they listen to the people.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Organic Bolivia Bolinda, from Kaldi’s Coffee in Saint Louis, Missouri. Feel free to pull up a chair.
This coffee was produced by smallholder farmers from the community – or ‘colonia’ – of Bolinda, which lies in a steep mountain valley, around 10km outside the town of Caranavi. The colonia was founded 52 years ago and used to be known as ‘Bolivia Linda’ or ‘Beautiful Bolivia’. After much deliberation the community’s residents decided to change its name to Bolinda, and it is now one of the larger settlements in this area.
Coffee is the main cash crop in Colonia Bolinda. The farms are small – around 5 hectares or fewer – and lay at an average altitude of 1,475 metres above sea level. They are planted out with Caturra (70%), Catuai (20%), and Typica (10%) varietals, grown in the shade of native trees. These traditional farms use no chemicals or pesticides and their production is certified organic. Almost all work is carried out by the family, with a handful of temporary workers taken on to help out during harvest.
The families that contributed to this lot used to depend on the local market to sell their coffee, meaning low prices and little reliability. Now they are able to sell their top grade coffees for substantially higher prices to our partners at Agricafe, who process specialty lots at their Buena Vista wet mill in Caranavi.
The main harvest in Bolinda runs from May to September, peaking in June and July. The cherries are picked by hand only when they are fully ripe. They are then prepared using the fully washed process, either on the farms themselves or at the Buena Vista wet mill.
Origins: Bolinda, Caranavi, Bolivia
Farms: smallholder farmers
Elevation: 1475 meters above sea level
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Process: fully washed, mechanically dried
The aroma coming off the Organic Bolivia Bolinda is heavenly. It has an unmistakable scent of chocolate milk that dominates the space between the nose and the cup, with sweet pralines and floral aromatics mixed in its fumes.
The first few sips immediately post-brew are sweet and have an unusually delicate decadence. By that, I mean that the flavors I’m tasting are light and restrained, though, in any other coffee, they’d be heavy and intense. Milk chocolate lays down on the palate a foundation of sweetness, while bakers spices and a light dusting of cane sugar tickle the roof of the mouth. Fig, raisin, and nougat roll down the middle of the tongue, dividing the milk chocolate like the Red Sea and pushing it to the sides of the tongue before it collapses on Pharoah’s army of nuts in the finish.
As it cools off, the coffee gets even sweeter and juicier, as dried fruits begin to make an appearance. Fig and raisin, sure; they’re leading the charge here, giving way to similar flavors of currants, plum, cranberry, and orange peel. Closer and closer to room temperature, the cup gets more and more delicate and lighter in nature. It’s become sophisticated at this point, with notes of apple, apricot, peach, pistachio, white tea aromatics that tickle the tip of the tongue, and a mellow green grape acidity that rounds out the bottom of the cup, giving it tremendous balance and a clean, crisp finish.
Light body; creamy mouthfeel; green grape acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
Let’s face it, Dear Reader – Bolivian coffees are seldom good. While Bolivia does have all the right ingredients for stellar coffees (plenty of high altitude, rich soil, great seedstock, etc.), their quality and production practices are, well, lacking. We’ve been fortunate, here at the Table, however, to have already cupped two prime examples of how good Bolivian coffee can be.
The Organic Bolivia Bolinda, from Kaldi’s Coffee, is a delightful cup; a classic Latin American breakfast or comfort coffee with its delicacy, brightness, clarity, balance, rich flavor, and sweet aromatics. Delicious savories up front give way to subtle fruit flavors in the back, providing a cup that is full of depth and pleasurable from beginning to end.
If you’ve never tried a Bolivian coffee before, this cup from Kaldi’s is a fantastic place to start.