Bolivia Mejillones Coffee

Bolivia Mejillones

Bolivian Mejillones coffee is a highly fragrant specialty coop coffee. This organic fair trade product is also noted for its certification as an SPP (Símbolo de Pequeños Productores). SPP is a grass-roots certification which belongs to small farm cooperatives located primarily in Central and South America.  The certification is limited to small production farms and denotes that these farms maintain fair, transparent, and sustainable farming practices.

Bolivian Mejillones coffee is a single-origin Arabica coffee of the varieties Typica (Criolla) and Catimor (Timor and Caturra cross).  The coffee is shade grown under the lush canopy of the rainforest in the Yungas region of Bolivia. These gourmet beans are grown in highly fertile soil at altitudes of 1350-1700 meters above sea level. The beans are strictly high grown (SHG) and are a strictly hard bean (SHB) of average size. The high altitudes of the region produces a slow maturing fruit and a harder bean that is very desirable.

Mejillones coffee beans are hand-picked, and then double or triple-picked by female farm workers. The fact that women complete the final sorting of the beans is pointed-out by the coop as a tribute to the delicate and caring hands that thoughtfully sort the beans with the intention of providing a product that is well-handled and valued by the farmers. The care and pride taken in producing their crops is an extension of the cultural practices of the Mejillones people who work to preserve and attend to their natural resources as a matter of tradition.

The Yungas region is home to the notorious “Death Highway.”  It used to be that all coffee bean crops which grew in the Yungas region had to be taken by way of this treacherous road. The road, La Carretera de las Yungas, is one of the most famous dangerous roads in the world, designated as such by the Inter- American Development Bank in 1995. The dirt road, which encompasses a stretch of 43 miles from Coroico to La Paz, is barely the width of one motor vehicle, has no guardrails, is often slippery and succumbs to rain damage, and threatens sheer drops of up to 2,000 feet. As many as 300 people per year died along the death highway.  A new highway has since been built that bypasses this devilish road, but its’ devastating legacy is still ingrained in the hearts of the locals.

Cooperative Mejillones was founded in 1988 and there are today 85 small organic producers in the coop. The Mejillones farmers grow their coffee beans in the Yungas area of the Caranavi Province in Bolivia on farms ranging from 4-8 hectares (approximately 10-20 acres) each. With the help and guidance of FECAFEB, The Federation of Coffee Exporting Producers of Bolivia, the Mejillones coop produces a yearly average of 3,750,000 pounds of exportable, green coffee beans which sell on the national and international organic and fair trade markets.

FECAFEB is a national umbrella organization founded in 1991 to inform, educate, and defend the rights of small-scale coffee farmers. It currently has organized more than 40 coffee cooperatives and associations throughout Bolivia. The coop organizations belonging to FECAFEB are the lead producers of Bolivian coffee, exporting nearly 90% of the country’s coffee beans while simultaneously promoting sustainable farming practices and development for the small-scale coffee producers throughout the region.

Through its association with FECAFEB, and the business management and educational guidance which is provided by the federation, Coop Mejillones has built their business concerns to include the coop’s own cupping lab in Calama, their own collection center, coffee plant nurseries, and a dry processing facility in El Alto, near La Paz where the green beans are exported. These coop controlled facilities allows the efficient and productive processing of their coffee beans and ensures proper handling and a quality product for the market.

Processing:
Wet processing is accomplished on-site. The “pre-benefitting” process involves removing the pulp from the cherry, fermenting, washing, and sun-drying on patios. The beans are then taken to the Mejillones central warehouse in Calama for a longer period of drying which results in coffee parchment, or pergamino. Mejillones coffee beans are dried in Calama to 16% moisture rather than the standard 12%, as the beans lose a great deal of moisture as they are transported, to an ascent of 13,600 feet in elevation, to the Mejillones dry processing plant in El Alto prior to exportation from La Paz.

Roasting:
A light roast, while pleasant, does not do this coffee justice. A medium, full city roast is most common for Bolivian Mejillones beans. On the threshold of the second crack, at 428 degrees Fahrenheit, is typically the point at which the coffee’s distinct organic potential is supremely balanced. Many do enjoy a dark, Vienna roast for the single origin bean as the acidity is neutralized to a great extent and the chocolate undertones become well-defined. This coffee is appropriate for the French Press, as a drip, and for espresso.

Aroma:
A somewhat nutty aroma revealing hints of almonds, chocolate, and a pleasant hint of fruit.

Acidity:
Medium acidity with fruity, chocolate undertones.

Body:
Full-bodied coffee that is bold, yet well-balanced.

Flavor/Taste:
Bolivian Mejillones coffee is robust, yet smooth and emits rich flavors of low-toned berry, almonds and chocolate with buttery undertones. Some refer to a toasty nuance.

Aftertaste:
Produces an impressive, complex long finish with a deep, rich sweetness.

Fragrance:
Bolivian Mejillones beans are highly fragrant, immersing the environment in a hearty rich cocoa, nutty scent.