Las Alasitas Geisha - A Celebration of Bolivian Coffee
When a sample of Las Alasitas first landed on our cupping table, we knew we wanted to share this coffee with you. Coffee like this doesn’t come around very often, and when only 180kg is produced, there isn’t much to go around either.
This very special, micro micro-lot bursts with lychee acidity and fragrant orange blossom.
Las Alasitas is a washed processed Geisha grown at 1650 masl, the highest point on Pedro Rodriguez’s farm in the heart of the Bolinda colony. We’re roasting this coffee for all filter brewing methods, so you can enjoy this as a pour-over, Aeropress, or plunger coffee at home.
But wait...what’s a Geisha?
Geisha to coffee is like Burgundy to wine, Beluga to caviar, Wagyu to beef … you get the picture. The Geisha variety is extremely difficult to cultivate, the plant itself doesn’t look the prettiest, its foliage is sparse and its branches are long and spindly, unlike the more dense, verdant coffee plants you might usually see. This of course means that a Geisha plant has to work harder to do the whole photosynthesizing thing. Add in a poor root system, slow maturation and low yield (about half the amount of a variety like Catuai) and you begin to wonder why anyone cultivates Geisha at all. But that one is easy to answer…it produces the most delicate and unique, tear-to-your-eye beautiful coffee.
The Geisha varietal originated in Gesha, Ethiopia, where it grew wildly amongst other types of Arabica varieties in the Gori Gesha forest. It has been cultivated since the 1930s, first for the study of coffee varieties in Costa Rica, and then in Panama where the Peterson family of Hacienda La Esmeralda would blast the Geisha varietal into the psyche of the specialty coffee industry.
After discovering the plants growing on a high elevation section of a recently purchased coffee farm, the Peterson family made the decision to process the variety individually. Up until this point, there was some cultivation of Geisha, but it had always been mixed with other Arabica cherries during harvest. The 100% Geisha lot was presented at 2004 Best of Panama coffee competition, took the crown, and fetched what was a record price at the time of US$21 per pound. Each year the Panama Geisha surpasses the last (it’s been a big couple of decades for Geisha coffee and the specialty industry). Last year a lot from Finca Sophia, sold at auction for US$1300.5 per pound.
Outside of Ethiopia and Panama, Geisha coffee is being produced in other high-altitude areas in South and Central America. As specialty coffee farming practices are developed and shared, farms that have the prerequisite altitude have taken on the challenge of cultivating the Geisha variety.
Why is Bolivian coffee so special?
Pedro Rodrgiuez has worked tirelessly over the last decade championing specialty coffee as a viable crop for Bolivian farmers. His organisation, Agricafe, represents over 100 small producers in the Caranavi province, working with the participants to improve farming practices and increase quality.
Though the conditions in Bolivia are ideal for beautiful coffee, it has always been a very small coffee-producing country. The Andean mountain ranges provide high elevation and consistent, mild temperatures, allowing the coffee to ripen slowly and develop complex flavours, but the remoteness, lack of infrastructure, and challenging geography continue to be a hurdle for consistent, quality coffee.
High-profit crops like coca (grown for the drug trade), which are easy to cultivate and can be harvested all year round, are a constant threat to the Bolivian specialty coffee industry. Established coffee trees are often dug up to make way for coca plantations. A lack of government support for the production of coffee (unlike other coffee-producing countries such as Brazil or Guatemala) means individuals like Pedro Rodriguez are even more integral to the continuation of specialty coffee in Bolivia.
This is our ninth year purchasing coffee from Pedro and the team at Agricafe. Las Alasitas is a celebration of Bolivia as a coffee-producing origin and we are so excited to share it with you.