Our relationship with Luis Choquehuanca has become one of our most valued producer partnerships, and a great example of the benefits of committing to values on both sides.
We were first introduced to Luis from our close partners at Agricafe. The Rodriguez family has been instrumental in creating a set of farms that have become one of the best managed and most sophisticated farms in the world. Not only that, but they are passionate about building coffee capacity and community in Bolivia, a country who’s coffee industry has been ravaged by the cocaine trade. Using their farms as model examples, the family created a rigorous farm management curriculum designed to help neighbouring producers improve the quality, yield and earnings from growing coffee. This was the birth of the Sol de la Mañana program. Inviting many small scale producers in the area to participate, the goal was to teach these producers what they have learned and start to reverse the worrisome decline of Bolivian coffee production.
Luis was originally introduced to the program when his mother, Carmelita, joined. After helping her, he decided to participate and grow coffee on his own farm. It is incredible to think that Luis has only been growing coffee for 5 years and through commitment to quality, is already achieving such high performing coffee.
We first tried Luis’ coffee on our first trip to Bolivia in 2018. We were several days into cupping the season’s fresh harvests to decide on our purchases. One of the tables was organized with selections from the first year producers from Sol de la Manana. We were really excited about this table as we knew we wanted to support the program. We evaluated the table blind and picked out our favourites. Turns out that the 4 best coffees all came from Luis. Excited, we packed the car and headed out to visit him. Luis is a friendly, soft spoken man, married with two kids. His farm is located in a remote, mountainous area a couple hours drive from Caranavi, through winding roads and steep climbs. We sat together over coffee and cake and chatted. We met his wife and two boys. After, we walked through his farm, talked about his plants, his challenges with the farm and his ideas on how he wants to improve.
Leaving the farm, the three of us were really impressed with Luis, his continuous pursuit for quality and his humble and gentle personality. We made a decision then to not only buy his coffee, but his entire production. This would be a commitment to Luis, give him a secure buyer for his year’s work, and allow him guaranteed cashflow to focus on quality and growth.
Fast forward to the next year and once again the top performing lots from the Sol de la Mañana program all came from Luis, except for one. We spent time with him again and learned that he was able to reinvest the earnings from last year to prepare an un-developed part on his farm for planting coffee and growing his harvest. Once again, we committed to his entire harvest, purchasing even any lower performing lots (although they still fit our quality benchmarks), which is important to sourcing with our values of servitude and community, and not just picking and choosing when it’s convenient, which can put the producer at a disadvantage.
Since then, he has continued to flourish. His coffee this year has only gotten better, and he is growing some of the best tasting Java we have ever tasted - truly world class coffees. This is a great example of how sticking to our relationship with a producer who shares the same values can producing something amazing.
As a roaster, we have a responsibility to ask ourselves how we can serve our producing partners. This involves listening to the unique needs of the producers and finding a way that we can serve them. This might mean committing to a farmer’s entire production to give them stability, assisting with community development projects, or understanding the true challenges of being in coffee production and working together to address them. But at the bare minimum, we serve our producing partners best by paying the highest prices that we can for their coffee, that covers their cost of production and rewards them for exceptional quality and effort.
The heartbeat of our coffee program is our commitment towards an exceptional level of coffee quality, working with producers that approach everything they do with excellence.
As our relationships grow each year, we continue to learn how we can continue to improve. Not only in the quality of the coffee, but in how we serve and continue to build community with our producing partners.
The work Luis has done should be celebrated, and we are excited to present many single-variety lots of his coffee. Ranging from rich, smooth and approachable Caturra lots, to floral, complex washed Javas and ripe, tropical explosive naturals.
We're currently offering 3 Lots from Luis in our cafes and online, having just sold out of a 4th Lot. We've never been able to offer so many lots from one farmer, and have been blown away by the quality and care put into everything we've tasted.