Bolivian coffees are a rarity in specialty coffee both in their production and representation as well as in their old world flavors. Outside of Ethiopia, most of specialty coffee is dominated with the intense and punchy flavored coffees of Bourbon varieties (which we love), old Typica coffees present rare and refined flavors on a different spectrum of sweetness and a softer expression of acidity showing florals, spices, orchard fruits and sugar browning sweetness. These are flavors and coffees we are driven to preserve and grow at Saint Frank.
2018 Harvest and Offerings
Siete Estrellas from Francisco Hilari will be the first release of our Bolivia offerings this year, a coffee that has become a favorite in recent years for its sweetness and classic representation of Bolivia terroir. We are also thrilled to welcome back a stunning and delicate coffee from the Siete Estrellas community that we bought in our very first year from Teodocia Castro. Teodocia had entered her coffee Café Oro in the Presidential Competition since that time but is now working again with our partners at Invalsa and we jumped at the chance to work with her again.
Bernardino Aliaga's outstanding Cedrales will return as well from Amor de Dios showing flavors of sweet and soft orange creme. We are also welcoming a beautiful success story in Juan Jose Machicado whose Cima del Jaguar will be released as a microlot for the first time showing ripe blackberry and orange with caramel sweetness.
Of course we will again see coffee from Celso Mayta another of our first connections from 2014. His Icatu from Fortín is loaded with honeycrisp apple, ripe pear and lychee. We even have a special very small lot of Celso's first production of floral and delicate Gesha.
Saint Frank and Bolivia
From the beginning, Bolivia was in my plans to be a key origin in building our coffee program. I remember very simply searching online to learn the poorest countries of South America and began reading about Bolivia and the challenges facing small producers there. Even if the odds seemed as insurmountable as the towering Andes between the farmers and the city of La Paz they seemed just as beautiful to me and challenge worth scaling. My mind was set, no matter the hardship it presented, I was determined to work in Bolivia and bring relationship coffees to San Francisco.
We were just a coffee shop at the time in 2014 and while I didn't have any direction, but one thing I can always do is find connections and build relationships. After speaking with friends for advice like Darrin Daniels (then with Stumptown) and Ryan Brown (then with Tonx), within a matter of weeks I was on a plane to La Paz to meet Jorge Valverde of Invalsa with no itinerary, just a series of emails still trying to confirm my hotel and driver during layovers. Thankfully, but not surprisingly, we ended up beginning promising relationships that are now beginning to bear much fruit.
Today, we are humbled and proud to be one of only a handful of specialty coffee roasters in the entire world offering coffee from Bolivia. But that fact belies something even more telling, we are also one of only a handful of roasters working directly with small producers buying entire farm productions in long term invested relationships.
Of my five visits to Bolivia two have been with my longtime friend and Benjamin Paz from Beneficio San Vicente in Honduras. He came during his off season just to support our producers there as a friend and a passionate coffee producer and consultant himself. He sees the potential in this land and in this people just as I do. Our small company stands as one of the most significant roasters supporting and representing Bolivia coffee today. We have always believed you don't have to be big to make a difference, you just need to care, connect with others and be willing to make hard decisions for others.
I’m reminded of being on the road to Caranavi during a 4 day trip visiting our producer partners with two Invalsa team members and not a word of English to help my struggling Spanish. It was my fourth trip into the mountains to visit farmers to grow our connections and support when so few coffee buyers were traveling there. Elva turned to me and said, “Kevin, tu eres amigo de bolivianos”, which translates very simply as “Kevin, you are a friend to Bolivians”. I cannot tell you how much that means to me and strengthens my commitment to these people and to coffee in Bolivia, to see them shine on the world stage and grow in their hope for a future in coffee. We are five years in and have seen wonderful things happen through our presence and commitment. We are just getting started.
-Kevin Bohlin, Saint Frank Founder and Owner