Coffee Origins : Bolivia

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter

Bolivia has the ability to produce very outstanding coffees and does so in small numbers currently. The country’s total output is comparable to one of Brazil’s largest coffee farms. Coffee production is declining year after year, and coffee farms are leaving at an alarming rate Bolivian coffees (especially superb ones) may be available soon vanish.

Unfortunately, little information on the introduction of coffee and the history of coffee production in Bolivia is accessible.

There is evidence of significant coffee production in the nation dating back to the 1880s, but not much more. The country is huge, comparable to Ethiopia or Colombia in size. It is landlocked, which has traditionally posed a difficulty to coffee export, adding both time and expense to the process.

Bolivia is a relatively unpopulated country, having a population of about 10.5 million people.
The population is frequently described as impoverished, with around a quarter of the people living in extreme poverty. Minerals and natural gas, as well as agriculture, are important to the country’s economy, however coffee has never played a significant role. The influence of coca cultivated for the drug trade on the economy and agriculture is difficult to ignore. Farmers are rapidly converting from coffee to coca because the price of coca is less volatile, providing greater stability for farmers. While coffee prices were high in 2010 and 2011, anti-drug programs financed by Bolivia and the United States were able to persuade more farmers to convert to coffee farming. The cost of coffee, on the other hand, is rather high.

Bolivia has perfect growth conditions for coffee in many respects.
The necessary height is present, and the climate has clearly defined rainy and dry seasons. The majority of the coffee farmed here is Typica and Caturra, which are old heirloom varietals. Bolivia has recently produced some great, clear, and complex coffees, however, this has not always been the case. Producers used to select and pulp their own coffees before transporting the pulp to a central processing center. There were two major issues: first, temperature fluctuations on the way to the processing site could cause the coffee to freeze.

Second, there was still enough moisture in the pulp to keep the fermentation going. This frequently resulted in a loss of quality or the introduction of unpleasant flavors. Quality-conscious producers are increasingly performing post-harvest operations on their own farms. As part of its anti-drugs drive, the US has supported the building of a number of small coffee washing facilities across the country. Despite changes to assist improve quality, Bolivian coffees still don’t have the same reputation as coffees from neighboring countries like Colombia or Brazil.

Competitions like The Cup of Excellence have helped to highlight Bolivia’s top coffees. I advocate going out of your way to find them and enjoy them while you can. Despite the fact that specialty coffee yields a higher return, even quality-conscious growers are abandoning coffee production.



In Bolivia, coffee can usually be traced back to a single farm or cooperative. Large-scale land ownership has decreased since 1991 as a result of land reforms, and the 23,000 families that grow coffee in Bolivia do it on tiny farms of 1.2–8 hectares (3–20 acres).
Bolivia’s exports are handled by a small number of private exporting enterprises (about thirty).

Taste profile

The best Bolivian coffees tend to be very sweet and very clean, but relatively rarely are they particularly fruity in flavor

Growing regions

Population: 11,411,000
Number of 60kg (132lb) bags in 2016: 81,000
Coffee-growing regions in Bolivia have never been strongly deĀned and, as such, different roasters will use different naming conventions to describe which part of the country the coffee comes from.

Bolivia is ideal for coffee crops, but its topography means export and production are difficult – the old route from La Paz to Coroico seen here is known as the world’s most dangerous road.


Approximately 95 percent of Bolivia’s coffee is produced in this region, and in the past, it held a reputation for quality in Europe, though less so recently. It can be deĀned as the region of forest stretching down the east side of the Andes, and in fact, crosses from Peru through Bolivia into Argentina. The region produces some of the highest-altitude coffee in the world and this is also where coffee has been grown the longest in Bolivia. In his 1935 book, All About Coffee, Ukers refers to coffee from here as ‘Yunga’. Yungas is to the west of La Paz so many coffee buyers have to travel along the famous Yungas Road, nicknamed the ‘Road of Death’, to reach the coffee producers there. The road is often a single lane, winding and dug into the sides of the mountains without any barrier to prevent vehicles dropping up to 600m (2,000ft) into the valleys below. As the region is so large, many coffee roasters describe coffees as being from a more specialist area, such as Caranavi, Inquisitive, or Coroico, within the region.

Altitude: 800-2,300m (2,600–7,600ft)

Harvest: July–November

Santa Cruz

This is the most easterly of the departments in Bolivia, and generally, it lacks the altitude for high-quality coffees. There is some coffee production around the Ichilo province, although coffee is far less important as a crop compared to rice or timber. This region is hugely important to the country’s economy because most of the natural gas is found here.

Altitude: 410m (1340ft)

Harvest: July–November


This is a large and sparsely populated department in the northeast of the country. Technically, part of Beni falls within the geographical region of Yungas, but a small amount of coffee is grown in the department outside the Yungas region. Primarily this is a cattle ranching area, although many crops are grown here, from rice and cacao to tropical fruits.

Altitude: 155m (500ft)

Harvest: July–November