Back from Bolivia 2012
Let me start out by saying, as a person, I am very guilty of having multiple favorites in many different contexts. Whether I say it of the places I like to travel or the coffees I like to drink, I say "favorite" and "best" about every other day. However, I will commit to this one for time come: La Paz in Bolivia is simply my favorite city I travel to. Whether it is the staggering elevations, weird witch markets (and, yes, that is not a typo), bowler caps, amazing graffiti, or good food and company – there is simply something very special about this city. This time, I also got to travel with an accomplice, our newest member of the coffee department, Hannah Popish.

After a morning of roaming around La Paz, we geared up and headed towards Caranavi. This of course meant heading north for about 5 hours, and more than 1,000 meters down from La Paz. It also meant driving on the Death Road and, while not the original death road, it is not too disappointing in its sheer cliffs and narrow roads. For myself, it was actually quite amazing not to be biting my nails but rather watching Hannah experience this drive for the first time. (I think she thought we'd die once or twice without question.)

Once we arrived to Caranavi, we met up with a people from a company called Agritrade. We have known about Agritrade for a long time; they have been putting together great coffees for a lot of roasters around the world. This year, we decided to partner with them and our exporting partners from Colombia – a company called Virmax that is working with Agritrade very closely. Agritrade buys cherry and parchment coffee from producer groups and small producers all around Caranavi, and allows roasters like ourselves to taste small lots and purchase coffees through a transparent system. Virmax is helping to put together and organize the lots and push for very prompt shipments. The first day in Caranavi, Hannah and I spent a lot of time tasting offerings with Alejandro of Virmax and talking about the coffee in this area.

The next day, we were able to go out and see one of the areas coffee is coming from. All in all, I am confident saying that this year we will have a great selection of coffees from Agritrade that people will be excited about. And, even a microlot or two. But, the ultimate goal this year with Agritrade and Virmax was to get this project off the ground and to try to partner with a single group of farmers with whom we can work toward a closer relationship next year. I think we accomplished that, and it is not too bad to start a year with microlots.

So, are you excited yet?

Well, you should be excited, because after spending time with Agritrade, we went out to Nueva Llusta to visit our long time partners Cenaproc. To be very honest, over the last few years, we have struggled with getting the quality we have been looking for from Cenaproc, but we have never given up. And we always look forward to spending time with them every year. One reason we have never give up is that Cenaproc is located in what is likely one of the best producing and highest elevation points around Caranavi. With warm days and extremely cool nights, Cenaproc's coffees have been the Bolivian coffees from years past that we continue to talk about. After spending a day with some of key people of Cenaproc, Hannah and I both feel like those coffees are not lost and will return to Counter Culture.

Check out more of our notes in the set – which Hannah has exquisitely selected photos for and narrated.

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