The specialty coffee industry is changing for the better. For centuries, coffee farmers have been mistreated to the point of abuse and oppression. All that is changing with a growing global mood of social awareness, widespread technology, and a bit of imagination. Taking advantage of new opportunities for business and outreach, Apasionado Coffee has pioneered a coffee selling model that is proof of a brighter future.
Yehuda Lilo, the farmer behind the Las Tacanas farm in Bolivia, has designed a way to sell coffees from his farm directly to consumers around the globe. Picked, processed, and roasted at Las Tacanas, this is truly a direct trade experience available to anyone who enjoys a good, sustainably sourced cup of coffee.
Consumers who purchase bags of coffee from Las Tacanas are also named the caretakers of a particular coffee tree on the farm and receive a certificate of adoption. This is more than just buying coffee; this is investing in the safe future of the Las Tacanas farm and lives it sustains.
I adopted a coffee tree and received some coffee myself. I was worried that the three-week trip from Bolivia to Texas would result in stale, underwhelming coffee, but my fears were put to rest when I brewed the first cup.
The coffee was as flavorful as ever. It had a citrus zing and a powerful flowery finish. It was a great coffee. Surprisingly, these rich flavors decayed slowly. Even a month after receiving the beans, a cup from the french press still satisfied me.
An Interview with Apasionado Coffee
I reached out the Apasionado team about their goals and dreams for Las Tacanas and this model of coffee distribution. Their responses blew me away.
What inspired the creation of Apasionado Coffee?
Apasionado coffee was inspired by the growing demand in the market place for transparency. Apasionado Coffee was created in order to provide an opportunity for the true coffee aficionado to be part of a working specialty coffee plantation and receive coffee directly from the farm, bypassing the traditional coffee supply chain, which is far from transparent. In addition to receiving coffee, the consumer gets an insight online to the activities and people on the farm. We also wanted to do something that was socially responsible, something that our customers could feel good about being a part of, and that would benefit the land and people of Bolivia.
- True Direct-Trade Coffee — “Farm to Cup” — Apasionado Coffee is the first and only coffee farm where you adopt your own coffee tree to enjoy coffee sourced from your own tree.
- Become Part of a Coffee Farm — follow our story to understand how specialty coffee
begins at the farm and ends in your cup
- Benefit the Land & People of the Country of Origin – Bolivia.
Sustainable land practices & higher wages
How did you go about adopting the farm-to-cup model for Finca Las Tacanas?
As the co-founder of Finca Las Tacanas, (Finca = Farm in Spanish) I wanted to go beyond the traditional coffee model, where small farmers sell their coffee to some consolidator who sells to an importer who sells to a roaster who sells to a retailer; I wanted to connect people to their coffee in a very true sense–real direct trade. So, we decided to start Apasionado Coffee. The Finca could not do e-commerce from Bolivia because of Bolivian banking limitations, so a US company was formed to represent and market Finca Las Tacanas.
We hope that the model will catch on and that we can eventually expand Apasionado Coffee to allow people to adopt trees on other farms in the area, or even in other parts of the world. By maintaining very high growing standards to produce amazing specialty coffee and by eliminating all of the middle-men, we are able to achieve several things that would never have been possible otherwise.
Yehuda, the farmer is also in charge of how the coffee is roasted. He directs the roaster how he wants it roasted like a winemaker. The coffee is then immediately vacuum sealed and shipped for maximum freshness and taste. The coffee is shipped directly from Bolivia to your door; anywhere in the world!
Does this model change the lives of Yehuda Lilo and his workers in any way?
Yes! We are in constant contact with people from all over the world and not just a few importers. The Apasionado coffee model also keeps higher percentage of the added value in the country, contributing more to the local economy. We are leading by example, showing other local farmers that there is a better way to produce coffee, which will yield a higher price on the market because of its high quality.
Second, we are showing them that it is possible to make a decent living growing coffee, in the hopes that it will lead to less coca production in the area, thus protecting the cloud forest by having more biodiversity and less clear cutting of land.
Third, we are keeping more of the money in the country of origin, improving the lives of our farm workers. We pay high wages, that compete with those of the coca growers, and we offer steady year round work for those who want it, many of whom are women who help support their families. And finally, we are connecting people to their coffee by being completely transparent about exactly where the coffee is coming from, with week to week updates of what’s happening on the farm, and even an option to visit one’s tree.
What’s the future look like for Apasionado, Finca Las Tacanas, and Bolivian coffee farmers?
We hope that Apasionado Coffee and Finca Las a Tacanas serve as a model for other coffee growers, reversing the trend of declining production and land deterioration due to illicit coca production. The goal is to keep more value in the country of origin, thus benefiting the land and people of that region or country.
Don’t wait another minute. Head over to Apasionado Coffee’s website and learn more about their coffee model and community efforts.