Bolivian Coffee Beans: Sweet South-American Coffee
In the specialty coffee industry, most coffee connoisseurs choose South-American coffees from Colombia and Brazil as gold standards for the perfect cup. However, the best Bolivian coffees are sweet, well-balanced, and velvety, making them the best for all brewing methods.
If you still haven’t tried Bolivia’s coffee, this article tells you about it. Keep reading for Home Grounds’ pick of the top three best Bolivian coffees.
At A Glance:
A complete Guide to Bolivian Coffee Beans
What comes to mind when most people think of countries with the world’s best coffee? Countries like Brazil and Colombia are usually at the top of the list. But there’s a South American coffee origin that deserves to take its place.
Bolivia: An Overview
Spanning more than one million square kilometres, Bolivia is landlocked between Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Argentina (1). While the western half of this South American country is dominated by the majestic Andes Mountains, the Altiplano, or high plateau region, lies between the two Andes mountain ridges (2). The plateau spans 800 km long by 130 km wide and is home to nearly 50% of Bolivia’s population of over 12 million people (3). Finally, to Bolivia’s North and East regions lay lush wetlands, grasslands, and forests. This tropical region is also home to the Amazon Rainforest.
History of Coffee in Bolivia
Coffee was only introduced to the country in the late 1700s and early 1800s. During this period, Bolivia was a Spanish colony that declared independence from Spain in 1825 (4).
Because of the tropical climate and high elevation, the Yungas, which follow the eastern slopes of the Andes, was the first coffee-growing regions. This practice continues today, as the vast majority of Bolivia’s coffee crops are still cultivated in this region.
Coffee-growing Regions of Bolivia
Today, coffee shrubs are cultivated in the coffee-growing regions nestled in the Andes mountain ranges and the tropical and semi-tropical climates of the Altiplano. These highland plateaus span elevations between 3,600 to 4,200 metres above sea level.
About 95% of Bolivian coffee beans are cultivated in the Yungas region, and the rest is grown throughout the regions in the Altiplano.
Ichilo, Santa Cruz, Vaca Diez, and San Igna are all in the Altiplano. In contrast, Larecaja, Nor Yungas, Sud Yungas, Caranavi, Chapare, aniceto arce, and Franz Tamayo are located either at the foot of the Andes or among the mountain ranges.
Coffee Production and Cultivation
Though Bolivia boasts the perfect climate for high-quality, specialty coffees, its production and cultivation are hampered by geography, infrastructure, and the economic challenges presented by coca production. The mountainous terrain makes it difficult to build adequate roads and infrastructure to transport Bolivian coffee from coffee farms to specialty coffee roasters. Still, many coffee farmers in the Yungas region often choose to grow coca— as the profit margins are higher.
Because of these factors, Bolivia is only the 38th largest coffee producer in the world.
According to Nicholas Castellano:
As the 38th largest coffee producer in the world, Bolivia is not a household name …. Data is difficult to find, but production and export figures for the past few years sit [at] 30,000 60kg bags.
But despite these challenges, the Bolivian specialty coffee industry is growing. The Taza Presidencial showcases Bolivian specialty coffees to Bolivian and international coffee buyers.
Bolivia’s Taza Presidencial
In 2015, Mary Luz Condori and other members of the Federation of the Coffee Producers and Exporters Of Bolivia (FECAFEB), founded a national coffee-cupping competition (5).
This coffee-cupping competition showcases entirely Bolivian coffee beans. It is modelled after the Cup of Excellence and is designed to promote quality Bolivian coffee domestically and abroad. According to Sandra Elisa Loofbourow:
Coffees … go through a physical green and cup defect evaluation before moving on to the four phases of competition: a pre-selection/elimination round; the national jury round; an international jury round; and … the virtual auction.
Bolivian Coffee Cup Profile
Bolivia’s specialty coffee beans — which are mostly Typica and Caturra Arabica varieties — yield a very clean cup. With fruit-forward notes of apple, pear, and lemon, Bolivian coffees are unique in that they retain their nuanced flavours, even after they’ve cooled. Chocolaty and nutty notes add depth to the cup, while honey and caramel notes leave the coffee with a sweet finish (6). Also, Sweet Maria’s Coffee notes:
While traditional organic farming practices help to maintain biodiversity within these coffee-growing regions, fair trade ensures local Bolivian coffee farmers are fairly compensated for their coffee beans and labor.
The Three Best Bolivian Coffee Beans of 2023
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Though Bolivia is not traditionally a household name in the specialty coffee industry, Home Grounds is here to change that. Here are the three best Bolivian coffee beans of 2023.
Roast Type: Medium-Light
- Bean Flavour Notes: Milk chocolate, cream, velvet, and caramel
- Best For: French press and Aeropress
This strictly high-grown Bolivian coffee from the province of Caranavi is the product of careful cultivation by small coffee farms throughout the Yungas region.
This washed coffee is creamy, with subtle milk chocolate and caramel notes. It grows at elevations between 1,600 and 1,700 metres above sea level. To bring out its natural sweetness and balance, this specialty coffee is best brewed using a French press or an Aeropress with a metallic filter.
This Bolivia Peaberry coffee is a gem in the specialty coffee world. Occurring in only 5% of Bolivia’s coffee crops, these peaberry coffee beans must be manually harvested.
Volcanica Coffee’s Bolivian washed Peaberry Coffee yields a sweet cup but very bright cup. Moreover, jasmine and green tea flavors permeate the cup, giving the cup a bright yet aromatic finish.
Home Grounds suggests brewing this coffee as a pour-over to preserve all the brightness of these peaberry beans.
Parisi Artisan Bolivian Organic coffee is a fine example of the sweet and complex flavour profile that Bolivian beans can produce.
A medium roast brings out flavours of milk chocolate and almonds, while allowing delicate notes of honeysuckle to come through on the nose.
Homegrounds recommends brewing this coffee with a pour over such as the Chemex to maintain this balanced palate.
Though Bolivia is the 38th largest coffee producer in the world, its terroire, high elevation, and climate produce some of the most excellent South American coffees. With well-balanced acidity and fruitiness, the best Bolivian coffee is a treat on its own or paired with a dessert.
Yes, Bolivian coffee is excellent for espresso. When choosing the best beans for espresso, select Bolivian coffee beans that have been freshly roasted and shipped as close to the roasting date as possible.
Yes, Bolivian and Colombian coffee share similar cup profiles. However, Colombian coffee is easier to source, while Bolivian coffee does require some searching. Still, if you can get a hold of it, Bolivian coffees possess a velvety body worth searching for.
Yes, espresso shots can be made with light roasts, too. However, it may take a bit more effort to dial in the perfect shot because they’re lighter. Start with a slightly finer grind size and go from there.
- Bolivia geography, maps, climate, environment and terrain from Bolivia | – CountryReports. (2022). Countryreports.org. https://www.countryreports.org/country/Bolivia/geography.htm
- NG, A. (2016, November 25). Bolivia facts for kids | National Geographic Kids. National Geographic Kids. https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/countries/bolivia-facts/
- Bolivia Population (2022) – Worldometer. (2022). Worldometers.info. https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/bolivia-population/
- Castellano, N. (2022, February 10). Exploring the Bolivian coffee sector. Perfect Daily Grind; Perfect Daily Grind. https://perfectdailygrind.com/2022/02/exploring-the-bolivian-coffee-sector/
- Sandra Elisa Loofbourow. (2022, January 24). Taza Presidencial: Bolivia’s Producer-Led Quality Coffee Resurgence. Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. https://dailycoffeenews.com/2022/01/24/taza-presidencial-bolivias-producer-led-quality-coffee-resurgence/
- Bolivia Coffee Overview – Sweet Maria’s Coffee Library. (2020, July 13). Sweet Maria’s Coffee Library. https://library.sweetmarias.com/coffee-producing-countries/south-america/bolivia-coffee-overview/