When we received the samples from Takesi we were left in awe. There was a Geisha in there among the samples, and it just might be the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. We instantly knew that we needed to go visit the farm in Bolivia where these beans had come from. I couldn’t wait to go meet the people who had made this coffee happen.
Finca Takesi is located by the Takesi river in Bolivia on the slopes of the Andes. The road to the farm is carved into the mountains with, what is for a Dane, fear-provoking drop offs. As I stepped out of the car as we arrived at the farm, I realized the first reason why Takesi is so special. The ground there is like a soft, bouncy, rubbery floor like those on some playgrounds in Denmark. What really sets Takesi apart is the 1,5 m layer of humus (partially decomposed organic matter) on their Bolivian mountainsides. This very unique soil gives a very natural nourishment to the coffee trees, and may be the reason why the coffee leaves are so thick. It almost feels like you are pinching rubber, not organic material. At this point I can only speculate, but this layer of humus could be part of the reason why their coffee is so complex and rich in flavour.
Mariana Iturralde and her dad Carlos Iturralde own the farm, and they have been doing so since around 2001 when it was started. As Mariana showed me (together with Geoff Watts from Intelligentsia, Kentaro Maruyama from Maruyama Coffee and Matthew Ledingham from Seven Seeds) around the farm, I could definitely tell that she knew what she was doing. The family is very well organized. This is one of the most disciplined and systematic approaches to coffee farming I have witnessed. Just as we are systematic in the way we roast and brew our coffee in Copenhagen, in the same way they pay attention to detail at an extremely high level in the entire process.
The most elevated coffee fields they have are at 2400 masl., conveniently located on the mountain slope so that the coffee trees evade the scorching morning sun. The heat from the mountains together with the deep humus layer keeps the roots frost free during the night, even at the unusually high altitude.
Juvanal Quijhua is the manager at Takesi. My impression is that Juvanal is very interested in learning new things, and is always keen to try new methods. However, when it comes to using chemicals in the soil or even pruning the coffee trees, he is very hesitant. You can feel that Juvanal respects the earth and the environment, and the thought of harming it is distant to him. It’s a inspiring Bolivian tendency, and it goes deeper than just personal conviction. It’s a belief you can tell is engrained in the culture.
In Bolivia, Peru and Chile there is an indigenous culture called Aymara. The people there have been living in the Andes Mountains for thousands of years, and the Aymara culture is widely engrained in the Bolivian culture. To this day the most important benevolent deity of the Aymara people is “Pachamama”, or Mother Earth. According to the Aymara she is the goddess who presides over planting and harvesting and embodies the Andes Mountains.
In order to keep up bring back nutrients to the soil, Juvanal and Mariana will soon be looking into composting. I think this goes very much in line with the Bolivian culture; if you take, you give back. So when Takesi removes fruits from Earth, they will give back in compost. I really like that philosophy, and it’s very much in line with the science of organic agriculture.
I can’t wait to show you these coffees from Takesi. We have brought home three different varieties from Takesi: Cataui, Typica and a Geisha.
It’s not often we think of Catuai as a specialty variety as it’s recently been recommended as a safe crop. But this Cataui is different. It goes beyond what I thought was possible. The Cataui from Takesi is fruity and complex with aromas of cantaloupe and honey.
The Typica is the most common variety in Bolivia but is on its way out due to its weak resistance to diseases. This Typica has notes of chocolate and cinnamon with aromas of butterscotch and green grapes. I’ve tasted these varieties before but the soil at Takesi lifts them to a level I’ve never tasted before. Both have amazing bodies that remind me of a good naturals, but they have the cleanliness of the great washed coffees. And of course all coffees from Takesi have superior sweetness, since they put so much care into their selective picking of only perfectly ripe cherries. They use the system of mechanically demucilating the cherries after they have been depulped. This probably is contributing to their particular flavours. Once the cherries are depulped, they are mechanically dried adjusting the temperature to dry 1% of humidity per hour. Takesi is no random farm – they are real coffee geeks like us.
And then there’s the Geisha. Jasmine, bergamot, citrus and complex with aromas of passion fruit. The passion fruit adds another new dimension to the Geisha. It’s clean, slightly acidic, elegant and has the most amazing complex aroma. Hands down, this is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.
As Takesi increases their production, it will be interesting to see whether this extremely high quality can be sustained. I believe they can, because they have a clear ambition for quality and have a clear understanding of the details contributing to it. This fact also makes me look very much forward to seeing how they will develop their compost system to support their unique soil in the future.
I hope you will like these coffees as much as I do.
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