Bolivia, though I haven’t visited there (yet), holds a very special place in my heart. It holds an even more special place in the heart of my bride, Ashley—the creator of Life’s a Grind. Cochabamba, one of Bolivia’s largest cities, is, after all, the city that she and her family called home for many years.
It is in this city that her dad, Mike, established Bolivia’s Best Coffee (pictured in the right sidebar)—a company that raises funds to build orphanages in Bolivia, the country that has the highest orphan population in South America.
So, for these reasons, I always get very, very excited when I walk into a shop that is selling Bolivian coffee (even though, admittedly, the coffee is never very good). I’m hoping that my run of bad luck with Bolivian coffees will end today, here on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of Intelligentsia’s Millennium Park location. Today, we are sipping a cup of their Anjilanaka Bolivia. Feel free to pull up a chair.
This year’s release of Anjilanaka is a combination of coffees from four individual farms in the Caranavi province of Las Yungas: Ocho Estrellas, Uchumachi, Mamani Mamani, and La Yucra.
Ocho Estrellas is owned by a farmer named Juan Ticona and located in community San Juan Ocho Estrellas just over 30 km from Caranavi. Intelligentsia has worked with Sr. Ticona since 2010, when he had his first harvest on the recently acquired farm. The size is modest—only 5 hectares—and managed exclusively by family members for the majority of the year. During harvest they employ up to 10 additional people from the local community to help with the collection of the cherries. Sr. Ticona emphasizes cherry ripeness, utilizing a two-stage harvest system where the most clearly mature, burgundy cherries are picked the first day and the second day is devoted to harvesting those that are slightly less ripe. This kind of innovation and attention to detail is what separates the great producers from the merely good.
Uchumachi is a farm with an impressive pedigree and an equally compelling history. Juana Mamani moved to the region eighteen years ago as a young girl and began working with a local cooperative called San Ignacio. After five years she was able to purchase six hectares of land on which she immediately planted two hectares of coffee. The following year she planted an additional three hectares with the help of investments from her family. In 2007, at the age of just 23, she took 2nd place in the Cup of Excellence competition and received windfall profits, selling the coffee at over $21.00 per pound in the auction. Since that time Sra. Mamani has continued to grow the farm and recently purchased more land in the Canton Villamontes region where she plans to cultivate both coffee and citrus.
Mamani Mamani is owned by Sr. Mauricio Mamani Camacho, another farmer who has experienced much success in recent years. Prior to establishing a relationship with Agricabv in Caranavi he was selling his coffee as wet parchment—known locally as “café mote” —to local dealers and receiving very low prices as a result. With the help of the Agricabv technicians he constructed African beds on the farm and is now drying the coffee himself and delivering top quality parchment at a significant premium. Sr. Mamani Camacho is mainly growing the Typica variety, planted under native shade trees at an average elevation of 1800 meters.
The fourth farm, known simply by its owner’s name—Marcelino Katari Yucra—has been producing coffee since 1995 on 5 hectares. Given the small size of the farm all of the work is done by the family and like most of the growers in the region they supplement their income by cultivating citrus trees—mostly mandarins, lemons, and oranges—alongside the coffee.
I also recently learned that this is the Anjilanaka Bolivia is the coffee that my good friend, Brian Ensminger of The Coffee Studio, used for competition at the Big Central Regional Barista Championship in Kansas City.
origin: Caranavi // Caranavi // Caranavi // San Juan Ocho Estrellas
farm: Uchumachi // Mamani Mamani // La Yucra // Ocho Estrellas
elevation: 1600-2000 meters above sea level
cultivar: Typica, Caturra, Catuai
process: fully washed, patio dried
certification: Organic, Direct Trade
The aroma of the Anjilanaka is utterly delightful. Sweet fragrances of cocoa powder and brown sugar intertwine with floral aromatics of rose hips and hibiscus, while faint traces of pear and pomegranate rest at the back end of each whiff.
I guessed from the aroma that this coffee was going to be light and tea-like and the first few sips are proving me correct. Anjilanaka has a very light body; it’s clean and crisp, delicate and relatively complex. It has some similarities to a white or herbal tea with the flavors I’m picking out so far: it’s a little malic with notes of apple, Bartlett pear, and white peach, there’s an understated mix of tart berries (strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry), and there’s the savoriness of baker’s chocolate and vanilla extract in the finish.
As it starts to cool off a little, the chocolate and vanilla mix together to form something more similar to a nougat or caramel. This serves as the bed, providing a creamy mouthfeel that ushers in a fluttering of hibiscus and lilac aromatics that finishes off each sip with a gentle tickle on the roof of the mouth.
Approaching room temperature… And a completely different coffee, apparently. Did somebody switch cups on me while I wasn’t looking? Sweet jumping Jehoshaphat, this coffee’s got some kick!
All of a sudden, the Anjilanaka has transformed into a super flavorful, super intense tropical explosion of fruits, spices, herbs, and citrus. That creamy mouthfeel, that light and delicate profile is no more—it is now thick and juicy, almost syrupy; massively tropical fruit flavors rush to the front of the cup, exploding onto the palate like a bomb. Now there are flavors of: apple, pear, peach, pomegranate, and apricot, fig and clove, juicy cantaloupe and honeydew melon, tangerine, mixed berries, banana, and a sharp, salivation-inducing, zesty lemon acidity that swirls over the palate.
This cup is very sweet and very tart, so I’m sipping it slowly. What’s more, for such a light-feeling coffee on the palate, it really sits in the belly and weighs me down. I’m only halfway through this cup and I’m even thinking about calling it quits and taking it to go—that’s got to be saying something about its intensity in itself, right?
Medium body; juicy mouthfeel; lemon acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
Intelligentsia’s Anjilanaka Bolivia is an intense, dynamic, and complex cup that doesn’t just provide the consumer with a good cup of coffee—it unleashes an all-out coffee experience.
Drinking this coffee was a supreme adrenaline rush, like plummeting down the tracks of the steepest incline of the world’s biggest roller coaster. Yeah—it’s a lot like that. When the first few sips were so light and airy, so delicate and refined and tea-like, I figured that the rest of the cup might provide a few flavor shifts, but they’d be mostly subtle. Instead, as soon as the cup started cooling off, it got so massively intense, so tropical, and so incredibly lively. It went from being a coffee that I had to sip slowly because of its delicacy and complexity, to being a coffee that I had to sip slowly because of its complexity and explosiveness.
What impresses me most about this coffee isn’t the interesting flavor profile so much as the crystal clarity that this coffee possesses. Anjilanaka Bolivia features a deluge of flavor and, in most coffees, when you have this much flavor and a profile that is so juicy and concentrated, all of those flavors just sort of blend together, like a fruit smoothie. In the case of Anjilanaka, though, it has so much definition and clarity that all of its incredible flavors were easy to identify.
This coffee is not for the faint of heart, Dear Reader, but it is certainly one that the adventure-driven thrill-seekers should look into.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.