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I left my heart in San Francisco but found it again in Bolivia

To say its been a busy few weeks is a massive understatement. You may have noticed I’ve been on the quite side, so thought it might be a good time to bring you all up to date.

My mammoth trip began with a trip to San Francisco, and my first experience of trans Atlantic flight with a budget airline Norweigan air. I remember seeing that Ryanair were in the running for this franchise, and I have to say that I was pleased it was not them. Apart from having to buy the worst headphones in the world, I have to say I like cheap flights to America.
I was in San Francisco for the latest instalment of Tamper Tantrum. This was our 15th Tamper Tantrum event over the past few years, and our second time into the United States.
But before that I was lucky enough to meet up with my hero Tom Owen for a couple of hours and a recording of a podcast to come out soon for Tamper Tantrum. It was officially #tomowenday. A tour of the warehouse was enlightening, and getting to meet all the team (and its a big team at sweetmarias) just sending out green coffee.
Tom was a real gentleman and warm and insightful, an hour of amazingness. Cant wait to share it with you all.
A tour of some of the most famous coffee shops ion San Fran ensued with the highlight being Wreacking Ball and the famous and obligatory pineapple wallpaper selfie
The main event was at the Headquarters of Github, who is is a web-based Git or version control repository and Internet hosting service. It is mostly used for code. Without the jargon people store things a little like dropbox who are programmers and they are huge. There headquarters are a tech haven of table tennis tables and it equipment, and the guys and girls there were so welcoming and sharing. I got a tour of the building and made me very jealous of all their facilities.
Photo courtesy of Cris Mendoza
The event itself went super well with speakers from Hanna Neuschwander, Professor Bill Ristenpart, Trish Rothgeb, Kin Khao and a super debate with Katie Carguilo and Colleen Anunu and Myself and Mayra Orellana-Powell. Videos will be coming out in the next few months at www.tampertantrum.com
One of the speakers was my “mate” Alejandro Martinez, I always like to take pictures of him eating, just because it amuses me. Tartine bakery was amazing !!
As soon as I put down the microphone I hot footed to the apartment to pack to start a mega journey. The first flight was to El Salvador where I had a 6 hour layover. Although not meant to leave the airport, what do you do whilst in El Salvador ? Well you meet up with your friend Ernesto Menendez of La Ilusion and Alaska fame. A few hours and a good breakfast with a friend was amazing, and we chatted about so many different things, last harvest, next harvest and everything in between.
Back to the airport for a stop off at Peru and then on to La Paz at 2am in the morning. La Paz is the most unique city in the world with its space like lots and its mega thin air, breathing becomes a major chore.
4 hours after arriving the alarm clock goes off to hot foot again into a taxi to begin the annual tradition of cycling down the death road to Corico. Now a tourist attraction, with a bypass built, 15 years ago it was known as the worlds most dangerous road with many many deaths. Now you start at nearly 5000 meters above sea level and cycle your way down to around 1200 masl. I’ve done it so many times now I have lost count.
Still dangerous there have been many injuries and more than 22 cyclists have lost their lives on Bolivia’s “Death Road” since 1998. We started with snow and rain reducing visibility to nothing. Certainly the worst conditions I have ever done the ride in. The further down we got the dryer and warmer we got, with the weather clearing around half way.
Then the drive to Caranarvi. My annual trip, somewhere I look forward to every year. We arrived to rain, again a first, something I’ve not seen on this scale in Cararvi before.
A couple of days in the cupping room tasting the new crops, I think we can all be excited about the upcoming harvest. But the main event was yet to happen. In between I got to visit a few people we are buying from in Vincente and Carmelita and was all the fun.
Pedro Rodriguez our exporter started a project called “Sol de Mañana.” He has been sourcing coffee from small producers in the region for three decades. However, this steady decline of coffee production has not only put the sustainability of his export business at risk, but the future of coffee production in Bolivia is at risk of disappearing forever.
In return for joining the program “Sol de Mañana” producers take on agronomic advice, replanting old plant stock, working the land and tackling farming head on – not “just letting it happen.” And they are supported by the team at the mill in Caranrvi. The mill will try and partner them up with a roastery, Our biggest success from this has been Vincent Paye who is part of the first ten producers to have crop from the program. Hew has turned around his yields and his quality to one of our favourite coffees. But the mill decided it was time to get the other 9 involved so we held the first ever Sol de Mañana cupping competition.
All 10 coffees were put on the table and scored by and international jury of me and Joanna Alm of Drop Coffee Roasters Sweeden and a winner was decided. With the wining coffee guaranteed to be sold to one of us. All but one of the families came to the mill to watch us cup and see who would win.
From the competition we decided that next year we will work with 4 of the 10 buying all the coffee from all of their farms, and much fun was had meeting them and explaining why some did better than others. The scores were high, and I can say very easily I would have bought any of the lots, and it came down to personal cupping preferences. We also encouraged them to try the coffees and see why we preferred some to others it was a fun discussion.
But that was not enough so as soon as we cupped us, and the producers made our way to an indoor football pitch and has a game of Has Bean Vs Drop Coffee. A highly fought battle and some lucky goals from Drop meant it was a 3-3 draw. But highlights were that I had not only Tedacio Mamani on my team (who’s coffee we have bought for years and you may remember sent him a Sunderland shit back in the day) but Bebeto and his two other sons. Such a kick to play football with them.
 
But after the game the ladies inspired by joanna also asked if they could have a game so it was boys vs girls, and I managed to talk Vincente’s (Paye)son to come on my team and have a kick around (he’s a good footballer). This was far dirtier than I expected with feet flying everywhere, but another tightly fought battle needed up 1-1.
The following day was spent visiting some farms we have been working with for a couple of years in La Linda, Don Carlos and Alisitias. Great to see the development of these farms and how they have come along from the very first seedlings planted. I also brought a drone with me so I could get some amazing arial shots. These will be edited in due course 🙂
A fantastic trip, mixed with old friends a new in the north and south of America (and a little bit in the middle)

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