Origen: La Paz coffee shop-store telling stories of ecological products
By Gina Baldivieso
La Paz, Aug 23 (EFE).- Having a “bird-friendly” coffee, sampling organic chocolates produced by indigenous Bolivians and selecting from among the oils and soaps made by T’simane and Mosetene women are among the enjoyments at the Origen Eco de las Aves coffee shop and store in La Paz, an establishment that tells its customers the story behind every sustainable product.
The initiative was launched by Chomateo Srl, a social firm founded by the Larecaja Regional Ecological Coffee Producers Association (APCERL) and Chocolecos, the organization of the Leco people’s cocoa producers, both of which are located in northern La Paz.
The producers, along with the T’simane and Mosetene Indians in the Pilon Lajas community biosphere and lands, decided to set aside a place where they can offer homemade coffees, cocoa and soaps, Sandra Alcon, one of the young Origen baristas, told EFE.
“The main objective is for the customer who comes to the store to be able to learn about (each) product and that’s why it’s called Origen. And for them to buy knowing that they’re supporting the environmental sustainability and also the economic development of the producing families,” she said.
The shop-store is in southern La Paz, in the residential San Miguel district.
Allied with the 255 peasant and indigenous families that benefit from this initiative are the Wildlife Conservation Society and the private Banco FIE.
One of the Origen products is Eco de las Aves coffee, which peasants from the village of Teoponte produce with environmentally-friendly technology that doesn’t harm the more than 200 bird species found there.
These techniques have been developed in accord with proper and chemical-free agro-forestry management.
The coffee proudly bears the “Bird Friendly” stamp on every package, where the name of the person who produced it is also mentioned along with a descrption of the flavors and aromas, as well as the site where it was grown.
The Chocolecos, meanwhile, turn out chocolates made from 100 percent local and organic cocoa, agro-engineer Juan Carlos Espinoza, who is in charge of quality control for Origen’s products, told EFE.
Chocolecos is an association made up of 42 indigenous families from the La Paz towns of Guanay and Teoponte who produce a “forest origin” chocolate the quality of which has been named among the top 15 in the world by the Salon del Chocolate 2017 in Paris, Espinoza said.
The store also offers homemade soaps and essential oils made with plants and flowers by the T’simane and Mosetene women of Pilon Lajas under the brand name Shan, which in the T’simane language means “leaf,” Alcon said.
These women joined together under the WCS initiative to create a way to “generate economic income for their families,” the young woman said.
Besides the coffee shop and store, Origen also has two laboratories – one for coffee and the other for chocolate – where Alcon, Espinoza and Ana Maria Condori, another young barista, follow rigorous protocols to control the quality of the products they will offer to the public, at the same time that they provide feedback to producers so that they can improve their crops.
With coffee in their veins, Alcon and Condori got trained to be baristas in Colombia and also learned about roasting coffee in La Paz.
“For me, working here is like supporting the producers economically … and it’s also helping preserve the environment,” said Condori, whose parents belong to APCERL.
Alcon emphasized the enormous “responsibility” of having to rate the fruit of a year’s worth of labor by the coffee growers, work that she says she does with passion and meticulousness to help them improve product quality.
Although Espinoza grew up in the La Paz altiplano in a family of dairy farmers, he acquired a love of cocoa production while writing his graduate thesis, during which he also got to know the Chocolecos, who provide technical assistance all along the production chain.
The engineer said he hopes that starting with the coffee shop-store the work of the producers who “are devoted to preserving ecosystems … can be emphasized.”