Agro Takesi defies simple description. Situated on precipitous mountain slopes, going from an elevation of 1,700 meters to a whopping 3,000 meters at the top (with the coffee-growing area all the way up to 2,600 meters), it’s almost literally a “farm at the top of the world.” That’s the only way to do Agro Takesi justice. As far as we at Maruyama Coffee know, you won’t find a coffee farm at a higher altitude anywhere else. The altitude is one thing, but the distance—a remoteness that’s both geographical and psychological—is another factor that sets Agro Takesi apart. Most coffee farms are long journeys from Japan, but the perceived distance to Agro Takesi is what puts the farm in a class of its own. The first thing that makes Agro Takesi seem so inaccessible is La Paz’s El Alto International Airport. At 4,000 meters above sea level, it’s the world’s highest-altitude international airport—if you’ve ever scaled Mount Fuji, you know how it feels to be up that high. The elevation can induce altitude sickness and debilitating headaches as soon as you step off the plane. Even Kentaro Maruyama, a frequent-flying globetrotter, has to brace himself for the oncoming discomfort during the final descent into La Paz. Once you’re on the ground, you meet another challenge: bad roads. Simply getting from the airport to Agro Takesi is a treacherous journey in and of itself, with the only route to the farm taking you along cliffside terrain. The conditions might be tolerable if you were going at a comfortable, leisurely pace, but the local taxi drivers don’t let you off that easy. They zip, zoom, and careen down the narrow roads at such breakneck speeds that you can’t even take in the wonderful scenery—you’re more likely to be covering your eyes in sheer fear. Why would anyone ever want to endure that? Because the beans at the “farm on top of the world” are worth all the trouble and more.

“天空の農園”。アグロ・タケシ農園をひとことで表現するならば、それ以外の言葉は見つからない。切り立った山の急斜面に拓かれた農園は低いところでも標高1700m、高いところはなんと3000mにもなる(コーヒー栽培は2600mまで)。丸山珈琲が知る限り、ここ以上の高所に拓かれた農園はない。そんな“高い”農園は、“遠い”農園でもある。コーヒー農園はどこも日本から遠くにあるが、アグロ・タケシには心理的にも遠さを感じさせる関門があるのだ。 最初の関門は、ラパスのエルアルト国際空港。世界最高標高の国際空港だ。標高は4000m。富士山の頂上に空港があるようなものだ。飛行機から降りた瞬間にひどい頭痛に襲われる人もいる。高山病だ。この空港に降り立つときは、世界中を飛び回っている丸山健太郎も身構える。もうひとつの関門は、悪路。空港から農園への移動は、山岳地帯の 崖道を避けて通れない。しかも、現地のドライバーは「どうしてそんなに急ぐのか」というスピードで車を走らせる。景色を楽しむ余裕はない。ただ祈るばかりだ。そんな思いをしてまで、なぜ“天空の農園” へ行くのか。そこに素晴らしいコーヒーがあるからだ。

If you make it to Agro Takesi in one piece, you finally have the chance to breathe a sigh of relief and marvel at breathtaking beauty. The word “takesi” connotes the idea of “awakening” in the local dialect, and the scenery at the farm is sure a wake-up call: the towering mountain peaks scrawling a craggy horizon across the sky, the wisps of clouds seeping into the valleys below—they’re jaw-dropping sights that make you wonder just how Carlos managed to nestle a farm up here among all the fearsome power of nature. People say that the big temperature swings of high-altitude locations produce great-tasting coffee beans, but the elevation here (1,700 to 3,000 meters) is more than just “high altitude.” The air temperatures plummet to frigid levels, which would normally make it impossible to grow coffee trees. So how does Agro Takesi pull it off? The secret’s in the soil. The ground in the area is full of rocks that soak up the sun and retain heat, which thereby warms the coffee trees during the cold morning and night hours. The farm, in many ways, embodies the idea that unique growing conditions produce unique coffee. At Agro Takesi, though, it’s about more than just the unusual natural environment. Unique conditions lead to their own sets of unique problems. Due to the intermittent rain patterns at Agro Takesi, for example, there’s hardly any uniformity among the trees. You’ll find partial blooming and individual trees with diverse mixtures of coffee cherries hanging from their branches, some still green and unripe but others red and ready for picking. That means that the growers at Agro Takesi have to go through the trees by hand and harvest only the ripe cherries, processing their hauls one tiny batch at a time. The vertical stretch of the farm, over 1,000 meters in elevation, equates to a 6-degree temperature difference between the lowest and highest plots. If you want to get good coffee out of those conditions, you can’t just cultivate every tree with the same approach—it takes meticulous care and fine-tuned versatility, two needs that only a dedicated grower can meet.

アグロ・タケシに無事にたどり着くと、安堵感でほっとすると同時に、その風景に息を飲む。タケシとは現地の言葉で“人を目覚めさせる”という意味だが、まさにその通り。荒々しくそびえる山々。目の前の谷間を流れて行く雲。よくもまあこんなに険しい場所に農園を拓いた ものだ。前述の通り、標高は1700~3000m。寒暖差の大きい高標高地でコーヒーは美味しくなるというのが定説だが、さすがにこの高さでは気温が下がりすぎて木が育たない。ではなぜアグロ・タケシではコーヒーが育つのか。秘密は土の中にある。この一帯は地中に石が たくさん埋まっていて、その石が日中の日差しで温められて熱を蓄え、朝晩の冷え込みからコーヒーの木を守っているのだ。その地にしかない特別な条件が特別なコーヒーを生み出すということを、分かりやすい形で体現している農園だ。しかし、農園の環境条件だけがアグロ・タケシのコーヒーを特別にしているわけではない。特別な環境条件だということは、裏を返せば他にはない問題が起こるということ。例えば、雨が降ったり止んだりする気候により、一本の木の中に花が咲いているものや、青い実や赤く熟した実など様々な状態のコーヒーチェリーが混在することになる。そのため熟したチェリーだけを選んで摘み、極少量ずつ生産処理を行わなければいけない。また、農園のなかで1000m以上も標高差があるということは、上と下で6℃も気温差が生じる計算だ。この気温差を考慮して栽培や収穫をきめ細かく管理する必要があるだろう。条件を活かせるかどうかは、やはり人間次第なのだ。

Carlos, the owner of Agro Takesi, is getting on in years; his legs aren’t as strong as they used to be. That said, he still takes visitors on guided tours of the farm—and his daughter Mariana is always there for support, holding his hand as they make their way up to their farm at the top of the world. It’s the sight of a loving, human bond against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. There’s definitely something special about this place.