Boots on the Ground: Brazil October 26 2016
I recently had the opportunity to spend eight days traveling through three distinct Brazilian coffee regions. The trip was led by Ally Coffee as the Origin Trip Prize Sponsor for the United States & World Coffee Championships. The trip included the first and second place winners in the United States Barista, Brewers, and Roasters Championship, as well as the World Brewer's Cup Champion from Japan. It was great to travel with people from so many different perspectives on the service end of our industry, as most of my travel experiences have been exclusive to importers and other roasters/green buyers. Having a broader range of professionals opened up questions that just don't jump to the mind of people within my parallel roles.
Brazil carries a reputation for exclusively producing one style of coffee on virtually identical, massive estates: dry, low elevation farms, planting row-after-row of coffee trees as far as the eye can see. While this type of farm certainly exists, this trip opened all of our eyes to the fact that this is certainly not the exclusive rule.
After a series of flights, the team gathered in Vitoria for a traditional coastal, seafood dinner, and to stop by a new cafe, opened just for us, to fuel our drive into Espirito Santo. Here, we visited a series of small farms managed by Italian immigrants before heading to a dinner with members of the local cooperative. These small, homestead farms carried on the traditions of their family's villas in Northern Italy before immigrating to Brazil. Coffee was just one of their crops, grown alongside fruit and vegetables. Each family operated their own dairy. At each farm we visited the family's shop where they sampled and sold housemade cheese, cured meat, pasta, roasted coffee, wine, and various forms of cachaça.
These small producer farms were set on steep, green, rolling hills that looked nothing like the impression we all had of classic Brazil. The coffees from this region were nuanced and possessed complex acidity—far from the stereotype of Brazil we all had entering this trip.
Next we headed into Minas Gerais, starting in the Caparaó region. This area is full of small producers, many of whom are just beginning to apply improved practices to increase their cup quality. As a group we were able to see farms just beginning to produce specialty grade coffee, and encourage them to continue striving for greater quality.
One of the many farms we visited here was Ninho de Aguia, run by Clayton Barrossa, which has won the Best of Brazil in 2014 and 2015. Clayton carefully produces beautiful naturally-processed coffee and operates a small roastery alongside his patios. He joined us in a local producer event that evening to inspire the members of his community to strive for the same excellence he has achieved.
We also had the opportunity to stop by a Cafeteria where Fred Ayres runs a small roastery and cafe on his farm. Fred and his team served the whole group samplings from his menu as we shared our techniques with each other.
Following our time in Caparaó we flew to Finca Primavera & Finca Matilde, a pair of farms owned by Ally where they run the majority of their experiments. We arrived to a reception with the Governor of Minas Gerais as well as the head of the International Coffee Organization.
That evening we were able to witness mechanical harvesting and see some of Graciano Cruz and Ally's innovative experiments they are developing at Primavera. The following day consisted of a multidisciplinary coffee challenge at Finca Matilde with a roaster, espresso machine, and brew station all set up amongst the coffee trees. The event culminated with a latte art throw down judged by farm workers.
The trip ended with a few days in Belo Horizonte where we visited Wäls brewery which made a special coffee-infused saison for our group and attended an Athletico match for a real Brazilian fútbol experience. The last morning we had the honor of being hosted at Academia do Cafe, a cafe that also houses a certified training label with two Q level instructors, a roastery, and a coffee garden all in one location.
Thank you to Ally for being an exceptional host and opening all of our eyes to the diversity of Brazilian coffee.
- Tony Querio, Director of Coffee / Green Buyer