Some long overdue pics from my recent trip to Brazil.
First stop, Cachoeira de Grama. A 4 hour bus ride from Sao Paulo landed me in Minas Gerais to visit Gabriel Carvalho. On this farm everything is done manually, which includes coffee plantation handling and harvest, since its topography does not allow any kind of mechanization. I had met Gabriel in Toronto, as he has started a small roastery, importing beans from his farm and roasting them in Oakville. The hospitality that Gabriel showed was incredible – not only did he drop me in the middle of the farm to pick cherries with the farmers, he hosted me for dinner at his farm, we toured his roastery, and had the opportunity to assist with processing the coffee after picking and laying it on the patio to dry afterwards. Gabriel also took me to visit a dry mill and an exporting company for a cupping session. It was so impressive to spend time with Gabriel and we look forward to building on this relationship – definitely expect to see Gabriel’s coffees on our shelves in the future.
Leaving Gabriel’s farm, I took the longest and most expensive taxi ride I hope to ever take (especially being on my own with my driver that didn’t speak a word of Portuguese, and my only Portuguese words being “Thank you” and “beer”) to the Cerrado region.
This was a true highlight of my trip to Brazil – I learned so much more about processing methods and mechanical picking, and the most exciting and valuable part was spending time with the farmer that we buy coffee from and building on that relationship and connection.
I was toured around by a coffee hunter named Neto Ensei. You should recognize the farm name of “Delarisse” – this was a coffee we have had on our shelves for the last couple of months, and has been extremely popular. We were lucky to secure this exclusive micro lot last year, and it was really an honour to meet the farmer and learn more about his farming practices and dedication to quality. The owner of the farm, Ruvaldo Delarisse, is also a mechanical engineer. I was so impressed with all aspects of how he operates his award-winning farm, and perhaps it is his engineering background, coupled with his passion for specialty coffee, that really makes this a standout farm to me. This farm is located in a crater and therefore experiences its own micro climate and is very different to the other regions in Cerrado. The coffee is grown in volcanic soil, and Ruvaldo has a mix of different coffee varietals on the farm (including Red Catuai, Yellow Catuai, Bourbon, Yellow Topazio). He is also committed to working with coffee roasters and looking for ways to improve his crops year after year. I was lucky enough to be on the farm when the first lot had just been dried – it was an exciting time for Ruvaldo, and for me and I’m really looking forward to bringing in another exclusive crop from his farm this year. I also want to add that this was my first experience seeing mechanical pickers. Not only did I see them, but I was able to ride on them and ride right over the coffee trees.
The third farm that I visited was Serra Negra. I had the experience of trying many different coffee varietals on this farm. I also had the experience of trying a cherry from one side of a tree vs. another shaded side and I never knew there could be such contrasting flavours from the same tree. The farm owner, Pedro Rossi, was kind enough to spend time with me on his farm and for a dinner out with Neto, and Ruvaldo Delarisse. During my visit to his farm, the coffee was laying out to dry on the patios. In an instant, the weather started to change dramatically and it was crazy watching everyone move very quickly to rake up the coffee into piles and cover them with tarps. It was sad and fascinating to me just how much the weather can have such an impact on the drying process. Pedro explained how you can have a specialty crop that will go to a Roaster like us, however, if it rains, it can completely ruin the crop and end up on the commercial market, just like that. Monitoring weather patterns after processing is critical for farmers. I’ve attached a video of the storm moving in and the action at the farm.
All in all, my short trip to Brazil was successful for developing existing and new relationships and visiting the farms that we have bought and will buy coffee from. Every time I come back from these trips I feel excited about how much more I’ve learned about the coffee industry, and at the same time I’m humbled at how much I don’t know. That is what I love the most about the coffee industry – it’s constantly changing, and it’s so important to have an open mind and a desire to learn more and more. I also really want to thank Gabriel, Neto, Ruvaldo and Pedro for spending time with me, teaching me, touring me around, and making this trip such a success.