Everything about Brazil is big: the size of the country, the vistas, the celebrations, the portions of meat on skewers that are constantly headed in your general direction. What I had not expected when I first travelled there, on a purchasing trip, was how big the flavors of coffee could be. Brazil isn't normally associated with the best specialty coffee producing countries like Colombia, Ethiopia and Kenya. It has a much lower elevation ranging from 800-1,100 meters contrasted with 1,500-2,000+ meters in some other countries. Brazil has long been known as a country that produces full-bodied, but not very interesting coffees used in blends and as an espresso base. While this is true, there is much more to Brazil coffees.
I was particularly impressed by the coffees from Carmo de Minas where owners Jacques Carneiro and Luiz Paulo of Carmo Coffees have assembled an all-star group of farms, including from their respective families, turning out coffees of exceptional quality. It all starts with the biodiversity of the Serra de Mantiqueira mountains in southern Minas Gerais state. One of our favorite farms there, Fazenda Santa Ines, is run by Francisco Isidro Pereira whose family has been farming it for over 100 years. They have an intuitive feeling for the land and with an eye for quality in picking, sorting and drying and are producing really great coffee. Carmo is employing a technique called safra zero, where they severely prune coffee trees post harvest. There is no harvest the following year (fallow year) but the second year produces very sweet coffees with 4 times the amount of a normal year. Coffees from Carmo have been in competition for Cup of Excellence, best coffee in a particular country, every year and Santa Ines won in 2005.
We landed in Brazil today and plan to revisit Santa Ines and several other farms. It is crucial to maintain relationships in the world of coffee and that's why we try to revisit farms every year. The link between the grower and the roaster is one of the keys to the coffee supply chain. The conversations about coffee and cupping together with the farmer’s spurs ideas, confirm practices and creates a common coffee language. It's a language we strive to share with our customers, particularly at our coffee bars.