We spent the last two weeks in Brazil visiting farms and cupping coffees. We visited two primary areas of Southeastern Brazil in Minas Gerais state. It's an area of beautiful hills just west of Rio de Janeiro and north of Sao Paolo. Our first stop was in Carmo de Minas where our partner, Carmo Coffees is located. Carmo had spent weeks cupping coffee sample submissions from local farmers. They received over 750 coffee samples and narrowed that number to the best 32. Our group arrived with roasters from Japan, Korea, England, Canada and the U.S.
We spent three days cupping these top coffees along with some experimental lots and special coffee varieties like geisha. We picked the top 16, then cupped them again and ranked them from 1st through 16th. In the afternoons we visited farms and were particularly impressed by Carmo's own experimental farm where they are growing all sorts of antique coffee varieties from East Africa. Geisha, Rume Sudan and Yirgacheffe were some of the coffees grown there. We also spent an afternoon visiting Cria Carmo project, which is funded by Carmo and through individual donations. Cria Carmo provides a space for 230 underprivileged children to learn soccer, swimming, along with karate and lessons of teamwork and responsibility.
The public auction was the big event of the first week. Carmo roasted two pigs to fatten us up before we started bidding against each other for the top 16 coffees. The idea of the auction is to put more money into the local economy and create an incentive for farmers to improve the quality of their coffee. The money and recognition of the auction is the starting place, but investment in equipment and stronger work in the field and through processing makes the difference. All the farmers and their families were present at the auction. It is a big family affair. Noah, from Café Imports, was the emcee/auctioneer, and he had the mustache and cowboy hat to prove it. The atmosphere was electric once the bidding started at $4 per lot, and ended in an intense bid between the Japanese and Koreans for the top lot which went to the Koreans for $34 a pound.
I brought home a half container, or about 180 bags of natural process Brazil from Santa Ines farm which is owned by Carmo and run by the father of one of the owners. The farmer is Francisco Isidro Dias Pereira, and he has a twinkle in his eye and an amazing mustache. We have grown to love the coffees from this farm and have been buying them for three years straight. The container lot will go into our main blends and espressos, and I purchased a smaller lot from the same farm of exceptional quality that we will sell as a single origin coffee.
The second part of the trip was spent with Bourbon Specialty Coffees in Pocos de Caldas, which is built on top of a volcano and is known for its' hot springs. Bourbon is known for its yellow bourbon coffees which really seem to like the volcanic soil. They represent farms in Minas Gerais and an adjoining state named Espirito Santo. Bourbon helped do the research on a new type of environmentally friendly bag which is essentially a very strong paper bag lined with a recyclable plastic interior to maintain the humidity of the coffee as it travels. Bourbon is also doing a comprehensive study of coffee fermentation to determine which natural yeast strains work best with which coffees. It is a truly fascinating subject, and to be a part of the trials is a rich experience.
Since we started traveling to Brazil three years ago, we have continued to see noticeable quality improvements, and truly outstanding coffees from a country which until recently was known as strictly a bulk coffee producer. Look for the new crop coffee to cycle into our coffee portfolio in early November.