Source Trip: Mantiqueira de Minas, Brazil

We visit the Mantiqueira de Minas region of Brazil on an annual basis. Source trips like this allow us to maintain long-term relationships with our producers, as well as providing the opportunity to taste a lot of coffee and make new friends.

Early last month, Roaster/Green Coffee Buyer, Brian spent a few days with Sergio Dias on his farm, Fazenda Canaan. Our partnership with Sergio has been ongoing for several years. As well as providing us with outstanding small lots from his own farm, he acts as a North American ambassador for COCARIVE, the local cooperative that supplies us with pulped natural coffees for our espresso blend. In recent years, Sergio and his cousin, Ibrahim, have introduced us to other producers in the area, giving us first access to some superb coffees.

June and July are the peak months for harvesting in Mantiqueira de Minas. Although it’s winter in the southern hemisphere, the weather is warm and dry. Our days were spent visiting local farms and cupping dozens of coffees that were sample-roasted on site. The producers were eager to showcase not only their new crop of small lot coffees but also their local hospitality, and home-cooked lunches were always provided. We’re most excited by a lot that we purchased from Rancho Sao Benedito. This is one of the highest elevation farms in the area and the coffee is amazing. Another special purchase came from Familia Alfonso. These lots are grown on a steep hillside which has full shade in the morning and full sun in the afternoon, meaning they take much longer to ripen. The producer usually submits this coffee to the Cup of Excellence competition, but this year it’s ours!

Based in the town of Carmo de Minas, the COCARIVE cooperative was formed in 1961. This trip provided an opportunity to observe how the cooperative benefits the local coffee farming community. All producers in Mantiqueira de Minas process their own coffees, then bring them to the central dry mill in Carmo de Minas. This sophisticated sorting and warehouse facility was opened in 2001 and what impressed us most was how empowered the farmers are by the information they receive. Besides keeping individual lots separate while they are de-hulled, sorted and graded, the facility employs three licensed Q-Graders who take a sample of each lot then test it and report back with its score. This gives the farmer the option to reserve the lot for individual sale if it scores highly, or add it to a ‘communal blend’. The cooperative also employs agronomists to test soil and runs a farm store/nursery. This is a community of farmers who share their knowledge and expertise and constantly strive to improve their coffee production.

The cool winter evenings in Brazil were spent under the stars at Fazenda Canaan, chatting with Sergio about all things coffee and sampling cachaca, a Brazilian rum made from sugar cane. One exception was an evening spent in a bar in town watching the national soccer team beat Argentina in the final of the Copa America. The cachaca certainly flowed freely on that occasion! This was Brian’s first trip to source and after having pulled shots, roasted coffee, talked and written about coffee for years, it felt good to finally ‘close the circle’ and see the industry from the producer’s point of view. Check out his awesome photos of the trip below.