Day 5, Thursday, July 31
Went to visit Ismael of Capim Bronco and Sao Siilvestre, “large” farms in Cerrado. These two farms are close to the highest elevation, if not the highest elevation in Cerrado at 1200-1300masl. Ismael started a micro lot project last year, and is continuing this year with good success.
It should be noted that Cerrado is famous for producing bulk coffee, dried on the tree type naturals, hence most of the coffee from the region is commercial quality, good/fine cup (clean, no major defects 70-80 pts coffees). However, the natural micro-lots here that are dried from selected cherries can be phenomenal.
As with all large producers, Ismael is 100% mechanized, however he is going one step farther with his micro-lot project. After picking, he has invested in developing a color sorter for cherries. The machine uses an optical laser to separate ripe, green, and over ripe cherry. It seems like the machine works well, with about a 90% accuracy. In order to get the cherry even cleaner, cherries are hand-picked after the mechanical/optical sorting.
Other then cherry sorting, I witnessed “volcano” drying. This is an old technique where the cherries are dried for 2-3 days as normal on the patio to create a raisin. Then the cherries are moved in to mounds or “volcanos”. The process is as follows:
Morning: Cherries are in mounds on the patio covered by tarps from the previous day and uncovered “when the sun hits the pavement.”
The top 1-2cm are scraped off the outside into a surrounding mound creating a sort of pattern with a volcano in the middle, a moat of patio, then a surrounding levy of cherries. This process is repeated every hour until about 12pm when all the coffee is in the levy pattern and nothing is left as the volcano in the middle. At this point the coffee is moved in the same fashion back to the middle in volcano form.
At the end of the day, the coffee is left in a mound, recovered, and repeated for 3-4 weeks.
This type of drying prevents hot spots (fermentation) and facilitates a consistent drying temperature all day and night, ending in a more complex, clean, better tasting natural.
Day 6, Friday, August 1
Visited Fazenda Serrinha today. This is a new farm purchased 5 years ago. The owners here are truly focused on quality and I believe we will be seeing some very nice coffees from here in the near future.
After purchasing the farm, all coffee plants were ripped out and replanted. Also, all the existing facilities were torn down and replaced with state of the art buildings and equipment. In all my travels, I haven’t seen a cleaner, more organized farm. Amazing.
The coffees here were cupping solid 83-86pts even with an improper roast level. However, most of the coffees are blended into larger lots making the 88+ coffees difficult to find. With our recommendation, Fazenda Serrinah will be trying to separate the exceptional 10-20 bag lots in the future. This is very promising to me since the most difficult part is getting to solid speciality. When 85/6 pt coffees exist, the 88+ do as well. The only thing that typically needs to be done is separation.
In all, this trip was great. We got to visit 5 different growing areas, cup to asses quality (which is looking very good), strengthen old relationships, and build new ones. I can safely say, that over 5 days, I was able to cup through samples that represented 20,000 bags of coffee, and definitely the top 5% of quality production in Brazil.
Our 2014/15 Brazils will be a force to be reckoned with. Watch out palate… be prepared to taste Brazil like never before.