2500km driven, four farms visited, meetings with half a dozen coffee producers, 50+ new crop coffees cupped, and a World Cup
Welcome to Brazil June / July 2014
OK, the World Cup was on but I did not really notice that too much. Somehow I found myself at England versus Uruguay and England versus Costa Rica matches by coincidence. Joking aside, Brazil as a country did an excellent job with this World Cup despite the reservations, riots and disorder frequently reported in the press beforehand, I found the atmosphere buoyant and friendly, the grounds well fitted out and orderly, the people friendly and helpful. I never saw any disorder and friends from Canada visiting for the World Cup as first time travelers to Brazil said their pre conceived ideas (well, more the pre conceived ideas of their friends) could not have been further from the truth. They loved it and planned to write to the Vancouver Sun newspaper when they got home to tell of their great experience. From Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte to Pocos de Caldas to Posso Alegre to Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro I travelled 2500km by car and got a very good feel for the country in a time of a major (the major) world sporting event AND visited and met with a number of our key coffee producer friends, visited farms, cupped the new crop and generally got caught up with so many great friends in a carnival of coffee and football.
The new season 2014 harvest is about 20-25% collected. Despite the early hour, we cupped more than 50 pulped and natural coffees and I came away very impressed with the overall quality, not least given the very early time in the crop cycle. Experienced classifiers (cuppers) in Brazil had rarely, if ever, seen coffees at this quality outturn this early in the season.
The question on everyone’s mind was related to the damage and crop losses from the unseasonal lack of rainfall earlier in the year, a ‘’drought’’ (or at least severe lack of rainfall). Newly planted trees had indeed suffered, we saw evidence of this. New trees yielding for the first time had berries with no seeds inside, or very small seeds. This may well be a feature of the crop that larger scr16+ beans will be much less available. However, the QUALITY of the coffees that we cupped overall (more than 50 coffees all told) was generally very high.
Who knows what the final outturn production for Brazil will be but I am confident the final count will be much closer to 50 million bags than many who report 45 million or less
Farmers continued with major renovation, investment and rejuvenation efforts at farms. A clear development is the movement to mechanically harvested coffees in all but the steepest inaccessible growing areas. In Sul de Minas, such is the shortage of and cost of labour that mechanization is the only way forward. Some growers are selling off the steep and non merchandisable parts of the farms to local smallholders to pick in the traditional handpicked way by family members but the ‘’organized’’ farms are moving all toward maximum mechanization, while the Cerrado region in the north of Minas Gerais continues to benefit from a stable climate, high flat plain, and many completely mechanized farms that is not possible in the ‘’mountainous’’ areas further south in Minas.
We stayed at the lovely farmhouse of Fazenda Irarema in the heart of the Minas/Sao Paulo Mogiana growing area on the border of the two states just outside Pocos de Caldas where so many award winning farms are based (Rainha, Recreio, Cachoeira da Grama, Santa Alina, and others all within striking distance of each other) – this is truly a treasured coffee growing region.
At Cachoeira da Grama it was interesting to see former workers houses being turned into a pousada (bed and breakfast) as workers continue to move from the countryside to the cities, farms have begun to tap into tourism, backpackers, eco tourism, and cycling tours. Cachoeira da Grama is about 3 months away from converting 6 cottages into B&B’s. Cachoeira da Grama is like the grandfather of specialty in Brazil, one of the first farms to be recognized as an excellent single estate coffee
We spent time also at my farm, Fazenda Inglaterra, including a Mad Max dune buggy trip to the highest point of the farm 1280m – the dune buggy is a gaiola (cage) and is used to haul coffee around the farm; which is very steep.
One of my favourite stops, Fazenda Passeio and the hospitality and knowledge of Adolfo. This farm is always a pleasure to visit and we love the range of more than 20 coffees we can access from this farm alone.
It was my first time (to my discredit) at Carmo Estate near Pousso Alegre. We stayed at Tulio’s farm and I saw many more opportunities here.
Unlike 2013, the weather and climate during the harvest (now) is ideal, perfect – warm dry days, cool nights and crucially next to no rainfall.
We expect to see a good flow of new crop samples in August, shipments of the new season beginning from Sept/Oct.
Brazil’s exit in the semi finals was shocking, unexpected, and brutal. For a country so connected to football, the result was traumatic. But Brazil’s unfortunate exit should not detract from what has overall been a fabulous tournament.
So many Coffee Producer participants at the World Cup from the excellent Colombians, the amazing Costa Ricans, Mexico with perhaps the best keeper in the tournament, Honduras, Ecuador, and quite a performance from the USA (come on, they grow coffee in Hawaii).Despite the drama, excitement and unexpected results in the early rounds, in the end, it is the consumers of Germany versus well, the Argentines on Sunday night. Two ex champions once again in the ring.
Football and coffee forever connected to Brazil and the last time I will see a World Cup in the place that made both so famous.