In our new Origins series, we follow the team from Caravan Coffee Roasters as they travel the world sourcing the best coffee beans they can find. First stop, Brazil.
What's the history of Brazilian coffee and specifically the region you’re in?
The first specialty coffee plantations in Brazil started appearing in the interior of Brazil, in a region called the Cerrado. The Cerrado, which covers a large area in the states of Goiás and Minas Gerias, is known for its iron-rich soils, rolling hills, and large plateaus. Because of Brazil's distinct seasons — hot, wet summers and dry, cool winters — the flowering and coffee maturation process is invariant allowing for producers to strip-pic or mechanically harvest, without damaging the next season's crop. Generally deemed as bad practice, it's a reality in Brazil due to high wage costs and large farm sizes.
We’ve been purchasing coffee from Cerrado do Mineiro (Minas Gerias) for the last four years through our long-standing relationship with Falcon Specialty. The flavour profile of Cerrado do Mineiro is very distinct – sweet red apple, caramel, honey, cocoa, apricot, macadamia nut and plum. This coupled with a rich, creamy body, lends it perfectly to espresso-focused drinks. Although some specific lots with fruity, floral driven attributes produce a wonderful filter coffee.
How is the coffee processed and why?
Most coffee in the Cerrado is processed as either a natural or pulped natural. A natural in Brazil is generally something different to what you might find in Ethiopia or Nicaragua. It is often referred to as dry process or raisin process, and is effectively the drying of the coffee cherry on the tree. After harvesting, it's then put through numerous floatation processes; a gravity table shakes the cherry on a subtle angle so that the denser cherries fall to the lower angle, and the dryer cherries stay at the top. The cherries are then placed on patios or raised beds to dry. Finally, the denser beans are processed as pulped natural. The aim when drying a pulped natural, is to get the initial drying done as quickly as possible to seal the parchment — this is to stop-unwanted over fermentation. Afterwards, a slower, drawn out drying process is necessary to allow for full development of flavour and body and acidity.
Tell us about the farmers you work with.
We’ve been working with the Naimeg family from Cerrado Mineiro for four years; a chance cupping of a lot from their Ouro Verde farm has led to a long-standing relationship. The family together own three farms, all within close distance of each other. Fazenda Pantano was founded in 1982, and has been producing coffee of extremely high quality ever since. Fazenda Ouro Verde was founded in 1996, and Fazenda Lourino was bought by the Naimegs in 2000. It has some interesting varietals, including Rubi and Topazio.
The Naimegs are four brothers, and seven families in total help out around the farm. Mauro is the head agronomist; his job is to ensure the farms trees stay healthy and disease free. Jose, the eldest brother, works as the link between the family and the exportation parties. Jorge, the face of the Naimeg family, is in charge of public relations and marketing; Gerson is the administrator.
When you’re not sourcing coffee, what’s your favourite thing to do in Brazil?
Any time spent in Rio de Janerio makes us happy; the city has such an amazing atmosphere. Santa Tereza in the hills above downtown is our favourite spot to chill and mingle with the locals. Rustico — also in Santa Tereza — has amazing pizzas; sometimes you can even spot a monkey in the trees.
Sao Paulo has so much to offer and we're still learning the ins and outs. The art scene is incredible; Batman Alley has some of the best street art in the world, and similarly the Mendes Wood art gallery is inspiring. For a taste of Brazil, we head to the Centro Mercado.
Stay tuned for the second installment of Origins, when we'll be following Caravan Coffee Roasters to Colombia.