After flying back to São Paulo I had some free time to explore before continuing the rest of my trip so I visited a few of the local coffeehouses to see the barista scene in Brazil. First stop was Suplicy, a roaster retailer whose Baristi have won many awards and a few Brazilian Barista Championships. The first thing I noticed was the pink Probat roaster and the pink La Marzocco espresso machine. Marcos, the owner, was kind enough to meet with us and share about his business. One thing he explained about Brazil is that they cannot import green or unroasted beans from other countries so all espresso and other blends are 100% Single Origin. However, they have many different regions within Brazil and many different varietals, each with distinct flavor profiles. For myself, I enjoyed a nice chocolaty machiatto, followed by a cup of coffee from a farm I just visited in the Cerrado region. Both were solid and the machiatto, as all their milk based drinks, was served with latte art. I also visited Octavio and the drinks were just as good but they featured a full kitchen for food. Although it was a restaurant, it was still clearly a coffeehouse.
My final visit was to the port city of Santos and the Bikkini Club. Before your mind starts flashing pictures of Brazilian models serving drinks while wearing only a string bikini, let me assure you that was not the case. The concept is coffee and clubbing in a three story coffeehouse/restaurant/night club. The décor is Danish Surf. Sounds wild, but it works. The bottom floor is a coffeehouse with typical pastry and coffee. Most drinks are espressos or cappuccinos and of course all drinks come with Latte Art. I tried several espresso shots courtesy of Rasmus and Crisca, the partners in this new and hot coffeehouse concept. I absolutely loved the espresso, sweet lemonade in a cup. The 2nd and 3rd floors serve as a restaurant for lunch and on weekends serve as a night club. Even though it was not large in square footage, they turn out 200 tables to accommodate 1,000 people for a small but lively night club.
For those who are not aware, Santos is the coffee trading capitol of Brazil and accounts for 70% of all Brazilian Coffee trade, although no coffee is grown. It has a great history and a must visit famous coffee museum. Santos is a port city harboring South Atlantic Ocean, boats the world's longest garden beach where there is a green belt, in other words, tropical area between the beach and the city.
Since this was a coffee sourcing trip, I also cupped several micro lots with our friends at Wolthers and NuCoffee exporters. I cupped a range of good coffee and unique, from citrus to fruity to chocolate to tropical to herbal. Roberta of NuCoffee and Rasmus of Wolthers will be sending me samples of all my favorites, hopefully getting some new Brazils.
Santa Mariana and Minas
After cupping coffee the next morning, Daniel with NuCoffee and I took the long drive to Virginha in South Minas. We arrived around 9pm and we had a typical Brazilian dinner with Cachacas (the local Brazilian liquor made from Sugar Cane). The next morning we visited Glycia and her family at Santa Mariana. Once again this was so different from the large farms of Cerrado. From the flat lands of Cerrado to hills and mountains of Minas. From large harvesting equipment to all handpicked. From irrigation systems to being dependant on nature for rain. From mechanical bean dryers to only sun dried patio. While you can read about her farm and coffee on our website here, I had no idea how beautiful it was till I visited. Her husband Paulo (a practicing doctor) left his fishing gear on their small lake to show me around. It was a mixture of coffee farm and natural preserve. Many animals on the farm include wild wolves, monkeys and a Brazilian bob cat family. After the tour Glycia joined us and showed me her office including the trophy she won last year using the same lot of coffee and variety we have at Klatch. The award was 1st Place as the Best Natural Coffee in the Concurso Qualidad Minasul de Café and was not the first time she had earned this award. Next to her awards was a cabinet where she told us she "kept her gold," samples of all her lots and varietals. She pulled out two bag which consist of four different micro-lots she felt were her best and wanted me to have.
Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF)
After leaving Santa Mariana I took another long drive to visit Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) on the Minas /São Paulo border. Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza ("FAF") has been a coffee plantation since 1850 and has been owned and run by the Barretto family since the early 1900s. Since 2002, Silvia Barretto and her husband, Marcos Croce, have been working on transforming the farm into a model of sustainable organic agriculture. Thus, demonstrating how agriculture in Brazil can be productive and profitable while providing a happier living environment through the proper use of the land's natural resources.
The principal crop at FAF is organic coffee, grown according to the philosophy that agriculture can be sustainable not only ecologically, but also socially and economically. But there are many other trees, plants, and products grown at FAF including: mango, avocado, banana, papaya, honey, cheese, native rainforest trees, flowering trees, and many vegetables. There are also hundreds of native animals and birds who live on the estate and during my visit, two graduate students from Chicago were interning to study and map all the birds on the estate.
Marcos, who believes if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem, does not stop at the borders of his plantation but works to support other farmers in his area how to be sustainable while producing great coffee. In fact, Marcos has started a new brand called Bob-o-Link named after the North American migrant bird which travels from the U.S . to south of the equator each autumn, making a round-trip of approximately 20,000 kilometers. Bob-o-Link Coffees links people in the U.S. and Europe with farmers in Brazil who grow quality coffee in harmony with nature.
While I was inspired by Marcos’, FAF, and Bob-o-Link, I was in Brazil to find great coffee. To this end, Marcos did not disappoint. At the cupping table I met Felipe, Marcos’ son, cupper, and sample roaster extraordinaire. We cupped many tables of organics, micro lots, neighbor farms, and Bob-o-Links. All the coffee was clean with great flavors. There were so many good coffees I had to take cloths out of my suitcase to fit bag after bag of green samples for the flight home. These were some of the best tables I cupped and a great way to finish my trip. And now I have more great coffees from Brazil to sample in my lab.
But the trip was not complete as on the way back toward the airport we stopped at several neighbor farms to visit, meet, tour, and enjoy the company of many farmers who are making a difference to the environment with better coffee from Brazil. These family farmers are extremely careful and detailed when picking only red cherries, then hand sorting all coffee on raised beds under parabolic covers similar to those found in Colombia. And of course, I picked up more samples.
Next up, the cupping table back home!
View all images from Brazil, here