By Mike Perry
October 18, 2011
From Sao Paulo we traveled to Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF), home of the Bob-O-Link. Unfortunately this was a sad and disappointing visit. We were told by owner Marcos Croce that the high quality Bob-O-Link we loved in the past would now be a lower quality blend that does not meet Klatch standards. We also tried many-many cups which Marcos called "micro lots," unfortunately they were mediocre in quality, and had prices at Cup of Excellence (COE) levels. We also learned, from Marcos himself over drinks one night, that he gets 25% of what he sells from neighboring farms. These margins are two and half to three times what most exporters make and not a fair model to the farmer or the consumer. It was very sad to see what started as something good is being ruined by the greed of one person. To say the least, we will not be carrying any of his coffee in the future.
But we came to Brazil to find great coffee so we headed north. As we traveled across the state of Sao Paulo in our search for the perfect bean we entered the coffee region of Alta Mogiana. We were greeted by what appeared to be white snow covered fields, similar to a huge Christmas tree farm. There were rows after rows of trees covered in snow. As we got closer it was obvious that the trees were not covered with snow, but with beautiful white flowers. Rain from a couple days earlier led to flowering across the region. The first rain in four months. Provided much relief to worried farmers as the flowering will lead to beans for the next harvest.
We arrived at Fazenda Sao Francisco where we met Nilton and his family. The layout in this region was completely different than what we had previously seen, in this area enclosed within rolling hills. The first day was spent touring the farm and facilities, and getting to know the family. The Nilton family has not always been in the coffee industry. Nilton's father retired from being a judge and wanted to do something he enjoyed and was passionate about, hence he found a new life in coffee. This family has a great eye for detail and are very methodical about every aspect of the farm and we could not wait to cup their coffee.
Our second day in this region we woke up to rain. Our first visit for the day was cocopec, a local cooperative with 1,500 members. Here we learned more about the growth of the Brazilian market, as well as, discovering new varietals. After we headed to a cupping lab where we cupped coffees from the upcoming Alta Mogiana specialty coffee auction. Brazil is known for producing delicious naturals, however, there is a shift towards pulp naturals, which produce very interesting flavors. On this table we found some delicious coffees, and may even be bringing one in, in the near future -- to feature as a single origin espresso.
Finally the last day of our trip arrived and we were able to cup the coffees from Nilton and his family. With Bob-O-Link being such a disaster, we were all nervous as we went to taste these coffees for the first time. But Nilton was confident in the coffees he had produced. After cupping the table, he should be. We found some delicious coffees that may work for a variety of purposes, and we are excited to see what the future holds within this relationship.
TAGS: 2011 BRAZIL, GREEN COFFEE SOURCING, FAZENDA AMBIENTAL FORTALEZA, FAF, FAZENDA SAO FRANCISCO, COCOPEC, ALTA MOGIANA SPECIALTY COFFEE AUCTION, HEATHER PERRY, MIKE PERRY, STEVEN SIMS, BODHI LEAF TRADING COMPANY