A few weeks ago, whilst visiting Brazil, Chris had the pleasure of visiting a community called Jacutinga, which comprises of 11 families living in a small community. It’s about 40 minutes drive from the town of Poço Fundo, in the Sul de Minas region of Brazil.
We first tried their coffee as a, that was sent to us from our friends and partners at Legender Specialty Coffee, who we work with when buying our coffee from Brazil. We’ve got to know the guys at Legender really well over the past few years, and they recommended we tried this coffee. We loved it, and agreed to purchase some this year, and also to go and visit the producers when we were in Brazil.
Fast forward to the 24th February, and despite driving through a thunderstorm on our way from the town of Poço Fundo, we entered a long, green valley, surrounded either side by lush hills, red soil and patches of rainforest. After a slight delay to hitch a ride on one of the families converted VW-beetle trucks (they only make them in this particular valley, and they’re amazing for getting up the muddy and rocky roads leading to the top of the valley, and for hauling goods up, and bringing coffee down), we arrived at the Jacutinga community.
There is a series of houses perched on and around the head of the valley, surrounded by waterfalls cascading down to form the Rio Machado. Verdant plant life sprouts from the deep red soils, including patches of coffee plantations in neat rows. You couldn’t imagine a much more idyllic place, particularly once the thunderstorm had cleared and the air was soft and calm.
The 11 families have been growing coffee for several years, but we bought coffee from one particular family this year, as the quality was the best of all the lots that we tasted. Osmar Pereira & his wife Cleusa produce about 30 bags of coffee per year (about 1,800 kgs), and we have bought 10 of those, and intend to buy more next year.
The community works together on shared projects – whilst we were visiting, we missed Osmar, as he was out helping a friend do some repairs to a roof. When it’s harvest time, they pick coffee together, depending on when the cherries are ripe, and then share transport and logistics to get it to the processing site. The coffee is scattered across various hillsides, interspersed with rainforest, other crops, and grassy areas.
The Pereira family grows Red and Yellow Catuai, a common varietal in Brazil, and they laugh when you ask them about their ‘fazenda’ – a common word for farm, or estate. They say they don’t have a ‘fazenda’, but instead they have a ‘sitio’ – a title that is a little less grand, the translation more akin to a croft (in English) than a farm. Considering some of the estates in Brazil can be as big as 10,000 hectares, you can see that they have a point. Whilst I was there, I visited a fazenda that produces 15,000 bags (60kg) a year – in comparison, the Pereira’s and the Jacutinga community are tiny in scale, but this is where we (and you) can help.
Currently once the coffee has been picked, the families have to drive it to a processing site a good distance away, with all the complications that this brings. Since all the coffee isn’t harvested at the same time, this can lead to delays, sub-optimal storage conditions, and extra time taken before processing, which means the final quality isn’t as good as it could be. Despite this, we’re big fans of this coffee, and careful roasting means it’s bursting with sweet caramel, milk chocolate, hazelnuts, and a really creamy body. You may even get a touch of blueberry. It’s a case of the coffee being good now, but with the potential to be even better in the future.
There may be something we can do about this.
How can we help?
It is still at an early stage, but we’re to help fund a drying facility to be built on-site, to eradicate all the difficulties of processing elsewhere. Let us be clear – this is at a really early stage – the initial conversations are only happening in the first week of April, but it has potential to do some real good. There is a fair chance that nothing will come of it, but if it works out, then we can really help these 11 families, pay better prices for their coffee, and start to work together for the long-term benefit of them, us and all of you who drink their coffee.