Our latest trip began with a day’s rest – as all good origin trips should in Sao Paulo with an extremely well organised Coffee Shop tour – or at least it would have been, had it not been Sunday, with 3 out of the 4 shops selected closed. But a successful day ensued non-the less, with the Coffee Lab open to serve us breakfast and a coffee menu to rival the most sophisticated London coffee purveyor.
But an early night beckoned, as a long day of travelling, adjustment to the local time and prospect of another flight early in the morning would soon be upon us. 4am came around very quickly – as 4am starts often do, for us to catch the first flight out of Sao Paulo to Uberlandia in Cerrado. We landed at 8am (on time) and transferred overland to Fazenda Boa Vista – the home of Daterra’s award winning operations. Any trip to Daterra is a conclusive lesson in how to do things right, executed by a well-trained, well-educated and communicative team with boundless enthusiasm, energy and experience.
Day 1 began with an introduction to Daterra, the farm, its processes and how it manages to successfully create some of Brazil’s finest coffees on such a large scale; the answer is no closely guarded secret but one that Daterra are happy to share. The large farm(s) are split in to what Daterra term ‘mini farms’ smaller manageable pieces of producing plots that can be independently managed through a team of agronomists and specialists in their field to ensure that each block is given the right amount of inputs, and attention as required – rather than approaching the farm with one size fits all tactic. This technique, coupled with a variety of wet and dry processing methods and over 14 varietals ensures that Daterra remains on top of its game.
Once the team had been initiated in to what to expect, we travelled to one of the 3 wet mills Daterra operates and the explanation of how the first separation of harvested cherries is done by density, size and ripeness. Daterra work closely with the machine manufacturers to create a bespoke system that enables this level of separation unseen on other farms.
The day concluded with a visit to the cupping lab where the different levels of processing were demonstrated through an expertly crafted cupping session. This level of organised education sets Daterra apart from some of its rivals. Each field trip to the farm is followed up with a cupping session to back up and explain further the developments that have been learned.
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Cupping stations ready: for day 2 of possibly the worlds most informative origin farm visits @daterracoffee #coffee #cupping #specialtycoffee #microlot #thingsaboutcoffee #fazendas #brazil #origin #drwontour #travel #farm #producer #knowledge #tasting #quality #coffeeislife #greenbeans #trading #traders #spittoon
Day 2 on the farm began with a visit to one of the fields in the midst of mechanical harvest – a plot of Yellow Catuai – perfectly ripe and ready for the caravan of, once again bespoke designed machinery. It seems very little on Daterra is ‘off-the-shelf’ with almost all machinery created in house in one of the workshops, with a support office capable of supplying spare parts for every single piece of equipment needed. The afternoon session took us to the dry Mill – the next stage in processing where the attention to detail and commitment to quality shows no sign of abating. Coffee is first pre-cleaned of any foreign matter that might enter the system, de-stoned before being hulled (parchment removed) the beans then go through a process of grading (separation by size) gravity separation (by density) and colour sorting – removing any off-colour beans, insect damage or otherwise imperfect beans. Finally the coffee passes through a UV sorter which removes any phenolic beans – unseen to he human eye. Coffee is then either packed in to the Penta box vacuum packing system – unsurprisingly this is a unique system, designed for Daterra long before any other producers had caught on to the life-prolonging preservation of Vacuum.
Our final day on the farm brought us to the pinnacle of Daterra’s quality work – the experimental plots, processes and varietals – including geisha and Laurina trees. Fully washed and fermented coffees, and the use of Anaerobic fermentation in a Carbonic maceration technique – primarily used and found most commonly in the Wine Industry. The results are simply exquisite. One experiment for a customer also involves drying coffees naturally in the dark! Daterra will try almost anything if requested, and very little is off the table for discussion here – with a little scientific reasoning or precedence.
The results of these experiments in the past have produced coffees that are unrecognizable as Brazil and many end up in the famous annual auction Daterra host for what are termed the Masterpieces – the crème de la creme of coffee. Last year one lot recorded the highest price ever paid for a coffee from Brazil – quite an accolade. We cupped the contenders for selection this year, and the early signs (although still quite fresh) show exciting promise.
All good things must come to an end, and by Thursday morning we were saying our goodbyes for pastures new. We remained in Cerrado, and journeyed an hour East to the town of Carmo do Paranaiba to the home of Veloso Coffee – another family owned Estate comprising of a number of farms under the Pedro Humberto Veloso family name.
Like Daterra, Veloso are dedicated to the production of quality coffee and passion for changing opinion about Brazil as a commodity supplier only. Their menu is categorised in to 4 brands, each offering increasing cup scores and levels of distinguishability reaching levels of peach nectarine and stone fruit not commonly found in Brazil. The year ahead is an exciting one for Veloso with substantial capital investment in infrastructural projects including a natural damn, new dry mill and storage facilities, new wet mills all backed up by a first-class quality lab and team of coffee specialists who bring a young, fresh, vibrant and positive level of enthusiasm to the business.
The farm is also in the middle of a re-generation scheme; planting around 4million new trees each year. By 2020, Veloso could be producing as much coffee as Kenya!
Unfortunately, time was short, and 24 hours were all that could be afforded to our time on Veloso – but it is certainly a farm we will be visiting again in the future.
Brazil may be the largest producer in the world, it may be more well known for its commercial grades than its premium and specialty coffees – but don’t let this fool you. Brazil is a dedicated nation of coffee lovers, who are passionate and committed to the ever-increasing level of quality being attributed to the production of coffee and long may this continue.