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Daterra Partners Exchange 2023

This year in July we spent 5 days together with the Daterra crew as part of the 4th Partner’s Exchange. We have had the unique opportunity to be part of this exchange with representatives from 3 different departments: Henry from Trade, Gina from Logistics and Timea from Quality. We spent time exploring Daterra together with partners from Spain, USA, Greece, Argentina, and Japan.

This was an exciting five days discussing the current challenges of the coffee industry and brainstorming on solutions together, getting to know each other as well as taking part in some very unique experiences. All part of the excellent hospitality that we received from the Daterra team.

In this article, we are going to highlight our top 5 moments from the trip and expand on what we have learned.

Santos Port

Port of Santos

We started our trip with a very special experience: being taken around the Port of Santos via boat. This tour was about an hour long, and we were really impressed by how enormous the port is – it is the largest port in Latin America and the 39th biggest port in the world for container handling. The Daterra crew treated us to some delicious brews from the best of their selection whilst the terminals for different commodities were pointed out to us: coffee, sugar, soy, cotton, and flammables.

We continued our tour in the town of Santos, where we visited Museo do Café. Here we have observed how the increase in coffee production has contributed to the growth of the port and the town. This was the place for the former Official Coffee Exchange (Bolsa Official do Café), where the coffee barons in Brazil have gathered, and negotiations that determined the daily quotations of coffee bags were carried out. The museum was created in 1998 once the old form of the exchange was abolished.

Cupping Labs – Designing the Coffee Menu

Daterra has 3 cupping labs in total: a client cupping lab in Boa Vista, a production cupping lab in Boa Vista and another production lab in Tabuoes farm.

We have spent a decent amount of time with the Daterra team cupping the fresh crop samples from the Classic menu, Collection menu and even some of the Masterpieces! The coffee was only about 5-15 days old, which was a challenge to get adjusted to for some of us. Normally, green coffee would rest for about 40 days in silos to even out the moisture content of the beans after drying. Only after this does the coffee get shipped. If you taste a coffee that is younger than that, it might display some greenish or astringent notes that can mask some other flavours.

It was a pleasure to cup together with other professionals from all around the world and to discuss our findings. Most of the time we were able to identify the individual coffees from the menu; everyone was able to recognise their favourites. This only shows how much of a great job Daterra is doing with regard to keeping the individual coffees from the menu consistent with the taste profile. It is not an easy job, and it requires all 3 cupping labs to work together and keep each other in check. All 3 cupping labs taste the same coffees and at the end, they examine their findings. If one of the labs is out and their tasting notes and scores are not in line, then they repeat the tasting process again in all 3 labs. This is called the checkpoint process.

Designing the coffee menu takes place mainly in the production labs. This is the place where suggestions are made about when to go ahead with the harvest. The agronomists take the whole branch of a coffee tree as a sample from the area they think the ratio of the ripeness of the coffee cherries is good enough. After the coffee is dried in mini driers, the sample is collected and roasted on sample roasters and the production cupping lab tastes it. They might say that the coffee still needs a few more days to taste ripe enough. They are the ones deciding when the harvest of a certain area can go ahead – this requires very sharp taste buds and a lot of responsibility! Some coffees might have a certain set ratio already, like Bruzzi – it consists of 50% pulped and 50% natural coffee to achieve the “perfect espresso blend” profile. In case the sweetness or acidity or body needs adjusting, they can play around with modifying the ratios depending on what they think the given profile might be missing that year. With the UNIPAC smart processing unit, they can separate coffees with different maturation levels: the riper ones will have more sweetness, and the less ripe ones have more acidity. Certain coffee varietals can also add yellow fruit-like, or tropical fruit-like notes. All in all, Daterra knows how to make magic happen for sure.

Masterpieces Processing Unit – Solar Spectrum Fermentation

Henry and Timea next to our Solar Spectrum Fermentation Plot

We visited the unit used to process the microlots from the genetic research fields and the Masterpieces. This is a smaller unit, there is no time pressure involved here. Daterra has 3 different depulpers here purchased from different countries to be able to perform all the different processing methods (mainly different kind of Honey process coffees). There are 6 lines of fermentation tanks for Washed, Soaked and Aerobic process coffees. They have a few stainless-steel tanks to perform anaerobic and carbonic maceration coffees- these tanks all have temperature control involved. One stainless steel tank can hold 1000 litres and produces 2 Penta boxes.

Daterra has different kind of raised beds for natural and honey processed coffees. Next to the raised beds there is a section where they process the microlots, and these are dried on the round drying hoops. Our Solar Spectrum fermentation coffees were dried in that area at the moment of our visit. This year we are repeating our experiment from last year, to see whether the results from last year are going to have the same results. We are examining whether different wavelengths of light can create a different cup profile when fermenting the coffee cherries. We have added some ultra-violet and infrared light variations as well to the first set of colours we have tried. Click here to read more about Solar Spectrum Fermentation.

Environmental Conservation

Daterra reservoir

At Daterra environmental conservation takes a priority at all times. Currently, there are 3250 hectares preserved for only this purpose.

There are plenty of projects in place to ensure that Daterra is doing the most they can to provide a future for the Cerrado region. They want to ensure they can keep producing coffee whilst reducing the temperature of the region, increasing the biodiversity, and being as energy efficient as possible. We visited the Solar Energy farm in Boa Vista where Daterra can produce enough energy to be able to run most of its activities and machinery. It is estimated to be enough to produce energy for about 120 households. At the moment they are constructing two more solar energy farms, and they are planning to donate energy farmed to the public institutions nearby in Patrocinio. This way they can have a much wider impact on the community in the area. Our next stop was the reservoir: Daterra has sacrificed 5 hectares of land from coffee production to be able to conserve water for when they need it. Irrigation is becoming increasingly essential to manage the impacts of climate change. The temperatures are constantly rising in Cerrado and the amount of rainfall is decreasing. Daterra is able to irrigate 70% of the farm and the goal is to be able to do 100% by 2030. Due to the strict environmental regulations in Brazil around building dams and collecting water from natural streams, there are limitations to the access to water in the area. In rainy seasons there is more allowance to use water, but the farms are less likely to need it. That is why Daterra has built their own reservoir to be able to store water. 300,000 cubic meters of water can be stored here, and it comes in handy when there is less access to water through the dams. Daterra is planning to build another reservoir as well that is twice as big as this one.

Tree-llion Project

Thanks to the Tree-llion project new native trees planted can create 3 new water springs in a year and these create more moisture in the air. As a result the trees are able to cool the overall temperature of the environment. Daterra has also partnered up with an NGO called Cerrado da Aguas (Cerrado of Waters) that works to preserve and recover watercourses in Cerrado region. So far as a result of environmental conservation projects the number of water springs has increased from 10 to about 70.

Genetic research field

There are 500+ hectares involved in some type of research in Daterra. There are about 130 genetic materials in the farms in partnerships with several institutes, including IAC (Instituto Agronomico de Campinas), EPAMIG (Empresa de Pesquisa Agropecuaria de Minas Gerais) and IAPAR (Instituto Agronomico do Parana). These institutes are mainly creating hybrids and selecting different lineages from them that are performing well and are able to tackle different challenges that can impact coffee production.  Leaf rust resistance, pest resistance and drought resistance are some of the attributes. Taking part in these projects requires planting trees and to constantly analyse the production. The best performing trees are selected and replanted, and many cycles of planting are needed to select the best performing lineage of Bourbon or other varietals in Brazil. It takes at least 12 years to solidify a varietal. It is also important to understand what conditions exactly the different varieties need: for example, Laurina has performed much better when planted under shade trees.

Special Thanks

We would like to say thank you for the Daterra team and partners to have provided such an insightful experience. Every time we return we are inspired by the innovation and forward thinking that we observe, and by the professionalism and hospitality that we receive. We are thankful to have this relationship with you and looking forward to many fruitful years to come!