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Minas Gerais: Single Estate and Cooperative Farms in Regional Brazil’s

Our trader Priscilla Daniel recently undertook a field trip to Brazil. This was partly due to DR Wakefield’s ongoing partnership with the fantastic and highly regarded producers Daterra, based in the Cerrado region amongst acres of lush rainforest. The relationship has been mutually warm, long-standing and profitable in every sense of the word. However, Priscilla was keen to point out that her trip also included visits to smaller and perhaps lesser-known Brazilian coffee farms. These farms, Priscilla promises, have plenty to offer to the markets and are well worth consideration in their own right.

Daterra is Daterra. It sits in its own category,” Priscilla writes in her field trip notes. Their work stretches the very definition of ‘coffee production’. They seem to be consistently developing, experimenting and re-imagining what one would expect from a producer: innovating farming methods, inventing new processes, leading truly trailblazing environmental protection programmes. Their standard benchmark is SCAA 84 points. Their work has contributed significantly to Brazilian coffee, and will continue to do so.

Daterra farm

Touring the coffee capital of Brazil

But, as Priscilla notes, “travelling so far to only see one farm is not making the most of the opportunity.” And so the DR Wakefield field trip was augmented with a tour of the Minas Gerais region and some of its smaller farms. “Minas Gerais is a huge state, inside which are different departments: Sul de Minas, Pocos de Calda, Cerrado Mineiro,” Priscilla tells us. Within these departments (indeed, across Brazil, but here we are talking of its “coffee capital”), are farms generally divided into large single estates (such as Daterra) or smaller farms belonging to a cooperative.

The coffee family

The distinction is important. A farm like Sia da Torre, for example – on Priscilla’s itinerary – is part of the Mantiqueira de Minas cooperative (“Tradition and vanguard in producing rare and surprising coffees”). Staffed by six sisters, the fourth generation of family ownership, Priscilla describes their coffee as “really tasty – full of forest fruits with a silky body”. And because Sia da Torre is part of the cooperative, their organisation and infrastructure will be set up to those means: a premium paid to the cooperative in return for provisions, supplies, training and for relationship with exporters and roasters. A mutual partnership of positive trust and support.

The self-sustaining model

In contrast, the single estate (such as the Cachoeirinha Estate of Pocos de Caldas, also part of the tour) has its structure built from the ground up. The farm exports its own coffee, its production protected by its nature. In Cachoeirinha’s case, they supply some of the larger roasters in North America. Priscilla explains that the improving profile and conditions of Brazil’s single estate farms is clear from their production: “Pulped natural was initially a premium, as recently as 15 years ago,” she tells us. “Now a single estate can do a pulped natural as a standard coffee.”

However, many single estate farms across Brazil still retain relationships with their local cooperatives. They are not without problems, of course. Priscilla tells us that climate and unpredictable rain seasons are the chief concerns at Cachoeirinha, for example. But their setup does not require cooperative protection. Instead, Priscilla explains, their premium acts as a “philanthropic gesture by the owners to help the surrounding farms develop.” This means the coffee-producing culture and stability of the local region are maintained and nurtured, and thus the benefits are shared. Likewise, developed processes and traceable, higher quality coffees coming from Minas Gerais only inspire wider interest and focus on the region. The surrounding farms are important to each other’s production habitats in a natural symbiosis.

In other words, they are not just competitors.

Clearly, the future of regional Brazilian coffee lies in this inter-relationship of its farms and producers of different sizes and profiles, and Minas Gerais is showing others the way.

For more information on DR Wakefield’s fantastic line of Brazilian coffees, including Daterra’s superlative range, head here.