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Our first stop was Fazenda Primavera and Fazenda Matilde, two farms belonging to the Atlantica export group, with whom we’ve started working over the past 18 months. As is fairly common in Brazil, we took a small private plane to an area around an hours flight north of Bello Horizonte – what is unusual is that Primevera has its own (if basic) runway! Here we saw a clearly well cared for pair of farms, around 20 minutes by road apart. Of particular interest were several areas shaded by Mahogany, plus the ‘African’ raised beds for drying the coffee – uncommon in Brazil, but not the last we would see during our trip.
Next we visited Fazenda Dutra which is run by the Dutra Brothers, Walter & Dinho – both absolutely charming and friendly people, as well as serious agronomists. The hilly nature of their land makes it feel more like a Central American location. Really good altitude for Brazil (1300m) means that trees necessary as windbreaks, in turn, also provide shade cover. We could feel subtle differences in temperature as we made or way to the very highest lots, and could see the striking effect this has on the maturation of the coffee – ready to harvest cherries at the (slightly) lower altitudes compared to still green and forming cherries the top. This is a farm that has to employ people to hand pick the coffee – far too hilly with lots that are too small for mechanical harvesting.
We also spent two days at the world renowned Daterra Estate, a farm I have wanted to visit since getting into coffee. The Daterra Estate is pioneering in its continued investment in research around agronomy, processing and sorting. Much of the equipment at the farm is the first iteration of such kit, built in partnership with the manufacturer. The evidence is in the cup and we tasted some great variety. We also learned of some micro-lot projects that we would certainly hope to be a part of in the future, as well as continuing our current superb relationship.
Despite the scale, mechanisation and size of estates that people may think of as ‘typical’ factors in Brazil coffee (which in some respect take the ‘romance’ out of coffee production), to me it’s about two things: the people and the coffee in the cup. The people who work, push and progress the industry ultimately produce a better cup of coffee, and they’ve got an awful lot of (very good) coffee in Brazil.