From Colombia, onto Brazil . . . . flying 6 hours across the continent; across the great Amazon rainforest, down into Sao Paulo.
From Sao Paulo airport I’m met by Athos & Isaltino, who I’ve known for 12 years now and we spend the 4-5 hours car journey back high up into Sud de Minas reminiscing and catching up on family, business and football.
I stayed 5 days in the small town of Machado, visiting farms and farmers, and it was joyful.
Initially with the Caixeta family on Vira Mao Fazenda (farm) – the whole family were there, we ate together, talked, laughed, walked the farm and chatted about the new exciting future they are investing in there. New varietals being planted, new trees (40,000 already!) which should give healthier larger crops in the coming years. Isaltino’s brother Ivan has moved back to live on the farm, so they will now work together to really develop the farm, improving the coffee further with new plants, better selective processing, and new dryers. An overall reignited passion and commitment to this farm, which will now provide a lot of our Brazilian coffee going forward.
It’s been a great relationship for more than decade now and it was an absolute joy to see them thriving not only financially but thriving as a close extended family.
A good crop last year means a reduced crop this year as trees recover, so questions being asked here as well as Colombia what that means for global supply and therefore coffee prices.
Staying in Sud de Minas, but moving more to the sitios (much smaller, remote farms), I linked up with Demilson and Herico from Legender, again long-term friends in this part of the world, with a wealth of coffee experience, and a passion for these rural communities and the coffee they produce.
First to Jacutinga, to visit Osmar and his family up by the waterfall where we have been buying coffee for the past 5 years. But they weren’t home, so we abandon the car on the rough track and hike up 350m into the fields to find Osmar and his family picking at the start of this years harvest. After pushing through the branches and getting to them, only then are we cautioned to ‘look out for snakes!’
The view is incredible as always and they were so pleased to see us. I felt like we were interrupting but they were so welcoming, and even didn’t get mad when I dropped some of their picked coffee trying to sift it. We stood in that beautiful scenery telling stories, chatting, laughing, picking coffee and reaffirming our commitment to buy their coffee, whilst encouraging them in their attention to detail and quality of their work.
It’s hard, hot work for long hours in the fields, and they care so much about being selective and drying it well as a natural processed coffee – they deserve to be paid well and to have a sustainable future for their family. Diversification of crops will help, but maintaining long-term relationships, commitment to buy quality and fair prices are where we can play our part.
We also visited Posses community, Lavrinha and Serra Negra where we hope to be buying smaller lots in the future. Paulo, higher up at 1250masl is growing a new variety – Arara – a sweet yellow cherry offering a different flavour profile whilst also being more hardy and resistant to disease. We’re excited to cup this from the first harvest later this year.
Leopoldo lives with his grandmother, and is a creative character managing bee-hives and investing in processing on his small family farm. Ian was the first foreigner to ever visit their farm. Despite being a humbling experience for him it didn’t stop him enjoying coffee roasted traditionally over the fire, with cake.
This trip reminded us and reinforced our passion for people, for doing business
well and the highest of values, true and honest relationships; and reminded us that certain facts and knowledge can’t be gained without being there, seeing it first hand and having conversations face-to-face. Opportunities and understanding would simply be missed.