Brazil trip report – NZ Roaster Guild

Brazil July 2013 – a trip report from NZRG member Henrik Rylev
I had the pleasure of being invited on a coffee tour to Brazil together with a few other roasting companies. I would visit one of the many brokers, their facilities and some of the growers they deal with through Minas Gerais.
After a couple of days stuck in Santos due to a minor mix-up in the travel agenda, which off cause I couldn’t complain about (great weather, great beach, great city) I was ready and amped to start the tour.
It started at Stockler’s headquarters in Santos. After being introduced to the directors, staff and a brief presentation and their history, we went on a tour of their premises. After this a cupping of the various regions was put on. This was to give me a better understanding of the unique taste profiles each region on a whole is renowned for. It was a very interesting cupping session where perceptions were tested and put to rest. I was treated to a lunch at the famous club 22 on the top of one of the coffee houses. This restaurant was founded by the elite of Brazil’s coffee brokers and had a view over the magnificent Ports of Santos. After a fantastic lunch we went back for more cupping where rare varietals and specialty coffees were cupped.

Next morning we were picked up by a minibus and were heading towards the area ofEspirito Santo do Pinhal where we would spend the night. That afternoon we went to see grower Nestor Beli and his family on Sitio Santa Rita who produces natural dried coffee. This farm was categorized as a smaller farm, hence the name Sitio. We were shown around his farm and had a good look at the crop, his cleaning and sorting facilities. Due to the hilly terrain this was all done by hired pickers. The equipment had seen better days; some of it dated back to 1955 but still did the job. After being treated to some home baked bread and roasted coffee we said our good buys and headed back to the town Pinhal to meet up with one of the regional traders for some insight on what they do and how they support the growers in the region. These guys put a lot of effort into this and have a team of agronomists visiting farms and providing assistance. The better the yield and quality the better the price. A win/win situation for all.
We spent the night at the Hotel Pinhal Palace which far from lives up to its name. After an average sleep and then off to visit a processing plant and warehouse.
We were shown around this massive and quite impressive processing plant by the owner, who reminded me of a character out of the TV series Sopranos. An educational insight to how coffee is being cleaned/sorted /screened and stored.

Then it was off to visit Fazenda Santana who specializes in specialty coffee varietals like yellow Icatu, Bourbon and Acaia, natural and pulped natural. All Rainforest Alliance certified. This place had a very impressive and modern setup for processing and storage. There was a lot of attention paid to the drying of the newly pulped natural coffee on the patio which was raked and turned over every 20 min by hand. We were shown through his various crops and finished up at the Hacienda where coffee was prepared and whatever the brew varietal was, it was a nice one. Again some great photos was taken and then on the bus heading for Franca. After another 3-4 hours bus ride, we finally arrived at the hotel with just enough time for a cold beer before dinner.
The next morning we were on the way to meet the owner Antonio Prisa at his Fazenda Santa Terezinha. Again a grower with Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certification. He only catered for Naturals and Pulped Naturals and had invested in new processing equipment and a mechanical harvester. He was a spitting image of Jack Nicholson and even his demeanor was similar. He sorted us out with the now traditional cup of coffee and then we set off to see his crop and processing set-up. This place had built a pump house by a waterfall from where they were drawing water for irrigation and processing. This was again quite an impressive set-up and the quality of his crop was very good. We spend some hours with “Jack” and then headed for lunch. After another massive Brazilian BBQ – all you can eat – buffet, we went to see Fazenda Miraflor. The owner also owned the biggest and brand spanking new processing plant in the region. This place was the most high tech and advanced plant I have seen so far in my travels. Everything was catered for. After the visit we went to the cupping room to cup various samples from the 2 fazenda’s we had visited during the day. Again we were treated to some great coffees which were just what we needed because we were now looking at a 4 hour drive further north to Ipanema Coffee, the biggest Coffee estate in the world situated by the city of Alfenas.
We were picked up by a driver who would take us on a nerve wrecking drive in where we were shown the art of Brazilian progressive and aggressive driving. With an average speed 130 Km/h on some average roads, he was surely on a deadline. We made it and arrived at the amazing guest house “Casa Sede” on the Ipanema Conquista farm at 10 pm. We were greeted by Mr. Ubion Terra and a very patient chef who was waiting with an outstanding 4 course meal prepared. After a nice conversation over the late meal followed by coffee and liquors it was time to get some sleep.
My alarm clock was a bunch of parrots outside my window in the palm trees. As soon as the sun was up they started arguing, so out of bed and time to go for a wonder around the grounds. Situated on a peninsula by lake Furnas, this place was truly amazing with massive cultivated gardens, its own chapel, orchid house and fruit orchard for own fresh supply, which we were treated to by the chef at breakfast. After breakfast we Ubion took us to the head office of Ipanema Coffees for an introduction and presentation. This place ticks all boxes regarding major certifications. You name it – they have it.
First stop was at the nursery. They had 12000 seedlings in each of the 2 shade covered greenhouses we saw. Then we went out to follow the mechanical harvesting of their crop. These harvesters go 24/7 in the harvest period and when you see the area you understand why. It just goes on and on. We drove in and out of crop areas but could not locate the harvesters so after a trip back to factory and a walkie talkie call later we honed down a track between coffee trees and was met by a guy on a dirt bike. He took us through the maze to the area where harvesting was being done. There were only 3 harvesters and as many tractors with trailers to pick up the fruit. Usually there should be up to 10 we were told. What? Yep – this is not your ordinary Fazenda! After a drive on one of the harvesters, we inspected several of their varietals they grow on this farm and then it was time see the processing of their coffees. As before, an impressive setup but here I felt a bit more attention to detail was applied in the sorting and cleaning of the fruit. An hour later it was time to taste and cup all of their varietals and blends. Another huge cupping session was on the way. I was glad to see/taste that the new crop of the coffees we buy from them was outstanding and can’t wait to offer them to the NZ roasters. I left Ipanema Coffees with a “goodie” bag and an experience that would stay with me forever.
Settled in to our Hotel in Alfenas and then it was time for the last dinner and drinks. As we went through the drinks, we all agreed that this had been a trip of a lifetime and a huge educational learning curve. I also had the pleasure to do this with a bunch of really great guys from NZ, Asia and Brazil.