Back in Carmo II, July 2012

The day is over (at least the part of the day with natural light). The sun sets earlier here than in Oslo and the night is young. The rain began just after lunch and the clay-like soil on the farms make the roads slippery and almost impassable. But we still made it up to Fazenda Sao Benedito today. The farm is known from Cup of Excellence and is one of the crown jewels of Carmo de Minas. Sao Benedito grows mostly Bourbon – yellow and red and production is about 10 containers per year (i.e. about 3 000 bags). This year it is estimated that the production in Brazil will go down due to climatic conditions, but it is also because of cyclical causes. A good production year typically follows a bad; the coffee bush taking a “sabbatical” and coming back stronger next year, so to speak.

Interestingly, following Carmo de Minas district’s own cycle often proves the opposite of the country’s tendency, which means that a moderate production year in Brazil often means a good year in Carmo. For coffee prices, this means that when the country as a whole has low production and prices of Brazilian coffee skyrockets in the world market, Carmo experiences an extremely good year and can sell their coffee at affordable prices. Price dynamics in the specialty coffee market now exhibit more and more pricing layers than in the commodity market. It’s a trend we welcome! We want to pay a good price for good coffee from a good place and from a team of good people. It’s only fair!

Sao Benedito is a good place. The farm’s coffee bushes are arranged smoothly around the top of a hill, one of the many hills dotting the landscape in Carmo. The terrain is more rugged than in many other coffee regions in Brazil which creates microclimates from farm to farm and even within the same farm. Research done at an agronomic university, here in Brazil, has found distinct differences in sensory attributes of natural processed coffee grown on different slopes within the same farm. Some in the coffee industry have believed this to be true for some time, but now there is evidence. Presumably one would think that coffee cherries with the longest period of development give the most interesting flavour profile but the results are opposite.

Earlier this year I participated in a blind tasting at this university and was surprised that I preferred the natural coffee coming from  coffee species with typically lower acidity and grown at low-lying areas on farms. In other words, the exact opposite of growing conditions you’d want for washed coffee. The natural I preferred was very clean with fresh fruity attributes and exhibited a far more balanced mouth feel. It was this type of coffee that won the Cup of Excellence coffee auction for the naturals category this year. Most of the winners were from Carmo de Minas, farms of Jacques’ and his family, which I am here to visit now.

Visits to fazendas like Sao Benedito, Santa Ines, Sertao and many others of the family’s farms date back to our very first meetings with Carmo Coffee in 2005. On tasting sessions this morning, it was particularly a Sao Benedito lot that stood out as a favourite, and we are tasting coffee from many more farms tomorrow. The main purpose of the trip is to see what they do on the farms during harvest and to learn more about how processing methods of the best lots of natural coffees lead to the great results in the cup. We want to introduce a coffee of this processing method from Brazil that is extraordinary. (Most of the coffee drunk in Norway, in industrial mixtures at least, comes from this processing method in Brazil. But it always tastes so rough and inelegant.)

Now it is evening and dinnertime. Then, a delicious espresso in the Jacques’ and his wife’s new coffee bar. Good Evening!

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