Name: Fazenda Irmas Pereira
Region: Southeastern Brazil
District: Carmo de Minas
Location: Minas Gerais
Nearest Town/Centre: Carmo de Minas
Average Annual Rainfall (mm): 1700mm
Altitude (masl): 1075-1229
Drying Method: Sun
Harvest Method: Handpicking
Main Harvest Season: July-September
Varieties: Yellow Icatu, Yellow Catuai, Yellow Catucai, and Yellow Bourbon
In 1971, Antonio Andrade Pereira Filho and Maria da Conceição Costa Pereira decided to invest in a farm of 90 acres in the city of Carmo de Minas, Minas Gerais. Antonio planted the first coffee seedlings and the couple started a family, raising two daughters: Maria and Maria Rogéria. Eventually the two women took over the running of the farm, along with their husbands, ushering in a new generation of coffee producers. With the eventual passing of Antonio, Maria and Maria Rogéria decided to continue running the farm together. Thus they changed the name of the farm from Serrado to Irmãs (Sisters) Pereira, ushering in a new spirit to their coffee production.
Irmas Pereira is perched in the high mountains of the South Minas Water Spa Circuit, near the towns of Lambari, Carmo de Minas and São Lourenço. The estate boasts great altitude, climate and dedicated management and workers. The coffee bushes grow in fertile mountain soil at altitudes ranging between 3,500 and 4,000 feet. These high altitudes favor slow ripening of cherries and permits selective picking; both decisive factors in producing exceptional coffees.
The estate utilizes top quality processing equipment: a state-of-the-art wet mill that recycles and reuses waste water, paved drying patios, mechanical driers and wooden silos for coffee to rest. However, the combination of these tools, combined with the exceptional climate and advanced agronomic techniques, would be wasted without the personal dedication of the estate’s owners and commitment the well-qualified team of approximately 35 employees.
Special Preparation: Sweet Shower
Sweet Shower is one of the methods of Irmas Pereira’s exclusive program called New Flavors®. It consists in a controlled fermentation of shelled coffees. It’s almost like a twist in the typically Brazilian Natural method in which the cherries are left overnight into a tank filled with very cold water for for about 15 hours.
This is what allows a controlled and soft kind of fermentation to happen. The cold water avoids the full and unwanted fermentation of the coffee beans. After this period of being submerged in cold water, in the morning, the coffee is put on an African bed and stays there for 14 days or until it reaches the desired humidity level. The coffee is kept in their dry shells until 16 days before it’s prepared for trading or for a competition like the CoE Brazil – Naturals, in which we achieved the 2nd place with a sample from Fazenda Irmãs Pereira processed in this method.
Sweet Shower results in a very sweet coffee with fruity notes, caramel sweetness, pleasant citric acidity, soft velvety body and a smooth aftertaste. You can find this special preparation coffee on CCS’ current offering list.
Background to Carmo de Minas
Although coffee is an old commodity in Brazil, over the past 10-12 years, the country has been showcasing its very best coffee and it has only been in the last 7-8 years that coffee in the Carmo de Minas municipality has been particularly noteworthy.
Carmo is one village among twenty in the Mantiqueira region, south of the Minas Gerais county, in Sul de Minas. In the same way that Burgundy is an important name in the French world of wine, Carmo de Minas has become a destination in the Brazilian coffee world. Some of its distinction can be attributed to topographic and climatic conditions, but as always, there are people engaged – from picking coffee cherries to processing; both crucial to the quality of the product. People make the difference.
Although many of the farms in this area have won awards and garnered attention in recent years, there have not really been radical changes in farming and processing methods. Not even in terms of picking. We believe that the area has achieved its status with a little bit of luck, good growing conditions, good plant material – mostly Bourbon – but otherwise quite ordinary craft. However, good coffee has come out of all this and as a result, Carmo has experienced a “clean sweep” in Cup of Excellence competitions. But the quality can be even better, as well as the amount of the best coffee increased.
Jacques Pereira Carneiro represents the new generation in Carmo. Together with cousin Luis Paulo (who currently is president of Brazil Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA)), he runs the coffee export firm Carmo Coffees. These two men represent a 5th generation of coffee farmers and they collectively oversee 12 farms and 6 processing stations – altogether owned by their Pereira family. This family is also members of the cooperative Coca Rive, which offers its members courses on taste evaluation, distribution of fertilizer and storage facilities. Coca Rive has 400 members and is the smallest of the smallest cooperatives in the Carmo region, with its 8000 coffee farms. Previously Coca Rive worked almost exclusively with commercial coffee in this area and a few years ago it was a challenge to fill even one container (300 bags) of specialty coffee. Last year Carmo Coffees sold 150 containers of coffee over 80-points. We at CCS expect true specialty coffee from 86-points, but know that this proportion is also increasing in Carmo.
Carmo’s reputation is so well established that there is an ever-increasing demand for more coffee of their quality. Carmo Coffees does not just work with its own family’s production; it works hard to provide coffee from farms outside the family’s, including coffee from other districts. Pedralva, for example, is just a few miles from Carmo de Minas and many of the farms here are good, with altitudes up to 1400 meters above sea level. The work now is for a few farmers to push the idea of working a little differently to achieve better quality. With higher prices in the specialty coffee segment comes the motivation to do better than before. According to
Jacques, this change can be facilitated, but the first challenge is to pick a technique. On top of this are the added associated costs. Historically, the picking technique has been picking the coffee bush clean (stripping) during one picking and one harvesting season. Most people do this and even use partially mechanized equipment to do the job, which is more time-effective. But to get the sweetest coffee, you have to pick the sweetest, ripest cherries.
Minimum wage has increased to about $500 per month and although this is a low salary on any scale, these wages mean that the work of selective hand-picking coffee cherries represents up to 2/3 of the total cost of coffee production, even when coffee is sold at a 100% premium over commodity coffee.