I have lots of exciting stories to share about my trip to Brazil. My knowledge of coffee has improved significantly in such a short space of time, mainly through visiting a hugely diverse range of farms and mills. From the smallest growers, to the technological giants; I was privileged and humbled to see them in person.
Our experience driving from south of Minas Gerais to Mogiana and Cerrado was incredible! We went through about 3000Km of beautiful scenery and met some amazing people along the way; however, the part of my journey that I would like to recap starts with a precious piece of land owned by the Cambraia family. Fazenda Samambaia (and Engenho da Gloria Estate) in the south of Minas Gerais State is the origin of our largest component in our popular East St blendWe have arrived in Santo Antonio do Amparo town, in the south of Brazil’s famous Minas Gerais state.
There we met Fabricio, manager of Sancoffee and Samambaia (I’ll explain about each later). We first met Fabricio back in April 2016 whilst attending the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) conference in Atlanta and then again in March this year when he came to Australia with the BSCA (Brazil Specialty Coffee Association). A group of Brazilian producers visited Perth to present their coffees and convey their history to us at a special event here at Dimattina Osborne Park; it was at this event that Fabricio and San Coffee made a lasting impression.
Five months later and we’re back with Fabricio, this time on his turf, Engenho da Gloria Estate. The best way to describe this part of Brazil would be as a countryside paradise. The environment, the smell, the trees and birds, oooh! It never ceases to amaze me how contact with nature nourishes my body and soul!
The guest house in which we stayed was rebuilt in 2003 keeping the exact same layout and some materials used in the 1857 original but (thankfully) with modern facilities. This traditional design is completely in-keeping with what I would describe as “coffee farm times” in 19th century Brazil.
The air of tradition and sustainability is a welcome addition to our coffee hunting experience and is a common theme across Sancoffee’s farms. After lunch we head to Samambaia farm. Samambaia has been owned and operated by the Cambraia family since 1896. Henrique Cambraia, a 4th generation farmer, has been working tirelessly to maintain the high standards of quality, sustainability and consistency practices that Samambaia has become known for.
Henrique also takes an active role in promoting his coffees around the world through long-lasting direct trade relationships. Sancoffee is a cooperative that connects a select group of growers, of which Samambaia is one, with specialty coffee buyers around the world. The cooperative is comprised of no more than twenty members so as to prioritize customer service and the direct relationship with coffee roasters.
It’s this cooperative model that has allowed us to facilitate a functional direct trade relationship with Brazil. Samambaia farm is made up of 3 main plots of land: Campo alegre, Samambaia and Condominio.
The land is located in Minas Gerais’s south and features a unique microclimate that Henrique is looking to certify as a micro region called “Campo das Vertentes” due to its distinctive positive characteristics for growing Arabica coffee. We were lucky enough to experience a spectacular sunset while we were there; a must-do when visiting the mountainous region in the south of Minas Gerais.
During our visit Fabricio took us to numerous plots that each featured different coffee varieties. The varieties they produce are: Yellow Bourbon, Catucai, Yellow and Red Catuai and Catigua, but they also produce: Topazio, Acaia, Mundo Novo, Obata, Sabia, Icatu and have a nursery that is home to 75 different varieties from all over the world.
All Sancoffee’s seeds are kept in an IAC lab so are legally developed and will be available for sale in 2019/2020. Our second day at Engenho da Gloria Estate started with a delicious breakfast at the guest house before we headed out to Sancoffee’s lab, warehouse and mill.
Fabricio explained all of their processing and traceability methods (videos) before we dived into a cupping session! They had some nice, clean blenders (coffee suitable for blending with other coffees) and also some exciting microlots (high quality coffees that are suitable for showcasing on their own).
One microlot that really stood out from the rest was from Fazenda Guariroba, one of Sancoffee’s members who recently won the 2016 Brazil Cup of Excellence competition. It was very satisfying to taste the latest iteration of our coffee (used in our Easy St blend) from this crop and confirm that we’ve made a good decision.
The coffee is very clean and smooth, sweet, very suitable for Easy St. Also, after having visited the farm and seen first-hand the processing and sustainability, I feel more confident than ever about having these guys as suppliers. Region: Campo das Vertentes (South of Minas Gerais, but close to Alta Mogiana) Varieties: Yellow Catucaí; Topázio and Catuaí Altitude: 950 to 1,200 meters Process: Natural Cup Profile: with nutty aroma and rich body with chocolate notes, this coffee results in a very smooth and sweet espresso.