Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

Brazil 2004 Cerrado Coffee Competition, Coffee Tour

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Bruno and Neto chat while waiting for the break. Neto wore sandals to the cupping; a brave soul since there is so much spitting going on at a cupping.
After cupping - I liked the light in this picture. The contest started with 215 samples submitted, 115 dry-processed and 100 semi-washed. It went through 5 rounds to reduce it to 18 dry-processed and 30 semi-washed, which is where the International jury came in. We reduced to 6 natural dry-processed and 10 semi-washed for the final.
Lunch was taken at the Jamaica restaurant each day. Food in Brazil is, in general, awesome. If you are a vegetarian, you really miss out because all the beef is free range, grass-fed and has fantastic flavor. It's all local and fresh too. Also, the water is safe (I drank bottled anyway). You can eat safely and not worry about getting Moctezumas revenge or other illness.
Outside the Lion's Club hall, there was a family of good sized lizards living on the lawn ... and they don't like their pictures taken. I felt, while trying to get this one, that I alternately chased him, and then he turned and made some runs at me. This fellow was about 18 inches long from nose to tail tip.
Brazil has a lot of very small economy cars, and it is very rare to see an SUV. The tax incentives linked to engine size assure this. I noticed that two identical cars had different names; this one is LIFE, the other is SPIRIT. I guess nonsense words in English are popular with the car companies, just like here in the USA! (After all, my Toyota will never see the Tundra, and Maria's Golf will never be at a golf course!)

The other one.

Can you tell the difference?

Now, here's a car I can appreciate! It's a 1300 cc VW Combi with the curved rear windows. In fact, all VW vans have curved rear windows in Brazil, all through the '70's and the 80's and in fact, they STILL make them.
Patrocinio - this balloon salesman was fighting a strong, dry morning wind in town, then tied his load down and went into the shop for a soda. Do this in SF and you get a parking ticket. But we're not is SF, we're in Patrocinio, a balloon-friendly town.
Noteworthy cultural item: Cachaca (pronounced con-cha-sa). It is booze, and I wouldn't touch it. I'm just not a drinker...But on the last night at the award dinner, I saw a lot of it disappear. It's almost unpatriotic to go to Brasil and not try it. Luckily, my friends there are understanding.
Another favorite of mine is knock-off brands with nonsense English. It doesn't really matter what it says, as long as it looks right and approximates a designer item. This jeans logo was a kicker. "Always Favorite Comfortable To Wear - Di Laurentis - The Best Thing Are The Think We Sell". Maybe that's film producer Dino DeLaurentis, who brought the world Barbarella?
Anyway, back to coffee. The afternoon after our calibration cupping we went to a Cerrado farm, Fazenda Agua Limpia (Clean Water), owned by Sergio de Assisi. It is a great example of the Cerrado coffee production system. I suppose you notice how flat it is. Cerrado is a flat plateau that is a Savanna-like grass land with occasional shrubby trees. Coffee here is grown in spaced rows, like vineyards, and the early pickings are done my machines that knock down only red cherry, and collect them mechanically. Later picking are done by hand.
At this point in the year (early October) the very, very last of the coffee is being harvested while on other parts of the farm the next crop's flowers are emerging.
The very tail end of the crop is never the best coffee, and it tends to be "strip picked" (indiscriminate selection of cherries) and used in lower grade coffee. The reason is that all coffee needs to be removed from the trees, even if the "window" of the harvest is closing. Coffee left on the tree impairs the next crop and also invites infestation by the Broca, the berry-boring coffee insect. The best, most natural Broca control is to pick ripe cherry and process it. On this branch, you see a mix of red, ripe cherry, overripe, and cherry drying on the tree (also a few greens),
When coffee cherry is allowed to dry on the tree (something they can only do in a few regions, like Cerrado) you have a Natural Dry or Tree Dry coffee. Usually it does not dry entirely, down to 11% moisture, so it must go to the patio for a short time. The dramatic change from wet season to dry season in Cerrado makes this possible ... but you can't do it in other Brazil regions and certainly not in places like Central America.
The following are 2 pictures of red, ripe cherry ... many are crimson and some are near overripe. I found the volume of cherry on these trees to be staggering! This set of photos shows Red Catuai, and Fazenda Agua Limpia also has Acaia, a type of Mundo Novo.
Once again, an amazing amount of uniformally ripe cherry. Cerrado has one flowering and one fruiting, where as other regions have 2 crops (main crop and fly crop). Also, Cerrado coffee is irrigated to augment the rainfall a bit, so they can sorta assist nature my stimulating the coffee with water, or by holding it back.
Another thing I have never seen - because of the flat Cerrado landscape, when they go to manually pick the coffee they use these giant supersacks to haul it to the mill. This is a stark contrast to Central America where pickers negotiate steep hillsides with heavy bags loaded with cherry. I have heard of people walking miles to cooperative mills with 60 kg of cherry on their back. Basically, Cerrado is the inverse of Central America fincas in all respects.
This picking is the final "strip" of the tree - everything gets picked, as opposed to the mechanical harvester which will only loosen ripe cherry from the tree. But it is simple to separate the green, the red ripe and the natural dry cherry. You can use mechanical means, or a washing channel where natural dry cherry floats and red/green should sink - then you separate red and green in a "Criba"- a perforated barrel that traps the harder green cherry.
I mentioned the irrigation in Cerrado. The soil here (bright red, iron-rich, acidic, well-draining, lacking organic matter) needs treatment to grow coffee without being quickly depleted. Organic enrichment is used everywhere, but purely Organic coffee production would be a real challenge in Cerrado. Here you see a leaf that has been sprayed with minerals: copper, zinc, borro ... all for nutrition and pest control.
... and here you can see the soil around the trees has been treated with phosphorus. Cerrado is technified coffee. It is not an old growing region ... dating back only to the late 1960s and '70s. Before that, the uses for this land where limited and the main economic activity was cattle ranching and, before that, mining; Minas= Mines. In a way, technified, mechanical coffee production irks me - but there is a lot of counterbalance to my concerns, as you can see when I go to Carmo estate.

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