Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

Brazil 2004 Cerrado Coffee Competition, Coffee Tour

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This small building it the original farm office where his father worked when the farm was assembled in the '40s and '50s. Actually, it was the truck I was ogling, a really nice Toyota Landcruiser flatbed pickup. I could move a lot of coffee bags from the port of Oakland to Sweet Maria's with that truck!
This was the latest purchase to improve quality. It screens the dried parchment coffee, hulls the green seed out of the shell, and removes broken beans and foreign material (sticks, etc.). To bring the farm up to BSCA standards and upgrade the equipment, Tulio had to take out loans. In fact, his brother runs a traditional farm, pulls all the coffee to the ground, and sells it all to the local market. He makes no investment in money, time or effort, and reaps the commercial price. Tulio is trying a 180 opposite approach, producing Specialty grade coffee, and constantly honing his technique. While his brother scoffs, he also keeps an eye on the improvements, and to see if it pays off in the end for Tulio. If it doesn't Tulio will be in a financial hole, and have spent a huge amount of effort for naught. It's up to the coffee buyers to reward Specialty quality with special prices, to make the effort worth it.
There is a beautiful creek on the farm ... a small river I suppose. This is the waterfall (cachoeira in Portuguese).
I just liked the handmade ladders. These are made with wood harvested on the farm, for hand-picking coffee in the taller trees.
Yours truly. I used to think that only Bourbon and Typica would grow this tall. But these trees are the Mundo Novo hybrid and they are huge, well over 3 meters.
Other aspects of the farm are telling: this is a town adjacent the farm. Some, but not all of the inhabitants work for Tulio. It was originally a town plated by the church, but all the lots were filled. Tulio then set aside a portion of farm bordering it to provide more lots. If an employee works 5 years, they are given a house lot that he/she owns permanently, allowed to use the timber from the farm for construction, and given a discount on all building materials.
This is the original church in the town. There's a meeting hall too, and I liked the loudspeakers mounted on top!
This is not the most exciting aspect, but Brazil has very strict employment policies. Every employee has a "work passport" with photo ID. Before hiring, and employer must provide 3 months of sick pay up front as, in essence, a down payment to the government for future benefits. There are minimum wages, sick leave, maternity leave, vacation days ... all protections you would expect as an employee in the US.
Every employee also has a photo documented benefit form, with an accumulated retirement benefit. On top of this, Tulio offers employees a "share" in a part of the farm. If they want, he will assign to them a portion of the coffee land to care for and harvest. They get to keep/sell the harvest from this portion as they see fit. Several of his employees have used this extra income to buy nearby coffee farm land. The program allows employees to become coffee producers, to learn the trade from this perspective while using all the implements and needed supplies of the farm, then to end up owning a small coffee farm. It's somewhat of a traditional practice in the area, but purely optional on Tulio's part. You find this sort of attitude toward social equality in Brazil, and while I am not saying Brazil is without bias and problems, this is really amazing to me.
I am a big fan of big bamboo, timber bamboo. When Maria and I finally have a house with a yard, we will have lotsa bamboo. I was seeing scatterings of it in the hills of Minas, and getting all excited. Tulio said I should wait till I got to the farm - there was plenty of bamboo there. He wasn't kidding. Here is an example. This is a sort of timber bamboo hedge his father planted. The scale is hard to comprehend - those are about 70 feet tall!
Another oversized Brasilian item, the anthills. That first one I photographed was a toddler next to this one. I am average height, 5'10". That gives you an idea of the height! Like I said, these are quite hard, like sandstone.
These are Acaia arabica flowers. Coffee blooms all at once. Cerrado has one big flowering, other areas can have 4-5. Sul de Minas has 2-3 but you can see here that the bulk of it is at one time. You'll see in the following pictures that we were at the farm a day or two before flowering. It is like an explosion when they open. The fragrance is so delicate, and it looks like snow has fallen over the farm. This cultivar is Catucai - a cross between Catuai and Icatu.
Tulio is a character. Between him and his main guy, Wagner, it would hard to tell who works for who. He doesn't know it, but whether it is stopping the car to pick trash out of the bushes, or stopping to pull some weeds (above), he is intimately involved in the everyday operation of the farm. Later on, Tulio was breaking off particular new growth branches because they weren't "correct" for the development of the tree.
Here are two views of the immanent flowering. On this branch, you actually had a couple flowers come and go (they fall to the ground a few days after blooming). You can see the little nubs where flowers have fallen in a small "first flowering". This is where the coffee cherry will develop, 1 cherry for 1 flower. If you go back to look at the ripe cherry on the tree, you can see the circular scar on the end of the fruit - that is where the flower dropped off!
And here is a full branch of flowers - a reason that farmers can predict how good the crop will be based on the health of the plant and the production of flowers. It's not a guarantee - wind, frost, hail, hard rain - all can ruin a crop. But it is certain that a bad, sparse flowering will mean little coffee for the season.
A typical town in Mogiana area, Sul de Minas. The next day Tulio and I left the farm to drive across the Mogiana coffee growing region, and into Sao Paulo state. I needed to meet Joao Staut, a representative at Pinhalense, to discuss their small sample roasters and other coffee testing equipment.
A remarkably large statue (see the man at the bottom) along the way. It's from a local story about a boy at a farm gate, but heck, I can't remember the rest of it! Once again, postcard material.
Along the road through Mogiana, an old coffee mill. Mogiana is a very old coffee growing region since it is not that far from Sao Paulo and has better altitude that the low-lying coffee areas around Rio and Espirito Santo province
Along the way we came across a crucifix monument, a small chapel, piled with offerings and idols around it.
A detail photo of the collection of offerings.

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