From James McLaughlin, Intelligentsia President and Green Coffee Buyer for Brazil:
Meaningful collaboration between a coffee farmer and a coffee roaster is still a relatively new concept.
Farmers have spent years—sometimes generations—developing farming and post-harvest practices that reflect the climate, geography and traditions of the regions where they live. Roasters, on the other hand, travel to farms all over the world. We have the opportunity to see growing practices and processing systems that have been adopted in dramatically different contexts and taste the impacts those differences make on coffee flavor.
Increasingly, we are seeing an interest among the farmers we work with in sharing their own practices and learning from one another. But this only happens with the kind of deep trust that develops over years of working together and treating each other as partners. This year’s edition of Agua Preta exemplifies that spirit of collaboration.
Fazenda Progresso has been an Intelligentsia Direct Trade partner for the past five years, and is a familiar name to anyone who enjoys our Black Cat Espresso blend. Located in the Chapada Diamantina region of Bahia, the 700-hectare farm sits on a plateau 1,150 meters above sea level. The farm’s infrastructure was meticulously designed and is well cared for, with a robust quality control program led by the experienced cupper Ednaldo Nascimento. Producer Fabiano Borré embodies the type of forward-thinking, quality-focused entrepreneur leading the specialty coffee revolution in Brazil.
For the last few years, Fabiano and I have talked about the success other farms have had with micro-lot programs, innovative drying practices and the infrastructure needed to support it. We’ve shared ideas and pored over countless photos of the post-harvest processing centers we work with around the world. This year, Fabiano rolled out a micro-lot program that is a worthy model for other farms across Brazil and beyond.
Fabiano’s data-driven approach is based on advanced analysis of environmental data (think rainfall, nutrition, diurnal temperature ranges) from each of the coffee plots on Fazenda Progresso to identify those with the highest quality potential. Armed with that information, Fabiano deploys a group of trained pickers who select only red cherry. The crates of red, ripe cherries are not what you commonly see in Brazil and, quite honestly, would be right at home on farms in countries known for the quality of their harvesting like El Salvador or Ethiopia.
After processing the cherry, the coffee is delivered to raised beds arrayed in a brand new drying greenhouse. The design of the structure was inspired by photos I shared with Fabiano of a similar installation used by one of our partners in Costa Rica, but he made several upgrades that substantially improve airflow and drying efficiency. His quality team regularly monitors the temperature and humidity of the raised beds to ensure a slow and uniform drying process. On average, the coffee dries on the bed for 15 days.
This year, Fabiano went all-in with this incredible drying program. He also has a team sorting the parchment as it dries, just like you’d find in East African countries. By removing cracked parchment during the drying process, Fabiano ensures the uniformity of the lots he offers.
The results of Fabiano’s micro-lot program are plainly evident on the cupping table. During my visit, I tasted 12 gorgeous samples that had a clarity of flavor and cleanliness that would have been unimaginable just a year earlier. It would seem that I wasn’t the only cupper impressed by the improvements, as Fazenda Progresso placed 20th in Brazil’s Cup of Excellence competition for pulped naturals this year.
After cupping through numerous samples from Fabiano’s micro-lot program, we purchased the sweetest, cleanest most complex coffee we could find: a 50-bag lot harvested over one week in mid-August on the Manuela parcel of the farm. We are delighted to present a coffee that represents the very best of Brazil, and we look forward to many more years of collaborating with Fabiano and the Fazenda Progresso team.
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Click here for more detailed information or to purchase this lot, the first in our 2018 Agua Preta Brasil lineup.