Brazil, 2013 – Day 1
The first day started off at 8AM (after a 12hr flight), when my plane landed in Sao Paulo. Luckily I flew into Brazil with one of the hosts of the trip. We met up after going through customs and getting some Brazilian money. Walking outside, we met up with our guide, Marcello. We hailed a cab and took off for the regional airport to get onto a smaller plane and fly into the coffee growing region. Our last participant of the trip met us on the plane to Cerrado. After waiting a few minutes for the plane’s cargo hull to be unloaded, we hopped in the Volkswagen Crossover Vehicle and took off for a two hour ride to our first coffee farm.
Driving to the first farm was almost overwhelming with all of the country side to take in. We passed fields of coffee, sugar cane, and forests of carefully trimmed eucalyptus trees. The small hills with perfectly planted rows of coffee trees reminded me of the corn fields infamous with the Midwest. Where are the mountains? Where are the Volcanos? And, how are we driving 120kph? This was obviously going to be a different experience than my last trip to Guatemala or my trip prior, to Costa Rica.
We pulled up to a large dirt road and slowly got off the highway. Looking around I realized we were surrounded by 12 – 14ft coffee trees. This was very new to me, as hand picking requires the trees to be cut to a max of 7 – 8ft. In Brazil, most farmers use machines to harvest the coffee, which allows them let the coffee trees grow to full maturity. I finally felt a sense of familiarity when we pulled up to the processing plant. They use similar machinery, patios, and labor as other coffee producing countries.
After a brief introduction to the farmers and staff, we headed inside the office to have a look around and take care of the most pressing issue of the afternoon, having an espresso. While drinking the espresso we discussed the farm’s varietal (very extensive list), processes, and certifications. The owner then invited us to participate in the harvesting taking place at that moment. Another vehicle awaited us as we trekked farther into the farm to find the coffee harvesting machine. In the distance we all saw a plume of dust and started to hear a loud mechanical noise. This was something new! The machine stood around 20ft tall with a large shoot that reached to a cart pulled by a tractor in the next row’s opening. Do you want to take a ride? YES! I climbed the ladder and rose above the tops of the coffee trees to take in an amazing view of the entire farm. We rode the machine to the end of the row then got back into the truck and headed towards the processing facility.
Again, the processing facility looked very similar to those of other coffee producing countries with a few exceptions. With all of the coffee coming from this farm being dry or natural processed, there were no fermentation tanks or regular depulpers. They used a shake table and screen sorter to grade the beans. After sorting the dried green coffee beans were stored in large bags that hold one ton in weight. These bags are what most producers use, as most have gotten rid of the burlap bags typically seen at origin.
With a new look at how coffee is grown, picked, and processed; we packed back into the car for the drive to our home for the next couple days in Patrocinio.