MAIN MENU
Our Mission is to be a socially, environmentally and economically Sustainable Farm - a model that sows the seeds of Sustainability to the Individual, to the Family, to the Business community and to Society as a whole.

Article by Union Hand-Roasted Coffee

Photographer:

We’re extremely lucky to work with producers from the FAF (Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza) farms in Brazil, where our Bobolink coffee and two of our latest microlot coffees are sourced from. To celebrate their release, we want to give you the lowdown on what the FAF farms are, how they operate, and a bit about the coffees.

Firstly, let us quickly explain how Bobolink coffee has come to be produced. Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF), owned and managed by Silvia and Marcos Croce, have spent years perfecting the production of high-quality coffee through environmentally sustainable practice. They’re pioneers of sustainable coffee production and are well-respected by coffee connoisseurs worldwide. The bountiful knowledge and expertise of Silvia and Marcos which attributed to the success of FAF has not been kept a secret, but openly shared amongst coffee farmers in the region. What formed from this shared knowledge is a network of producers who have ventured into the growing exquisite coffees through sustainable agriculture. And it is from a selection of these farmers that Bobolink coffee is born.

Photographer:

So, what is a Bobolink? Bobolinks, are New World Blackbirds that migrate from North America to over-winter in Brazil. The shade trees on the coffee farms provide a natural habitat for the birds and are a symbol for sustainable coffee farming. The bobolink name is used to represent the coffees produced by a network of farmers who have transitioned away from commodity coffee into the production of sustainable speciality coffee.

Our team at Union have been visiting FAF and some of the Bobolink farms since 2010, and have been impressed not only with the continual improvement the farms make in refining their processing and drying techniques, but also Silvia and Marcos’ son, Felipe Croce’s, impressive quality control when cupping the lots.

We asked Marcos Croce from FAF to explain to us a little more about Bobolink coffees:

“We are a network of farmers working together and exchanging information in order to innovate, evolve, and produce some of the most special coffees in the world. Our philosophy is to achieve the highest quality out of each bean while taking into account social and environmental responsibility”

Marcos is also a strong advocate of environmental sustainability when growing coffee:

“Clean water for our coffees, clean water for our neighbours, Clean water for our grandchildren.”

Photographer:

At Union, Bobolink is a very popular coffee as it’s so versatile, rich in chocolate notes with a hint of roasted almond! So - what’s the secret to the delicious flavour?

“Bobolink coffee is grown at some of the highest elevations for coffee production in Brazil. With altitudes ranging from 1000-1400 meters. The varieties are among the highest quality producing Arabica beans available: Yellow and Red Bourbon, Yellow and Red Catuai, and Red Mundo Novo. All coffee is family farmed, working to produce in harmony with nature. Our objective is to create a healthy balance of shade and rich soil, and respecting the habitats of animals and keeping springs and waterways clean”

What we love about Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza and Bobolink coffees at Union is that their philosophy of environmental sustainability fulfils the standards we set in our Code of Conduct for environmental management.

Photographer:

In 2018, the Croce family organised at least 20 workshops on sustainability at FAF and at the different Bobolink farms such as at Sitio Pirantininga. These workshops included talks from experts such as Professor Caligari on Cover Crops, Professor Antonio Carlos Silva on Soil Microbiology and Prof Leonardo Maeda who spoke on correct clean water sources and water sewer systems. They address important standards such as saying ‘No’ to Roundup, a herbicide – and finding more ecological ways of weed control.

We’ve got some great footage of the workshops Bobolink producer have been attending (the videos are in Portuguese, but it will give you a lovely idea of what the workshops look like). Watch here:

Within the network of Bobolink farmers, there are some talented coffee growers ut who have the ability to produce high-quality lots of very limited amounts – these are called microlots. Excitingly for us, Felipe and Rudy, our Quality Manager at Union, have selected two of these lots from the cupping table for our most recent microlot offering!

Valdir Ferreira – natural process – Red Catuaí – limited edition lot

Photographer:

For filter brewing, we selected: Valdir Ferreira, a natural process coffee grown at 1200 MASL. Valdir’s love for nature is reflected in the name he gave the farm: Sítio Joaninha (ladybird).

“Ladybirds are predators in the world of insects and feed on aphids, fruit flies, leaf lice and other types of insects, most of them harmful to plants. Since most of their prey wreaks havoc on crops and crops, ladybirds are considered beneficial by farmers.”
“Despite their usefulness, these insects are threatened by pesticides used by farmers in their plantations, although most species are not considered endangered.”

Celso Minussi – natural process – Red Catuaí – limited edition lot, best served as an espresso

Photographer:

If you want espresso, Rudy and Felipe have selected a coffee grown by Celso Minussi. This natural process coffee was grown at Sítio Nossa Senhora Aparecida, a 21.7-hectare farm located in Divinolândia.

Celso has been a long-standing partner of FAF. Rudy chose this coffee because Celso has always been an early adopter of new practices that promote quality and sustainability on the coffee harvest. He was one of the first of FAF Coffees partners to build his own raised beds, an essential part of producing speciality coffees. He is also eliminating the use of glyphosates such as Round-up, and chemical fertilisers on his farm. You will find him in the front row at all the workshops for new techniques and methods that FAF is introducing to their partner growers, such as moving to green fertilisation and organic treatments for weed and pest control.

Our latest microlots Valdir Ferreira (FAF 1719), Celso Minussi (FAF 1701) and Dohore (Burundi) are available on our website now!

Photographer:

Photographer:

Serão 15 episódios: Nossos cafés da somente à xícara.

O Felipe acaba de voltar da China. Além de pesquisar mercado de consumo, deu um curso de 3 dias em Yunnan, a região onde estão produzindo cafés a 20 anos.

Essa foi a segunda etapa do curso, a primeira foram 15 vídeos online filmados no Brasil ( Faf e parceiros - São Paulo e Espírito Santo) O café foi instalado lá pela Nestlé, que hoje paga preços acima dos outros compradores da região, mas mesmo assim abaixo do custo da produção.

Os produtores, enfrentando muita dificuldade, estão investindo em café especial. Ensinei bastante do que fazemos aqui no Brasil e foi uma incrível troca de cultura e conhecimentos.

Segue um pequeno vídeo dos meus 3 dias em Yunnan: para assistir o video clique aqui.

Photographer:

Produced by Roasters.cc recorded in FAF, Brazil.

Click the following link to watch the video: vimeo.com/295137330/27dcabc13d

Roasters.cc

Photographer:

Photographer:

Photographer:

Photographer:

Our Friends Lari and Petri from Finland wrote this beautiful book telling the FAF story and our dreams for the future.

Photographer:

Photographer:

Why are coffee people threatening to drink no coffee in 2050?

The threat has not been raised in vain. If climate change can not be stopped, coffee is one of the worst sufferers. There is still a lot to be done in order to avoid a sudden sting. 

Petri Leppänen and Lari Salomaa explained the subject on Friday, August 17, in the book " Kahvivallankumous ". The book runs parallel to the flow of data and the story of the organic farm "Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza", and both get information that motivates the revolution. 

Click here to download PDF with translation of the blog from Aromi.

Photographer:

Photographer:

Texto por soyuzcoffee. Original em Russo.

Brasil Mococa.

Adoramos trabalhar com agricultores que escrevem uma nova história de cafés especiais, experimentando o processamento de grãos e criando perfis interessantes de sabor. É por isso que incluímos o lote Brasil Mococa da família Croce, a fazenda Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza FAF, na coleção de monosorts SCR Single Origin Selection.

A fazenda foi construída em 1850 e era uma típica plantação brasileira de café com métodos tradicionais de cultivo e processamento de café. Em 2001, a fazenda foi herdada por Silvia Croce e decidiu transferi-la para práticas agrícolas orgânicas. Croce recusou-se a usar fertilizantes químicos, o que primeiro levou a uma queda significativa nos rendimentos. Para motivar os trabalhadores e ensiná-los a cuidar do meio ambiente, Marcos Croce lhes ofereceu metade do café cultivado na fazenda. Em 2009, o filho de Silvia e Marcos, Felipe Croce equipou um laboratório de café na fazenda para experimentos com diferentes graus e métodos de processamento de grãos. Para gerenciamento de fazenda @felipecroce é adequado não só a partir da posição de um fazendeiro-agricultor, mas também da posição de um corsário e torrador.

Que tipo de arábica você precisa cultivar para obter um saboroso expresso? Felipe dedicou um bom tempo para estudar a fermentação e seu impacto sobre a formação de perfil de sabor grãos e apresenta os resultados de suas experiências em seminários internacionais para torrefadores. No Roaster Acampamento 2017 Felipe leu o relatório sobre a importância de processamento de grãos fermentados, ele disse que é adequado comparar o café especial do vinho, e como ser um produtor de café do futuro. A tradução do relatório para o russo está disponível em nosso blog no link do perfil. E sobre o Brasil Mococa SCR Single Origin Selection, dizemos que é um grande café com notas de grapefruit, avelã e alcaçuz, equilibrado, com boa doçura e encorpado.

Photographer:

Photographer:

Photographer:

Dear FAF team

I want to thank you for hosting our retreat last week.

Photographer:

As an organization, we are very fortunate to have the means to bring 50 people from around the world to a central point. We do this because we believe deeply in the importance of shared experience and values. In the long run, such investments are the most important ones - and essential if your mission is to change the world.

Enveritas’ work involves visiting farms and documenting their sustainability stories. Our team has visited more than 30,000 farms in 10 countries over the past year. This gives us the right to say that what you’ve accomplished at FAF is truly unique and special in the world of coffee. Congratulations for creating a beacon.

We chose Brazil as the destination for our retreat because we wanted to expand people’s imaginations. They traveled from countries where a "large" farm is 5 hectares; for some, it was their first time ever seeing a coffee tree. In Brazil, they saw industrial Conillon farms in Espirito Santo and silos that could hold the entirety of Kenya’s production at Cooxupe.

Those experiences showed them one type of extreme, of what’s possible, and FAF showed them another path. It’s not an obvious path, since it requires cupping water, bringing a string quartet to a farmhouse, and RSVP’ing for a party 100 years in the future.

As I went home on Thursday and reflected on what was so extraordinary about our short time with you, I realized that you’d succeeded in uniting the same values that we strive for (integrity, innovation, impact, humility, collegiality) and imparting them in all that you do. It’s choices like going organic from day one, when surely every agronomist advised you against it. It’s the solidarity you so clearly have with your employees, in a country that I’m told has the most labor-related lawsuits in the world. Those are hard choices but the ones that define you. You’ve created a beacon not just for how to produce coffee sustainably but also for how to build an organization.

I told Nick that he couldn’t have found a better place for a company retreat anywhere in the world. I genuinely mean that. FAF gave us much more than a venue for a three day meeting. It gave us wings and roots.

Thank you.

Carl

Click here to see more pictures

Photographer:

Photographer:

Photographer:

FAF Coffee being featured in Blue Bottle Coffee. Limited Edition.

João Hamilton Red Bourbon Natural

Its origin is known for vast farms that produce dull blended coffees — which make this sustainable, and highly traceable, Red Bourbon a rarity by any definition.

Notes of honey, yellow plum, cocoa.

Click here to know more.

Photographer:

Photographer:

Photographer:

Photographer:
















Photographer:

Felipe Croce at his family farm, Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, in Mococa, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Felipe Croce.

Photographer:

Felipe Croce at his family farm, Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, in Mococa, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Felipe Croce.

Since 1850, Felipe Croce’s family has been producing coffee at Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF), an organic coffee farm located in Mococa, on the east side of the state of São Paulo in Brazil. His mother, Silvia Barretto, became the fourth generation to inherit the farm when it was passed down to her in 2001 by her father.

The Croce family was living in Chicago at the time, and they found specialty micro-roasters in the city that were eager to work directly with farms. Felipe’s father, Marcos Croce, an international trader, began to look for buyers. His mother had a vision for an organic, sustainable coffee business, so they put special focus on consideration for the environment and building strong relationships in the supply chain, while producing high-quality products.

Marcos Croce and Silvia Barretto at Fazenda Amiental Fortaleza. Photo courtesy of Felipe Croce.

Photographer:

Marcos Croce and Silvia Barretto at Fazenda Amiental Fortaleza. Photo courtesy of Felipe Croce.

According to Felipe Croce, FAF was a relatively high-quality and high-producing farm in the 1990s producing around 10,000 bags of washed and naturals sold mostly to Illy under his grandfather. When his parents took it on, they decided to decrease the production of the farm drastically to learn how to adapt to organic practices and higher quality.

Felipe moved to the farm in 2009, after attending Washington University in St. Louis, and ran the farm’s operations from 2009 to 2012. In 2013, he moved to the city of São Paulo and switched his focus to the export company and his lab, while continuing to conduct experiments on the farm. His mother took over management of the farm at that point.

Last year, Felipe resumed a more active role in the coffee production, going out to the farm once or twice per month. He is currently in the process of restructuring all the lots on the farm by making field spacing adequate for mechanization, and choosing the most appropriate varieties in terms of flavor and results.

We asked Felipe to share some thoughts and give his perspective on sustainability, Brazilian specialty coffee, and the growing domestic market in Brazil in the world’s largest coffee-producing country.

Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. Daily Coffee News photo/Lily Kubota.

Photographer:

Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. Daily Coffee News photo/Lily Kubota.

Lily Kubota: What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges for specialty coffee in Brazil?

Felipe Croce: I see huge potential for Brazil to supply the growing demand for specialty beans. However, this will only happen with a radical change in how coffee is done in the country.

On the production side, new varieties need to be studied. Shade and green fertilization techniques need to be implemented to keep temperatures down, humidity up, and soils fertile. The business models of associations and warehouses and the “business language” of coffee in Brazil are archaic and commodity-oriented. Actions are rarely bold enough, and change can seem to take forever. An educational platform for farmers would go a long way to accelerating and solidifying Brazil’s place as a premiere specialty coffee supplier.

As for roasting and consumption, we are positioned to have one of the biggest consumption markets in the world in the next five to 10 years. I see the potential of a brand from origin establishing itself as one of the leading specialty brands globally.

LK: From your perspective, how has the coffee industry evolved in recent years, and where do you see it going?

FC: More than ever, producers are tasting their own coffees with good roasts and proper extractions and beginning to look at their coffee as a beverage. Many producers are starting to roast and increase their income, at least on a portion of their production. There are new regions being ‘discovered,’ and farmers and roasters are establishing relationships. Change is slow at first, but as specialty culture begins to gain traction in producing regions, it will take off.

Until around 2010, the only two coffee varieties planted in Brazil were Typica (arrived in 1727) and Bourbon (arrived in 1840), or derivatives of these. Now, more and more farmers are experimenting with different varieties. At my farm, for example, I have more than 30 different types of Coffea Arabica genetic material.

On the consumption end, the interest in specialty coffee is growing I am seeing specialty cafes packed with 18-to-35-year-olds, from San Francisco to Melbourne to Seoul to Paris to São Paulo. Coffee is in with young people, and it’s only getting better.

LK: You are also are involved with the retail side of coffee. When did you decide to open a cafe?

FC: I started roasting in São Paulo in 2013 partly to have an excuse to spend more time in the city, but also because of a genuine passion to convert Brazilians into ‘good coffee’ lovers. I have been extremely fortunate to be supported by an incredible team of dedicated people, and we had always dreamed of opening a shop to showcase what we do.

In 2015, this was accelerated by the invitation of a well-known entrepreneur by the name of Facundo Guerra, who is known in São Paulo as the ‘King of the Night’ from his nightclub, bar, and restaurant endeavors. Facundo had taken over a space wedged between a tunnel and a bridge, which had been abandoned for 78 years, just meters away from MASP (Museum of Art of São Paulo), the most iconic building in the city. The space was coined Mirante 9 de Julho and became a cultural center for arts, music, cinema, gastronomy, and coffee.

Although we are involved in all aspects of coffee, we focused on serving delicious coffee and kept our communication as simple as possible, calling it Isso é Café (This is Coffee), because we knew the public was not ready for too much information in the beginning. We gained a strong following and good reputation. Our second shop opened in May of 2017, in what is perhaps the next most iconic site in the city, Beco do Batman (Batman Alley), where the most unique and diverse graffiti in São Paulo is found.

LK: What are your future plans on the retail side?

FC: In a bold move, we have decided to close both (profitable) cafes to open a 400-square-meter all-in-one roastery, export office, cafe in the city center. We have decided, in fact, to stick with only one retail space and bring our three entities farm production, export team, roastery/café closer together. The new space will have a cocktail bar and kitchen, which we want to use to highlight ingredients from our farm and surrounding areas, including pigs from one neighbor and cachaça (Brazilian sugar cane distilled alcohol) from another neighbor.

LK: What have been the most valuable or influential resources that have helped you learn about coffee?

FC: Being a sponge. My father always said, if this is what you want to do, then go and learn from the best. From 2010 to 2012, I spent half of the year on the farm and half of the year abroad somewhere learning, working, and trying to expand my network. I spent time with the likes of Tim Wendelboe, Johan Eckfeldt, Mike Perry, Mark Dundon, Russell Beard, amongst other industry legends. I also read a ton and visited as many farms as I could. Each person has something to teach you, but the best in the business just have something natural in them something about their vision gave me a North Star.

LK: From your perspective, what are the most critical aspects regarding sector-wide coffee sustainability?

FC: We need to make sure that knowledge and opportunity are spread equally across the supply chain. I hope that access to good seeds, the market, and information will become more widely available to small farmers and small business owners, so that we don’t see too much control concentrated in the hands of a few.

Three Questions with Felipe Croce

LK: What inspires you most about coffee?

FC: The challenge. The challenge to increase soil fertility, improve water quality, increase production, and run a profitable business at the same time. The challenge to ensure that each cup tastes great, while the bean flirts with death on any of the dozens of steps involving dozens of people on its journey.

LK: What troubles you most about coffee?

FC: Having patience. Things on the farm take time. We must be patient when it doesn’t rain, and when it does rain. Things don’t always go as planned. Not all espresso comes out perfectly. We must have patience with the process.

LK: What would you be doing if it weren’t for coffee?

FC: Real estate. I once did a mentorship program in real estate back in Chicago and found the business fascinating. It has a similar nature to coffee in terms of mixing creativity, risk, and long-term thinking. Something about the fact that it is real, tangible brick and mortar is incredibly sexy to me.

Photographer:

Photographer:

FAF Coffees roasted by Isso é Café @ Dinner prepared by star Brazilian chefs, for French chef Daniel Boulud’s visit to Brazil!

Photographer:

São Paulo has developed an appetite for exotic new tastes

by Andres Schipani and Lucinda Elliott

Against a backdrop of coffee and sugar production and a long tradition of absorbing the cultures of migrants from all parts of Brazil, as well as from Africa, Europe, the Middle East and east Asia, the history of São Paulo can be told through food.

Worldly paulistanos argue that you can eat as well in their city as you can in New York, and often better. São Paulo, as Brazil’s biggest consumer market, underpins a thriving and ethnically diverse culinary scene that lies at the heart of what today across much of Latin America amounts to a gastronomic explosion — and all involved are hungry for more.

Here four leading exponents of São Paulo cuisine explain the arts behind creating fine food for all parts of the menu, from snacks and starters to mains, dessert and coffee.

They have one common goal: for people from Brazil and beyond to see just what the country is capable of producing.

 
Jefferson Rueda: We need to stop and recognise where our cuisine was born © Ricardo Lisboa

Photographer:

Jefferson Rueda: We need to stop and recognise where our cuisine was born © Ricardo Lisboa

A Casa do Porco

Pork was always a part of Jefferson Rueda’s life as he grew up in a rural part of São Paulo state. He began as a butcher, developing a passion for making sausages and cold-cuts, then ventured into finer cuisine.

After giving up a job two years ago at a Michelin-starred restaurant in one of São Paulo’s wealthiest districts, he opened his own restaurant. The pork-only A Casa do Porco has proved to be a success in the grittier city centre.

Nearby, and to bring quality pork to those on a tighter budget, he has also opened a hot-dog restaurant, Hot Pork.

“What I want is people to feel welcome, whether they are buying street food or eating at my tables. Only 5 per cent of the population can access my tasting menu. What about the rest? “ he says. “Spending 15 hours a day inside a kitchen, discovering ingredients, travelling the country just to bring dishes to the wealthy would be selfish.

“People want to eat better, but generally cheaper food in Brazil does not have quality. We need to get better at this — we have to look at the basic things our country has to offer and serve that. We cannot erect a house without foundations.

“We are at a time when we need to stop, breathe and recognise where our cuisine was born. Each Brazilian region has its ingredients that must not be missed. We are what we eat.”

 
Mélanito Biyouha: People want to taste new things. I have to bring African tastes to local palates © Ricardo Lisboa

Photographer:

Mélanito Biyouha: People want to taste new things. I have to bring African tastes to local palates © Ricardo Lisboa

Biyou’z

Centuries of the slave trade made Brazil one of the most African countries outside Africa. But despite African culture’s roots in the country — and the occasional words of Angolan or Mozambican-accented Portuguese heard in some cities — good, original African restaurants have been rare.

Enter Mélanito Biyouha, a Cameroonian who arrived a decade or so ago with a mission: to open a restaurant specialising in food from her homeland and its neighbours — but with a Brazilian twist.

“My cuisine attracts a lot of curiosity,” she says. “Of course, there are those few who come to my restaurant to kill homesickness, either theirs or that of their ancestors. There are those who tell me, ‘My grandmother and my mother use to cook this.’ I have had to adapt a little from what I have inside me, from what is natural in my culture. If I keep making a dish with fufu paste, polenta and rice, people get tired.

“We make dishes in the African way but with ingredients [from] the market. Dessert in Cameroon, for example, is not a thing — we just have fruit. In Brazil, everyone tells you no matter how much they are discovering your gastronomy, they must have a sweet. So I created a dessert made of cassava. It is sweet but with a little acidity. People want to taste new things. I have to bring African tastes to local palates.”

 
Vivianne Wakuda: I am using less sugar to make other flavours come through © Ricardo Lisboa

Photographer:

Vivianne Wakuda: I am using less sugar to make other flavours come through © Ricardo Lisboa

Viwakuda Patisserie

A pastry chef and third-generation Japanese Brazilian, Vivianne Wakuda specialises in traditional oriental desserts. She mixes French techniques with local ingredients. Her specialities include matcha chiffon cake and dekopon tangerine choux cream puffs. Being one of the world’s biggest sugar-producing regions, São Paulo has a very sweet tooth, but her reduced-sugar offerings are introducing Brazilians to a more oriental style of dessert and healthier eating.

“I’m using less sugar to make other flavours come through,” she says. “Japanese ingredients are varied and subtle, from miso caramel to ginger paste. So far, no one has come to me saying my cakes have something missing. The global movement towards a healthier lifestyle supports my Japanese way of cooking.

“Being able to sell a product that moves with the times is key. By replacing some ingredients that have become very expensive in Brazil like matcha [Japanese green tea leaves] with green shiso leaves, cultivated here, I keep costs down while establishing my own entirely Brazilian-Japanese cuisine. It works.”

 
Felipe Croce: We are giving people a chance to taste things they have never tasted in their lives © Ricardo Lisboa

Photographer:

Felipe Croce: We are giving people a chance to taste things they have never tasted in their lives © Ricardo Lisboa

Isso é Café

A Brazilian of Italian descent raised in the US, Felipe Croce blends the life of tattooed barista with hands-on coffee grower. He has two speciality shops in São Paulo, both called Isso é Café.

Brazilians, he notes, never really had an admiration for coffee, which was largely produced for export. But in recent years there has been a new sense of appreciation of it among locals. Croce’s sustainable farm and his coffee houses aim to teach them to savour what is grown on home soil.

“The best version of any product should be consumed where it is produced,” he says. “For years we drank poor-quality coffee, with the very best shipped abroad. Today we are opting to taste the more acidic or sweet-sour notes of a better quality version.

“São Paulo is becoming a city that loves coffee. There is a wealth not yet exploited here, and we are beginning to look inside for ingredients made in Brazil. I think we are developing a new relationship with food and drink, making the most of it while having a purpose. People love experiences and we are creating an environment where [there is a] chance for people to taste things they have never tasted in their lives.

“People from all over are here — there is a pulsating energy in every neighbourhood and expressions of gastronomic culture. Brazilian culture brings riches from others. The scene is as progressive as it is unique.”

Photographer:

Photographer:

Click here to watch the teaser.

More at Bora Fermentar.

By Jessica Wolf and Tara Watkins, 1000 Faces Coffee

Photographer:

Most people travel five minutes to get their coffee, we traveled five thousand miles to get ours.

Tara, production manager extraordinaire, and myself, Portuguese-speaking barista, were sent to Brazil to choose from the year’s harvest for our 2018 offering of Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza coffee, lovingly known by 1000 Faces regulars as FAF. Not only was this our first coffee-buying experience, but our first visit to a coffee farm. From the moment we arrived in São Paulo, our fellow coffee buyers and the FAF representatives told us that our experience was not going to be characteristic of most - FAF is a unique coffee farm.

Founded in 1850, Fazenda Fortaleza has remained a part of Silvia Barretto’s family for generations. When Silvia inherited it in 2001, she converted it into an organic farm and added an integral word to the farm name, dubbing it Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (Environmental Fortress Farm). The move to organic and sustainable practices was a ten-year process. It took five years for the plants to start adjusting, then another five years to rebuild a sustainable coffee crop capable of supporting the farm. During that time, Silvia used bees and cows (both milk and meat) to support the farm. She also implemented permaculture practices. All these methods were unusual for a Brazilian coffee farm. Silvia continues to pioneer innovative projects on the farm and within the Mococa community. Her husband, Marcos, and her son, Felipe, have taken over much of the coffee business.

Felipe started working professionally in coffee at a roaster in St. Louis during his college years. After graduating, he returned to Brazil to manage and live full-time on the family farm. “Many farmers have not tasted their coffee properly expressed,” he states, meaning the producers have not drank their coffee roasted and brewed for an optimal cup. He noted that experience has taught him to work backward, thinking from the roasted bean, ready to be ground and brewed, all the way back to the seed. With this in mind, he asks questions such as: “What will this coffee be used for: filter, espresso, etc.?” or “Which varietal should I plant considering the weather patterns of recent years?”

Felipe went on to tell us that the past several years it has been raining a lot in May, so let’s work backwards from that. If we don’t want our cherries to be ripe and ready to pick in that rainy month, we’ll look for a varietal (i.e. O Batã) that ripens later, in the end of June. We’ll also seek out a fertilization technique that delays the maturation of the coffee. The goal is to start harvest during the cherry stage at the end of June. June is the coldest time of the year, so the cherry stage “hibernates.” The longer the fruit is on the tree, the more sweetness and density it gains, extending the hibernation period. The hibernation period allows more time to pick the cherry at its prime stage- rewarding the producer with greater quantity and quality.

Before a cupping session, Felipe guided us to an area where he is growing test coffee varietals, endemic and non-native. He is curious to see which ones flourish and under what conditions. He has established a coffee lab to experiment with different coffee varietals and methods of processing, roasting and brewing.

Photographer:

The FAF team has two coffee labs: one at the farm in Mococa and the other, FAFstudio, in Marcos’ childhood home in the city of São Paulo. Upon our arrival in Brazil, Tara and I went directly to the FAFstudio. We met Felipe, Wago and Nelson, important FAF players. Bags from roasters worldwide who use FAF beans lined the tops of cabinets and shelves. Admiring the array of bags, we noticed many cited Silvia Barretto as the owner. It was inspiring to see a female farmer being acknowledged! With pride, we spotted our 1000 Faces bag. It was fun to poke around the studio. Music was booming and jokes were exchanged between Rafa, roasting, and Bernando, sorting beans, for Isso é Café. Yes, we were in a different country (truly a different hemisphere), but the feeling of personality, energy and camaraderie in the space was reminiscent of our 1000 Faces production area.

Isso é Café (This is Coffee) is the roasting brand Felipe started in collaboration with FAF and FAFstudio, as well as the name of their two cafés. Nelson took us to one of the café locations at the entrance of Beco de Batman (a celebrated long alley full of ever-changing graffiti art) in the heart of the bohemian Vila Madalena neighborhood. It is a streamlined and modern, yet inviting, space. We sat outside under Ipé trees, Tara with an espresso, myself with my first-ever affogato (a scoop of vanilla ice cream in espresso - Hello heaven!), and soaked up the atmosphere. Those who work at or frequent 1000 Faces often remark on a special feeling they have about the space. Simply put: its got soul. Soul is notable in both the Vila Madalena spot, and the other Isso é Café location at the historic Mirante, directly behind the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP).

The next day, we headed off to the farm, located in Mococa, about 300 kilometers north of the city of São Paulo. Tara and I were accompanied by two other green (unroasted) bean buyers, Ángel and Charlie. Ángel has coffee in his blood. When asked how he started in coffee, Ángel said there was no start; it was always a part of his life. His great grandfather bought their family coffee farm in 1890 in his native El Salvador. Ángel moved to France for university and ended up working in Bordeaux at Belco, a green coffee importer and distributor. Charlie is from Oakland’s Blue Bottle Coffee Company. He began working in the coffee world at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago ten years ago, and is now the green bean buyer for Blue Bottle. He travels all over the world picking the best coffees for the specialty coffee company. Working alongside them could have been daunting, but Ángel and Charlie were open to questions and supportive of furthering our coffee education. It was exciting to embark on this coffee journey with these two knowledgeable, friendly fellows.

When Tara and I found out we were going to Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, we tried to prepare for our task ahead. We participated in more cuppings at the roaster, with an emphasis on our FAF coffee. But no amount of cupping could prepare us for our first experience in a professional cupping room. The cacophony of slurps alone was enough to intimidate! At our first cupping table we had twelve different beans to sample. We circled around the table, first smelling the dry grounds for fragrance, then the wet grounds for aroma. Next came the ceremonious breaking, in which one takes a spoon, cracks the surface of the grounds and stirs slowly three times. All the while, one’s nose is right near the cup, bringing to mind a wine connoisseur swirling their glass and angling their nose for a good sniff. The timer hits the twelve-minute mark –let the tasting begin. The room is silent except for slurps and the spit. (Can you imagine swallowing all that coffee? We have special spit cups for all that.) As we rotate around the table tasting the different coffees, there are many attributes worthy of attention: uniformity, acidity, balance, aftertaste, body, taste notes, and sweetness. After some ten minutes, the discussion commences. Each person shares his or her evaluation of each coffee. It was remarkable to hear Ángel, Charlie, Felipe and other professionals voice their thoughts. They had upwards of ten descriptive words that beautifully characterized the coffee in ways I would not have imagined. Often after a highly specific taste note (caramelized orange blossom, for example) would be called out, I’d grab my spoon and take another sip, thinking, “ Wow, there it is!”

Tara and I absorbed the coffee: its smells, its tastes and the exchange regarding it. It was surreal to share this experience with these coffee experts. They have spent anywhere from a decade to a lifetime in the coffee world and articulate the nature of the coffee clearly and eloquently. Cupping was a big part of our trip - in some ways the most important part. We were there to pick the coffee for our beloved FAF for 1000 Faces and its community of coffee lovers. We took the role seriously and enjoyed learning in the process.

The 100+ cups we sampled in our cuppings weren’t just grown on FAF land. Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza works with ninety farms, sixty within their region, to source their coffee and guide them with organic or sustainable management. “It is about changing your life model, not just your business model,” remarks Felipe. Brazil is the largest coffee producing country worldwide. FAF is a forerunner of the movement to change the Brazilian coffee mentality from focusing solely on quantity to focusing more on quality.

Photographer:

We visited various producers on their farms in the surrounding valleys. One afternoon, we visited a large piece of land shared among three siblings and their families: Gertrude, João and Ivão.

First, we met Gertrude. Her family shifted to producing specialty coffee ten years ago and started collaborating with FAF seven years ago. I asked her how she felt about the change to specialty coffee. She responded that it is a lot more work but definitely “vale a pena,” (worth it). It makes more money for her family, especially since the price of commercial coffee has decreased. She was proud of the two coffees the family offered us, curious to know our favorites, declaring with fervor that hers was O Batã.

After eating bolo (cake) and polvinho (like a Cheeto, but without the cheese flavor) and drinking lots of coffee at Gertrude’s, we hugged goodbye and drove off to her brother João’s farm. Felipe parked the car and out we hopped, spotting a large boulder in the middle of the coffee plants, a waving João on top. We waded through the coffee plants and climbed up a ladder to join him. He welcomed us with coffee and bolo perfectly set up for taking in the stunning sunset that started to sweep across the landscape. As we gazed out and sipped, we also listened to João. Felipe turned the translating role over to me. João described how not too long ago people were ashamed to live on this land and wanted to leave. Now, working with quality coffee, he and others greatly value quality over quantity, not only because he can make more money but because it is an investment in their land for future generations. He spoke of the return to the forested land of before: rich terrain, clean water and land without threat of poison. “Agora,” João said expressing his pride in the land, “esta terra é uma fuente de orgulho.” It reminded me of Felipe describing one of the primary goals of FAF: maintaining the biodiversity and integrity of the land. More bolo, coffee and conversation awaited us at brother Ivão’s, where the same sentiments were expressed; sentiments that continued to echo with all the farmers.

Winding down the roads in the valleys of Mococa, it is easy to get lost. And maybe we did get turned around a couple of times. But the next day, Felipe led Charlie, Tara and me to the farms of various other producers buried deep in the valley. We met Celsus Menuse, who joked about telling the humidity of a coffee bean just by shaking it. He has been a supplier of 1000 Faces coffee for nine years. Next we met Seu Adonis, a 70-year-old farmer who is always enthusiastic about trying novel ways to make the best quality coffee possible. “It’s a lot to be working with so many farms” Felipe states “but by doing so it allows quicker innovation than just sitting on your own single farm.”

This was our favorite part of the FAF trip, having the opportunity to meet with all the producers and hear directly from them about their lives. FAF had clearly cultivated a community of coffee producers. There was a strong, trusting connection between Felipe, FAF and these other producers who might otherwise not grow specialty coffee, not know how to run a sustainable or organic farm, or not profitably source their coffee without the network.

FAF is intertwined with the Igaraí-Mococa community. The farm provides jobs for many people in the area related to coffee, farm upkeep and hospitality. Simone, the roasting queen who prepares all the sample roasts for the many daily cuppings, was born in the very house the cuppings take place! The Barretto-Croce family offers to fund a large portion of university tuition for each of the children of their workers. Silvia works in female empowerment projects in the community, including embroidery of tablecloths and placemats to generate independent income for women.

For our last delicious lunch, visitors from São Paulo who were coordinating the second annual São Paulo choral festival in the region joined us. FAF was an important base for this festival last year, and will continue to be this coming January. In the last year alone, they have offered seminars on rural Brazilian architecture, astronomy and foraging nonconventional plants to eat. Sandor Katz, food fermentation author and expert, just headed a seminar on yeast and coffee this past weekend. FAF always wants visitors with different expertise and curiosities to foster an environment of learning and innovation. All are encouraged to participate in the conversation.

One morning, Tara and I woke up early to do a little exploring of Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza beyond the cupping area we had come to know so well. We ran into Marcos, who encouraged us to join him as he embarked on his daily morning walk. As we walked deeper into the farm, we ascended the dirt road, passing cows, until we reached the peak of the hill. We were surprised with an expansive view of the farm, its valleys and peaks that stretch on and on, sprinkled every once in a while with the vibrant yellow of the Ipé tree. Marcos guided us into the active organic section of the coffee farm. There were rows and rows of coffee plants. In between these rows, plants such as banana trees kept the soil fertile, controlled the weeds, and added to the diversity of the farm’s crops. FAF also practices passive organic farming: the traditional method of growing coffee in the forest.

The best coffee sold from the farm comprises only 30-35% of their total coffee. Labor is expensive in Brazil, so there is no selective picking during harvesting. Five to thirty percent of picked cherries are green, depending on the time of harvest. Every bean is picked, then separated to undergo various processes (i.e. natural, washed, fermentation). Natural and washed were processes Tara and I were used to hearing about. Fermentation, especially through our Athens lens, conjured up pictures of kombucha and kraut, not coffee. The fermentation process can be applied to green coffee cherries, ones that are harvested before being optimally ripe. They are sorted out carefully so as not to interfere with the processing of the ripe, quality cherries. These green cherries normally would not taste good. But with some science and innovation, they can be processed for a good taste or as a useful ingredient.

Felipe has been experimenting with the fermentation of coffee for a while. He notes fermentation makes the coffee cleaner, enhances the flavor, increases shelf life and improves homogeneity of the coffee. Fermentation applied over a period of time continues to increase the quality of the bean until it hits a stopping point. With just the mucilage on the cherry, fermentation cleans up some nuttiness and increases quality up to a stopping point of twenty hours. Adding sugar, however, allows fermentation to last up to 72 hours, giving more time for an increase in quality. Fermentation continues until it uses up the available sugar. Implementing different variables, Felipe wants to find the best fermentation techniques for making the most out of all the green coffee cherries.

At the end of the trip, Charlie, Wago, Rafa (a coffee producer from Espírito Santo) and I gathered at FAFstudio back in São Paulo to participate in a cupping of Felipe’s fermentation innovations. He had conducted numerous tests, playing with variables such as: aerobic or anaerobic fermentation, the amount of time, and additives like wine yeast or sugar cane juice (from his mother’s farm).

The coffees that had been fermented were from seasons past; coffees one would not normally brew up to drink. Felipe wanted our opinions regarding body, acidity, lengthening of shelf life, and most importantly, whether we liked it. Off we went again, sipping and spitting. Some spitting was noticeably more fervent after particular cups. Apparently, some variables had not produced an enjoyable coffee. Surprisingly though, a fair number of the fermented coffees were good. And some of them were even great! It was quite incredible when you consider the possible usage of these now tasty beans. Many products use coffee as an ingredient. A major one is pre-packaged coffee drinks that are almost equal parts coffee and milk or other flavorings. Using these beans would in no way diminish product quality, yet prove far more financially and environmentally sound. Felipe was utilizing coffee that normally would taste mediocre (or not be used at all) and executing this fermentation process. It has the possibility to substantially reduce coffee waste. This final cupping embodied two overriding principles of FAF: to conscientiously make the most of what the land offers and to innovate through experimentation, study and knowledge exchange.

Photographer:

On our last day on the farm, Ashley, a WWOOFer at FAF, had guided us to the shade grown coffee area. It welcomed us with this sign, meaning: “Nature is wise and fair. The wind shakes the trees, moves the branches, so that all the leaves have their moment to see the sun.” This reflects the mentality of Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. The FAF family not only includes Silvia, Marcos, their son Felipe and another son and daughter. It encompasses those who work on the farm, in a coffee capacity or otherwise, other coffee producers with whom they work, those from the FAFstudio and Isso é Café, and the surrounding community of Mococa. We at 1000 Faces have been part of the FAF family for nine years, and with each cup of coffee served our family grows.

Immerse Yourself in Coffee and Fermentation

There’s nothing quite like a day on the farm… now imagine an immersion in the company of people who love what they do, connected by their passion for fermentation, living this unique experience together… and all of this accompanied by the taste of wonderful coffees and meaningful conversations.

Want more?

During these two days of intense conversation and shared experiences we will visit: the Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF), the Morro Azul Farm, and we will be honored to welcome at FAF, the owners of Santo Antonio da Água Limpa and Canaã Farms.Each place has a unique terroir and products, and we will learn about them all directly from each passionate producer and creator. We will taste: artisanal cachaças, NCFP (nonconventional food plants), special coffees, cheeses, and a lot of fermentedproducts. In fact, all that is good ferments!

To close the deal, we have included a conversation circle with Sandor Katz - the Fermentation Guru.

Everything that is worth eating…ferments!

Photographer:

A bit more about our program:

December 12

  • Welcome lunch prepared by Chef Felipe Cruz from La Marina Restaurant.
  • After introductions, an unforgettable tour through the various coffee plantations at Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF), led by Felipe Croce and Marcos Croce, who are really passionate about the place and its history.
  • In the afternoon, we will meet Flávio, who will talk about his studies of the production of artisanal cachaça. The setting is Morro Azul Farm, home to the Casa de Engenho cachaça, which has received awards in Brazil, Belgium, Portugal, and France.

December 13

  • Rise and shine! Enjoy the Yoga and Meditation area that will be available for you.
  • After breakfast, join us for a wonderful tasting of the fermented coffee experiments at FAF, guided by their creator, Felipe
    Croce.
  • Next, we are going to know the private utopia of João Neto of the Santo Antônio da Água Limpa Farm, the location where the unique cultures and ingredients for our lunch, including the NCFPs, are harvested.
  • In the afternoon, we will take a walk around other coffee plantations on the Farm, guided by Felipe and Marcos Croce.
  • After two amazing days, we will have the much-awaited conversation circle at a special setting, with the extra-special presence of Sandor Katz, the Fermentation Guru.
  • And, to bring our experience to a perfect finale, we will have a delicious pizza dinner, with ingredients harvested on the same day at FAF. Everyone will have a chance to get their hands dirty!

December 14

  • After a delicious breakfast with FAF products, it will be time to break camp.
 

Accommodations

Everyone will have the opportunity to stay at Fortaleza Environmental Farm, whose mission is to be a model farm in terms of social, ecological, and economic sustainability, sowing the concept of sustainability among individuals, families, companies, and society as a whole.

Photographer:

The farm is in operation and, in addition to the coffee plantations, has several other activities such as the production of milk, cheese, banana and honey. It is not a hotel, but is well know for its tradition of hospitality since 2004. We are happy to host our guests in rustic remodeled colonial houses and in our historical 1879 main house.

Photographer:

Interested?

Come be part of this unique experience, where you will leave behind a bit of your story and take many other stories home.

Instagram: #BoraFermentar

When: December 12 to 14, 2017.

Where:

  • Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF), District of Igaraí, - Zona Rural, SN - Mococa, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
  • Distance from São Paulo: 270km (168 miles, approximately 3.5 hour drive)

How much:

The price for this Experience is:

  • BRL 3,000.00 (All inclusive, individual or shared rooms)
  • BRL 4,000.00 (All inclusive, suite)

Special accommodations for couples. Contact us for more information.
If you’d like to stay at the farm longer, please tell us and we’ll make the  arrangements.

Photographer:

How: Contact us at – cafesefermentos@gmail.com

How to get there:

Exclusive van – BRL 200

Leaves 8:30 AM – Dec 12, 2017 - FAF Studio – Praça Horácio Sabino, 22 – Pinheiros – São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Returns 2 PM – Dec 12, 2017 - FAF Studio – Praça Horácio Sabino, 22 – Pinheiros – São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Arriving independently (about three-and-half hours by car)

Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) - Igaraí District – Rural Zone, SN - Mococa, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Out-of-towners:

If you’re not from São Paulo, please contact us for more information on the best places to stay in the city.

 

References:

FAF - http://www.fafbrazil.com/

Fazenda Morro Azul - http://www.bobolinkcoffee.com/Coffee.asp?op=FPartner_MorroAzul20150814

Fazenda Santo Antonio - https://fazendasantoantoniodaagualimpa.com/

Sítio Canaã - http://www.bobolinkcoffee.com/Coffee.asp?op=FPartner_Joao&Ivan

Sandor Katz - www.wildfermentation.com

Chef Felipe Cruz - https://www.facebook.com/rest.la.marina/posts/161897333978538

Photographer:

Vivência na FAF de fermentações, PANC’s, Cachaça e café, de 12 a 14 de Dezembro, com os professores Sandor Katz (fermentação), João Neto (plantas alimentícias não convencionais), Flavio Salles (cachaça) & Felipe Croce (café).

Para mais informações contato - cafesefermentos@gmail.com

Bora Fermentar!

Over Thanksgiving week, 4 faculty members from the University of Minnesota Crookston paid an exploratory visit to FAF in preparation for bring students from their departments on trips next year and in the future.

Photographer:

Charles Lariviere (Agriculture Business), Eric Castle (Horticulture), Leslie Lekatz (Animal Science) and Kim Gillette (International Staff) all spent 3 days at the farm learning about Organic Coffee, processing and cupping as well as overseeing the dairy, honey and banana operations. The visitors were impressed with FAF’s modern take on traditional and sustainable farming methods and for all of them it was exciting to see how coffee is grown and sent to market. They also spent time checking out the accommodations the students will be housed in next year on their visits.

Photographer:

FAF was the last stop on a busy week of exploring the country with Campus Brasil, an international education facilitator specialized in expanding experiential learning opportunities across Brazil. FAF prepared a special Thanksgiving dinner including turkey of course with all the trimmings!

Photographer:

Photographer:

by Noah Sanders

Photographer:

Andrew Barnett.

Photographer:

Andrew Barnett.

 

The recent story of San Francisco classic La Boulange has been a rollercoaster of trial and tribulation. Five years ago, coffee mega-monster Starbucks purchased the 23-store Bay Area chain from founder Pascal Rigo. The plan: incorporate Rigo’s beloved pastries into Starbucks’ cafe system, while expanding La Boulange into a 400-location mega-chain all its own. In 2015, after three successful years (Business Insider says Rigo’s pastries helped increase Starbucks’ food sales by a respectable 16 percent) Starbucks announced they’d be closing the doors on every La Boulange in existence. They’d keep Rigo’s recipes, but shutter his once-beloved cafes. Rigo, consummate entrepreneur that he is, didn’t linger on the closure, he just started opening new stores. Deemed La Boulangerie de San Francisco, the six new shops (with more opening over the course of the next year) look and feel like what came before: tasty, approachable food and pastries paired with well-made coffee. And if this was the end of the story, Bay Area residents could walk away feeling like San Francisco’s can-do attitude had scored another victory. But, there’s more.

In early July, La Boulangerie de San Francisco announced that all of their current and future shops would soon be serving coffee legend Andrew Barnett’s Bay Area-based Linea Caffe‘s coffee. For great coffee in the Bay Area, it’s a victory, a pairing of one of the city’s cherished eateries with one of its best coffee purveyors. For Linea Caffe, it’s an expansive step into the future.

A year ago, Barnett started talking with La Boulangerie about providing his beans—specifically their single-origin Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) Brazil—to the newly reinvented chain. “As an outsider,” Barnett says, “I’ve been fascinated by their story. I liked their products, their baked goods. And they’re local, which appealed to us.” What it came down to though was a meeting between Joao Hamilton and his team, the coffee producers behind FAF, and La Boulangerie. “Right away, it was a good fit,” Barnett recalls, “a love fit, just a really good mesh.” La Boulangerie will serve the coffee as both a FETCO batch brew and espresso.

Photographer:

Photographer:

It isn’t just personalities and philosophies that meshed though. Barnett sees the “approachable” aspects of Linea’s coffee clicking right into place with La Boulangerie’s extensive food program. “Our coffees are very sweet to begin with,” he says, “the chocolaty, caramel-noted flavor resonates with a broad audience.” To Barnett, his coffee is a good entry point, a delicious flavor that won’t overpower La Boulangerie’s delicate pastries.

“FAF Brazil is enjoyable on a broad spectrum,” he says, “It’s approachable, but not dumbed down.” To maintain the consistency of flavor at the chain’s current six shops, Barnett and his team have instituted an “ongoing training process” where every three weeks his team will cycle through the cafes, ensuring that the high standards of Linea are being met. So far, Barnett thinks it’s going smashingly. “When our team goes in there,” he says, “the coffee is tasting great. They’re keeping a real straightforward approach and it tastes delicious.”

Over the next six months, La Boulangerie will open three new spaces in San Francisco’s bustling Financial District and another in Oakland’s hip Rockridge neighborhood. Linea Caffe will be served in each and all of them. And though La Boulangerie is a new plateau in terms of Linea’s wholesale program, Barnett sees it as a product of several years of hard work. “We’ve been scaling for four years as a company,” Barnett says, “so we can grow and add value to larger companies. We have the staff and the production capabilities now to branch out and partner on whole new wholesale level,” he says, “But it didn’t happen overnight.”

For Barnett, as happy as he is for the partnership, it won’t change their approach to wholesale, or their philosophy as a whole. “Our focus is adding value to the accounts we work with,” he says, “We see our accounts as business partners. We don’t want to be someone who’s browning beans and sending invoices.” Barnett will continue to run his small cafe in The Mission while seeking out “best-in-class” partners to serve his coffee.

In terms of La Boulangerie though, Barnett seeks something simple, “I hope someone comes into La Boulangerie,” he says, “driven by the sandwiches, the pastries—their great food in general—and walks out saying ‘this coffee is really delicious.’ I hope La Boulangerie and Linea together can exceed their guests’ expectations.”

La Boulangerie de San Francisco has multiple locations across the Bay Area. Visit their official website.

Demand rises for a higher priced and higher quality product

by Andres Schipani, Financial Times

Daily grind: Felipe Croce has two speciality coffee shops in São Paulo and hopes to challenge the lacklustre reputation of his nation's beans ©Dado Galdieri.

Photographer:

Daily grind: Felipe Croce has two speciality coffee shops in São Paulo and hopes to challenge the lacklustre reputation of his nation's beans ©Dado Galdieri.

As the sun rises on a crisp morning, Felipe Croce kneels down to cup a handful of washed icatu amarelo coffee beans and holds it to his nose. “It smells alive,” he says. “I let nature do its thing.”

He is seen as eccentric in Brazil, the world’s leading coffee producer and one of its biggest drinkers. According to Mr Croce, Brazilians still think of coffee as a commodity, something sold by weight, rather than quality, and that affects overseas perceptions. “There’s a stigma against Brazilian coffee,” he notes.

With consumers becoming more interested in the origins of coffee beans and the conditions they are produced under, Mr Croce is determined to change all that through a business he and his family are developing.

Their base is the Ambiental Fortaleza farm, which dates from the 1850s and is located in Mococa in the north of São Paulo state. Here they harvest, dry, bag and export their premium quality coffee, as well as source beans from nearby growers who produce to similar standards, and ship their product worldwide.

An adept user of Instagram as a promotional tool, Mr Croce is a blend of barista and hands-on grower. He has two speciality shops, both called Isso é Café, in the São Paulo megapolis, where he roasts and sells coffee and offers workshops.

A rising number of outlets like his have spurred Brazilian demand for higher quality and higher priced coffee than the country is normally associated with. Farmers keen to cash in on the premiums are producing more quality coffee, while improving their financial, environmental and working conditions.

“Sustainable does not mean spending more money,” says Nelson Carvalhaes, president of Brazil’s coffee exporting council Cecafé. “It means optimising the process.”

“Everyone thinks of Brazil as massive, factory-like fazendas (estates or farms) being sprayed from the air,” says Mr Croce. “Actually, most Brazilian coffee comes from small farmers.” Indeed, according to IDH, a Netherlands-based sustainable trade initiative, most coffee farms in Brazil are family-run and with an average size of 7.5 hectares.

Brazil’s National Coffee Council says that of a total of 330,000 coffee growers in Brazil, 280,000 are small farmers. At the World Coffee Producers Forum in Colombia in July, it noted that Brazilian growers had “doubled the volume produced in a sustainable way” from 25m bags in 1990 to 50m bags by last year.

Photographer:

Photographer:

Mr Croce’s passion hails from his ancestors. Down his mother Silvia Barretto’s side, coffee growing goes back five generations. His father, Marcos, has his own Bob-o-Link coffee brand.

“Being sustainable does not mean ‘organic’,” says Marcos. “It’s the full circle: one has to be financially sustainable, environmentally sustainable, socially sustainable and spiritually sustainable.”

Kim Ionescu, chief sustainability officer at the California-based Specialty Coffee Association, says Felipe Croce “has a vision for a sustainability index or scoring system that could be applied to coffee farms globally”.

If he succeeds, it will signify “a shift in power and authority toward producers that will have ripple effects beyond Brazil”. Usually, she adds, it has been the buyers “setting the terms and definitions of sustainability standards”.

Beans from the Ambiental Fortaleza estate are sold in some of the world’s top speciality houses whether from Tokyo to Berlin or San Francisco to Oslo and are very much part of coffee’s socalled “third wave”. Broadly, the first dates back to the 19th century and the appearance of mass produced coffee on virtually every US kitchen table; the second to the mid-20th century espresso bar; and the third to the rise in greater coffee connoisseurship from around the millennium.

When, in 2002, the Ambiental Fortaleza farm changed its model from bulk to organic as a first step to sustainability, it struggled. “It took us 12 years to turn this fazenda around,” says Marcos. “We almost went belly up.”

The farm has an abundant supply of fresh water from 42 natural springs around its 800 hectare expanse, much of which is forest and cattle grazing land, with some also devoted to beekeeping. Of the select 37ha planted with coffee, “we just come here to prune and to harvest”, says Felipe. No “boosters” are used, he adds, with reference to herbicides and pesticides.

There is no need for them, he insists. “Fungi eat bugs, bacteria eat other bacteria. We play with shade and light to make the most of photosynthesis . . . for the plants and the soil. It’s like being a drug addict, you take the drugs out the boosters and, at first, you lose output,” he says. “You have to be patient, methodic.” The estate has about 20 farmers living on site and another 15 nearby. Daniel De Andrea Marciano, aged 25, has been working and living there for almost a decade and earlier worked on other coffee farms.

Not having to work with such “poison” as fertilisers makes for much better conditions than on coffee farms that use them, he says. Plucking red coffee cherries, he says sustainability “is important”. Those in charge give lectures about it. “Unlike other places where I have worked, they are thoughtful,” he says.

Last year, the sustainability standards group Iseal released a report on farm wages in neighbouring Minas Gerais, Brazil’s largest coffee producing state. While the prevailing wage for farm workers was about R$1300 ($415) a month, a living income for workers on coffee farms was put at nearly R$1630.

At Ambiental Fortaleza, Mr Marciano earns a 30 per cent premium over Brazil’s minimum wage of R$937, though with health insurance and such expenses as housing, water and electricity covered by his employer, this in effect increases his income to about R$2000 a month. Felipe Croce says he is developing an app called “Tip the Farmer” to boost incomes. The aim is for customers around the world to have the option of sending a 10 per cent charge over what they pay for a cup of coffee to the grower’s bank account. This would “incentivise the farmers to become more sustainable”, he argues.

Simone Assis, 35, who works in Ambiental Fortaleza’s coffee laboratory, was born on the estate and educated in its own school. She has become an award-winning barista, giving tastings on the farm itself, and supervises quality control for its exports“from the seed to the cup”.

She says: “It is about environment, quality of life, respect for each other. But we still have a long way ahead to convince the rest of the people.”

Photographer:

Photographer:

Photographer:

In what’s likely good news for San Francisco’s coffee and pastry-loving populace, Linea Caffe’s award-winning beans are now being sold at all six La Boulangerie locations. To be more specific, La Boulangerie is selling Linea’s single origin coffee from Fazenda Ambient Fortaleza (FAF), a brand sourced from a coffee farm in Brazil that’s been around since 1850. Thank Linea’s coffee guru Andrew Barnett for the connection.

Photographer:


Fatal error: Maximum execution time of 15 seconds exceeded in D:\Web\Sites\2015_FAF\presentation_articles.php on line 8