Cerrado Mineiro is one of the largest coffee producing regions in Brazil, with the farmers being some of the friendliest people I have ever met. My colleague Josh and I had the pleasure of spending five days in this region, where we had the best time with the people of Brazil. I’ve always wanted to visit countries outside of the United States, and Brazil was the perfect start. These people were so kind and whole-hearted that I couldn’t keep up with their hospitality.
This trip first started as an opportunity to have Josh and I create something beautiful with our cameras. Fortunate enough for us, we had the pleasure of creating beautiful relationships from not only Brazil, but the entire world. The Specialty Coffee Association hosted an amazing trip, containing dozens of people from all across the world to experience what Brazil does best.
The highlight of my trip was meeting Jovin from Tanzania. Being the only Q grader in the group, I couldn’t help but to observe and study him as he participated in the cuppings. Jovin challenged my sensory throughout the trip, asking what I was able to identify in the coffee that we tasted throughout the trip. Our conversations transitioned from serious discussions, to un-relenting laughs. His humor made me comfortable and his presence inspired me to be as humble as him. He once told me, “Nose always knows,” as I had trouble identifying the aromas in the coffees.
Aside from Jovin, we were joined with people from all parts of the coffee industry. From coffee producers, farmers, manufacturers, distributors, baristas, and even national champions. The diversity of our group showed me how people from across the industry come together to experience coffee with one another no matter their background. Everyone relies on each other, and everyone has an important role. I can’t speak for everyone, but my trip was an eye-opener.
Being accepted into these farmers homes was a huge blessing. From family farms to large producing farms, everyone came to us with huge hugs, and lots of booze. I have never loved a group of people so fast, it was like meeting your long-lost cousin for the first time since birth. Getting to talk with someone with such a similar passion, it starts to become a discussion on who loves coffee more. I’ve learned that people aren’t in coffee for the money, but because of the passion. A career like this doesn’t end up successful unless it is from the heart. I saw nothing but passion and love towards the farmers, and I can’t wait to make my way back next time. We had group discussions, presentations, endless cuppings, social dinners, and even karaoke in the middle of the farms. The experience was unforgettable, but it will be something that stays locked in my heart.
I came back to the café with a new mission, to share the experience with the customers and get a better understanding on what specialty coffee is and how much these farmers deserve recognition and value to their coffees. Cerrado Mineiro is one of the many coffee regions around the world where farmers can share their passion of making coffee into a community, source for conversation, value to the world, and love.
When I first heard that I was traveling to Brazil with my colleague Nicolas Tanaka for the SCA Origin Trip, I was overflowing with scenarios of how this trip could play out. The anticipation immediately started to build up. I can say without a doubt; this trip was more than I could ever imagine.
After twenty-nine hours of traveling we found ourselves on the door step of Belo Horizonte. We got a lift to our hotel in the city by the convention center where International Coffee Week was being hosted. It was late as our NASCAR/Uber driver flew through the city’s speed limits and traffic. Clinched teeth, I could see the city lights as if the mountains were blanketed with candles. Jetlag set in and we called it a night. When we woke the next morning, we were introduced to the rest of team and headed to the convention center. ICW is such an extraordinary event. It’s everything you could imagine, from cuppings of the 35 best coffees of 2018 to the World Latte Art Championship event.
During cuppings, there were 30 plus people in one room, but still educational. We enjoyed cupping over 100 different coffees from all over Brazil during ICW. I noticed just from these sessions the Brazilian coffee industry was really highlighting their exotic coffees. Most of their exotic coffees had a very prevalent wine or honey flavor note. The aromas and fragrances were intoxicating. This is where Nic and I started to build relationships with the other team members. Jovin Maina, a Q from Tanzania and Sara Alai, a roaster from Saudi Arabia, helped us further refine our palate and sensory skills. In our deep discussions with them, we all threw ideas back and forth on how to best grade coffee when cupping. This is when the trip started to fire on all cylinders for me. I began to realize the relationships we started to build with the eclectic and diverse group of people would soon become friendships and further expand our passion for coffee. Nic and I began to feel just how far the coffee culture swells, breaking state and country borders.
After ICW wrapped up and all the champions were crowned, we started our journey to the mountains and micro-climates that Belo Horizonte had to offer. We took a six-hour bus ride to Cerrado Mineiro, where we were then introduced to our host, Gustavo Guimaraes. He works with the Cerrado Coffee Growers Federation, which is a collection of farmers, co-operatives, and support organizations that represent just over 12% of all coffee produced in Brazil. I had many in-depth conversations with Gustavo on his thoughts about American coffee culture. Gustavo believes that coffee brings people together and creates less distance socially. He expressed that cafes seem a little un-inviting for conversation and socializing compared to the cafes in Brazil. He goes on to describe that everyone seems to be separated with their laptops which act as fences. I had experienced this earlier in the trip when I was roaming the city with Nic. At OOP, a local café, we noticed there were no laptops. Instead of the sound of muffled music from head phones or click clacking of keyboards. You would hear the pleasant sound of conversation flowing through the café. There were no divides, only fellowship and laughter.
As we went on to visit the remaining farms, each one had a different vibe. We went through the whole spectrum of the coffee industry from commercial coffee farms to micro-lots. We traveled to six different farms in a total of four days. Each of these farms had their own micro-climate and were only hours apart. The Nunes farm visit really stands fresh in my thoughts. We arrived at the farm on the clearest day we had seen since we landed in Brazil. To the right, you would see never ending rows of coffee trees basking in the gold glow of the sun. The rows looked infinite and reached beyond the mountain tops. To the left, you see a beautiful café sitting amid paradise. We enter the café and we are at awe. Stunning is an understatement. We met Gabriel Nunes, a second-generation coffee farmer who gave us a tour. He showed us the ingenuity and technological advances Brazil has made to specialty coffee farming. We returned to socialize and prepare for dinner. I remember sitting outside with a cold drink in my hand and surrounded by friends. The sun started its’ decent and underneath the clouds, it glowed iridescent pink. As the farm dogs played, we were laughing and sharing chocolates that someone’s grandmother made by hand. It was a beautiful moment, and this was all brought to me through coffee.
When I started in this industry 8 years ago, I didn’t realize that coffee would give me so much in life. There was a common theme between everyone on this trip. No one ever expected that they could or would have a career in coffee, it kind of just came to us all. In different shapes and sizes, we ended up here. There is something about coffee that can connect all types of people regardless of race, gender, nationality, age and beyond. I started a new motto for myself after this trip. It was to “embrace experience.” Coffee is not just a drink that contains the caffeine you need to get through your day. Coffee is a connection, craft, passion and family.Back to All News