Jack and Ben's Brazil trip 2023

Ben and I (Jack) traveled to Brazil with Andre from our wonderful supplier, Southland Merchants. We were able to meet farmers from whom we already source coffee, as well as some new faces from farms both big and small. We were inspired to get a closer look at the work that goes into the coffee we serve in-store before it even gets to our roastery. Additionally, we were thrilled to see and hear how producers are talking about sustainability, taking action and changing the culture around the coffee farming community for the years to come.

Farroupilha Farm

First impressions of the coffee farms, Cerrado Mineiro- Beautiful. When meeting farmers and learning about their processes I tried to remember that the region is a bit of an outlier in terms of terrain, compared to other producing countries, and even other areas within Brazil, but I couldn’t help but be blown away with the size of some of the farms we saw! Having met some amazing new people, seen things I’d never seen, and trying to absorb piles of information it would be so hard to lock down a particular moment of the trip. However, one of my biggest takeaways was around how processing methods are chosen, and the way coffee is thought about after it’s dried and ready to go. Often in specialty, we’re talking about how coffee gets from the trees it grows on, to the cup. But being at the source, it was interesting to see the perspective of the farmer who’s looking at all the coffee that comes off their trees. The lot we purchase may only be the outcome of a very small part of the massive amount of work they have on their plates; and while we find ourselves thinking about the few tonnes or hundreds of kilos that will end up in store, depending on the size of the farm this may be only a small percentage of the coffee they produce in a season.

Cesar (Like Caesar but more like Say-zar) showed us around his beautiful farm and treated us to his jabuticaba tree

Photo with Ana Paula who owns the farm Tres Meninas and her husband Marcelo. Ana and her two daughters are the namesake of the farm, which means three girls.

I think meeting the people is a great way to get more invested in where your coffee is coming from. Obviously not every customer can get overseas to meet coffee producers, but hearing stories about producers and why they do what they do adds huge value to coffee, and further separates it from something that the majority of the world trades as a commodity product. I think some of these anecdotes, when coupled with a great cup, can also be used to broaden the perspectives of those who may be quite set in their beliefs about certain producing countries. 

Met Andreza (Blonde) and Chief QC Manager Andrea (Brown hair, shorter), who took Ben, myself, and Andre around Farroupilha Farm.

Selfishly, I tried to take as much away from this trip as I could, educationally, while being careful not to give too much back to producers, in terms of feedback. I’ve heard tales of roasters and green buyers traveling to producing countries and offering up all of their ideas and strategies for “improvement”, and I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be for a third-generation producer to have someone step out from behind their espresso machine for a week to fly overseas and push all their thoughts on coffee processing to someone who has been living and breathing coffee growing for years and years, if not their whole life. Or, worse than just frustration, convincing a producer to spend their hard-earned money on some niche or unnecessary processing equipment because a visitor from a consuming country saw a picture on Instagram.

Explored Espigao Farm with Edu and his dad, Gil Cesar Melo. This photo was taken at the higest point of the farm at sunset.

I understand that our presence on the farms represented the consumers of their product. Still, each farm that we went to greeted us with such kindness, and as well as seeing the wealth of knowledge and passion for progress in the region it’s hard not to be invested in the producers that we encountered on our whirlwind tour of the area.