These lovely Icatu beans from the highlands north west of Rio de Janeiro have a light coffee flavour with a hint of spice, perfect for all day drinking.
Fazenda Canta Galo is located in green, hilly country near the town of Areado in South Minas Gerais, at around 800 to 1120 metres above sea level. The coffee farm was founded in 1968, when José Carlos Vieira da Silveira created plantations of Arabica varietals Mundo Novo and Catuaí. Fazenda Canta Galo now produces several single varietal coffees including this 100% Icatu. As well as having a great passion for coffee farming, José Carlos was a far-sighted businessman, always striving to learn cutting-edge coffee management techniques, and so provided his farm with a good basic infrastructure and excellent management practice. After José Carlos died in 1991, his family continued to grow the coffee he loved. The farm is now owned by José Carlos’ widow, Vera Lúcia Oliveira da Silveira, and managed by the couple’s two children, Isaías Pio da Silveira and Andréia Oliveira da Silveira. Isaías and Andréia are following in their father’s footsteps, seeking production excellence. They have implemented in Fazenda Canta Galo what they call a ‘self-sustainable management system’, whose goals are maximum quality and client satisfaction while respecting the following requirements:
• Agricultural planning (strategic and operational)
• Traceability of lots
• Preserving the environment
• Social responsibility
The farm is very well equipped and follows strict guidelines to maintain the intrinsic quality of its coffees. During the harvest and production process, it makes use of the following facilities: a washer; two pulpers, 5,800 square metres of concrete patios; 250 square metres of suspended terraces, with a hot house for beans pre-drying phase; three pre-driers; two mechanical driers to dry the beans; storage and resting bins.
Only 120 of Fazenda Canta Galo’s 400 hectares are used for coffee plantations and processing. The remaining area is used either to protect the environment or for agricultural diversification. A total area of 60 hectares is set aside as a nature reserve, and creeks, springs and other water courses are designated as preservation zones, protecting ground at a 30-metre radius of their banks. Liquid residues from the coffee process are used for ‘fertirrigation’ of pastures that were previously subsoiled. Consumption water and residue water are analysed at least once a year, and waste is collected to protect the local ecosystem.
Fazenda Canta Galo has 30 permanent employees that work on the plantations year round. During the harvest season, from May to September, an average of 100 temporary employees are taken on to work at the farm. Labour and employment laws are respected and child labour is totally prohibited. Farm employees’ school age children go to a local public school – a school bus provided by the Municipality of Areado/Alfenas picks them up at the farm and brings them back at the end of every school day. Individual protection equipment is mandatory for the farm’s employees. Safety training is also provided for specific duties, and there is a registered nurse for first aid care and personal and family health guidance.
Brazil is by far the world’s largest coffee producer – in 2010 it produced 48,095 million bags of coffee, over a third of global production! Coffee was introduced to the country back in the early 18th century. The story goes that in 1727 the Brazilian government sent a dashing soldier – Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta – to smuggle coffee seeds from French Guiana, under the cover of mediating a border dispute. The Lieutenant is said to have turned his charms on the governor’s wife, who slyly gave him a bouquet spiked with coffee seedlings at a farewell state dinner.
Some two million hectares of the country are now under coffee, of which the vast majority (70%+) is Arabica. Much of this is destined for the large multi-national roasters and is known simply as ‘Santos’ (after the port it is shipped from in São Paulo state – not a producing region). However, Brazil also produces some truly exceptional coffees and micro-lots, proof that speciality coffee does not have to be limited to just the small-scale grower.
Like in India, Brazil’s burgeoning middle class has prompted rapid growth in the domestic market for its coffee. Consumption has been increasing by around 5% annually and Brazil may soon overtake the US to become the world’s biggest coffee consumer.
The primary growing regions are Sul de Minas, Matas de Minas, Cerrado, Chapadas de Minas, Mogiana, Espirito Santo, Paraná and Bahia. Here, a huge number of traditional and experimental varietals such as Bourbon, Mondo Novo, Icatú, Catuaí, Iapar and Catucaí are cultivated. Farms range in size from small family plantations of less than 10 hectares, up to massive estates in excess of 2000 hectares – some of the bigger Brazilian estates singlehandedly produce more coffee each year than Bolivia’s entire output!
Historically, much of the coffee grown in Brazil was processed using the washed method. This is now changing and the natural and pulped natural methods are also increasingly employed. These processes are used to enhance different characteristics of the coffee and to bring out different traits. Indeed, some large estate process their coffees by each method in order to offer contrasting cup profiles.
The Brazil Speciality Coffee Association (BSCA) works to build long lasting, sustainable relationships between quality growers and coffee professionals, both large and small. The BSCA works on both international and domestic levels to raise the standards of Brazilian coffee and coffee agriculture. Internationally, it promotes fine Brazilian coffee and helps growers to meet the exacting standards of speciality coffee buyers worldwide. On a domestic level, the BSCA works with farms to continually improve sustainable farming practices and ensure the provision of social care to workers.