An important partnership between IWCA Brasil and the Cerrado Mineiro Region

 Miriam Monteiro, IWCA vice-president, explains about the IWCA Code of Conduct

Miriam Monteiro, IWCA vice-president, explains about the IWCA Code of Conduct

On May 11, the Meeting of Innovation and Technology of Cerrado Mineiro Region happened at the EPAMIG Experimental Farm in Patrocinio. In the morning period we had a field day with four different technical stations about EPAMIG genetics improvement of coffee cultivars for Cerrado, new trends of mineral nutrition for coffee, management of coffee pests and management of coffee borer beetle. During the afternoon topics like sensorial analysis of EPAMIG cultivars, sustainable family farming, experiences of women in coffee were presented in three rooms and the main room had a panel  about challenges in coffee production in a climate change environment.

The room dedicated to woman in coffee had presentations of Miriam Monteiro, coffee producer, IWCA – International Women Coffee Alliance – vice-president, representative for Campo das Vertentes subchapter who talked about her farm's production of organic and agro-ecological coffees. Her lecture called the audience's attention that were curious about how to convert from conventional to organic production, crop management, productivity and market for organics. 

Afterwards, Carmem Lúcia Chaves de Brito, also known as Ucha, coffee producer from Três Pontas and president of BSCA – Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association –, has been producing specialty coffee for ten years. She did a captivating presentation about what she does at the farm to generate clients' enchantment and the results of long-term relationships. Also she spoke about the importance of management of farm operation processes and about how she keeps a motivated and well trained team that understand its role in producing a distinct coffee.

At last, Maria Gabriela Baracat Sanchez, agronomist and coffee producer, spoke about a change in the farm's coffee production strategy. She emphasized the contribution of management tools and certifications in the farm business administration. In 2016, the farm started a new way of production aiming specialty coffees by making use of coffee quality mapping and post-harvest processing that lead the family's farm to reach the first place at the 2017's Cerrado Mineiro Coffee Awards in Naturals category. 

In all presentations we saw how the competence and strength of these women and the use of management tools impact in consistent results. It was a privilege watching their lectures.

Also we had an important accomplishment for the women of Cerrado Mineiro Region. The Cerrado Coffee Growers Federation and the IWCA Brasil signed the letter of understanding represented by Miriam Monteiro, IWCA VP and Yuki Minami, representative for Cerrado Mineiro subchapter and Francisco Sérgio de Assis, federation's president. This strategic alliance sums up the IWCA's mission in three words: connect, empower and advance women in the coffee value chain.

If you're not an IWCA member I invite you to be part of this global network of people and companies with the common goal of giving visibility to women across several segments in the coffee industry and now officially from Cerrado Mineiro as well.

Project with Cerrado Mineiro Region and Casa Brasil Coffees to launch the first D.O. coffees in the U.S.

After the SCA Global Coffee Expo I headed to Austin, Texas for the Cerrado Mineiro Region project with Casa Brasil Coffees to officially launch the first Designation of Origin for coffee production in the world. The project consisted in selecting five producers from different terroirs inside the Cerrado Mineiro Region who would produce a microlot for Casa Brasil.

 Selfie with the customized coffee bag for the project

Selfie with the customized coffee bag for the project

Last year, in July we received Joel Shuler, Casa Brasil founder and owner, and Ian Myers, Casa Brasil general manager at Fazenda Olhos d’Água and Fazenda Santo Antonio. Joel selected a coffee plot at the farm, the yellow catuaí plot number 4, and gave us harvest and post-harvest instructions for producing Casa Brasil's microlot. The microlot was hand-picked by a group of 38 people and dried in raised beds. It was a challenging harvest because the workers are used to harvest by stripping the coffee trees' branches and had never done selective harvest. Also, picking yellow fruits is harder than red ones, which are easier to differentiate the maturation level of the fruits due to noticeable distinctive colors between ripe and almost ripe fruits.

In Austin, Edu, a producer’s son participating in the project as well, and I launched the first D.O. coffee at Whole Foods, Central Market and Sa-Ten coffee shops. We did coffee demos at Central Market where we presented and brewed our coffees to final consumers using Chemex method and at the same time shared our stories, passion and love for coffee. My family’s coffees were the Olhos d’Água microlot and the Sweet Cerrado blend.

It was rewarding following the entire coffee journey, literally from seed to cup. I saw the coffee harvesting, drying in raised bed and patios, milling, storing, grading, sorting, packing, exporting, roasting, packing again and finally going to the supermarkets and coffee shop shelves. I felt very fulfilled when interacting with final consumers and sharing with them my own story in coffee and representing the Cerrado Mineiro Region Designation of Origin. I’d like to thank Joel Shuler and the Cerrado Coffee Growers Federation for the opportunity and trust and Kayo Asazu for the opportunity of making presentations to coffee customers and enthusiasts at Sa-Ten.

 

Video produced by Casa Brasil:

Meet Yuki Minami - one of the featured growers whose Designation of Origin coffees are now available as part of our partnership with The Cerrado Mineiro Region. Yuki's great-grandparents moved to Brazil to pursue their love of coffee. Her family has lived in and grown coffee in the Cerrado Mineiro region for over 40 years, and since 2014, Yuki has dedicated herself to producing high-quality specialty coffees at her family's farms. Read more about Yuki on our site: www.casabrasilcoffees.com/olhos-dagua-2018/

SCA Global Coffee Expo: Thank you! 🙏

I’m know I’m late to report about the SCA Coffee Expo in Seattle but now I finally got the time and the mood to compose.

 Visit to Starbucks Kent Flexible Plant Tour during 2017 SCA coffee expo

Visit to Starbucks Kent Flexible Plant Tour during 2017 SCA coffee expo

For the third year in a row, from the 19th to 22nd  of April, I have attended the Global Coffee Expo. One year ago, I was launching the company at the coffee expo, carrying Aequitas' brochures, business cards and a dream of sharing my family’s and other families’ stories in coffee production and exporting our coffees to people aligned with our values. I previously selected companies with similar values as Aequitas and looked for meeting their coffee buyers hoping that they would give me an opportunity. Some of them got interested in Aequitas’ purpose while other didn’t want to risk into the unknown.

But this year was different. I had 4 intense days with people that are now Aequitas’ business partners and trusted in the company’s mission. My time was also dedicated as a volunteer at the IWCA cupping — I had my coffee there as well together with coffees from other IWCA chapters worldwide — and at my US import partner cupping, where I could meet some roasters who have bought Aequitas’ coffee. Receiving their feedback about the coffee profile and about how satisfied they felt was like a turbo fuel to me.

At the IWCA breakfast we celebrated the organization’s 15th anniversary and heard inspiring stories of women who are making the difference in the coffee industry. It’s being 2,5 years that I’m an IWCA member and I’m proud of being part of this group of volunteers who advocates and fights for advancing, empowering and connecting women across the coffee value chain.

 At IWCA cupping with Miriam Monteiro, IWCA Brazil vice-president, Blanca Castro, IWCA global manager, and Renee Espinoza, from Firedancer Coffee Consultants, volunteer company at the organization of IWCA cupping

At IWCA cupping with Miriam Monteiro, IWCA Brazil vice-president, Blanca Castro, IWCA global manager, and Renee Espinoza, from Firedancer Coffee Consultants, volunteer company at the organization of IWCA cupping

I came back to Brazil with a feeling of appreciation, motivated for producing and exporting precious stories of coffee growers through their specialty coffee, sharing what I’ve seen with our farms’ employees, and once again certain that coffee is about human relationships of trust and friendships.

See you at the coffee expo in Boston next year!

Aequitas Coffee: from conception to birth

Wow! 2017 was one of the most intense years in my whole life. Being an entrepreneur requires an energy that you didn’t imagine you’d have, ability to deal with unknown experiences, be patient to learn with them, and remember your mission every day.

I remember two and half years ago talking to a close friend who calls herself as my second mother. She is my mom’s age and a great counselor. At that time, I told her that I wanted to have my own business, apart from working in the family farming business, something related to specialty coffee export but I didn’t know how to start. By that time I had already exported a container with the family's coffee to Europe and wondered how I could do the same for other producers.

I’ve been closely in touch with specialty coffee since September 2013 when I did a barista course at CoffeeLab in São Paulo. In that same year, I spent three months in Paris and frequently visited many coffee shops there. I got amazed by the growing specialty coffee scene and dreamed of one day seeing my family's name in a coffee menu at one of those cafés. My knowledge was restricted to the market from a specialty coffee consumer perspective and I dedicated myself to studying and researching every time I had an opportunity to travel abroad and in São Paulo as well.

In 2014, I decided moving back from Sao Paulo, a cosmopolitan metropolis of 11 million people, to my little hometown Sao Gotardo of 30 thousand people. It was a hard decision. I aimed working with specialty coffee from a producer perspective at the family’s farm. My father has been working with coffee since he was a little boy – now he’s 70 – and here in Cerrado region since 1975. He’s never heard of specialty coffee, and considering this context, it’s not hard to imagine his resistance to my fanciful ideas about producing this sort of product. As soon as I arrived I started the traceability program and began a plan for the farm certification. Now we have Certifica Minas Certification and UTZ. 

In September 2016, after accumulating some knowledge about the market, I had my export company business canvas done and now one and half years later here I am with Aequitas. In April 2017, I officially launched Aequitas Coffee at SCA coffee expo. There I made some contacts and thanks to IWCA network I started a meaningful connection that lead Aequitas to successfully accomplish the aim of connecting producers to the specialty coffee market and vice-versa.

 Aequitas coffee bag

Aequitas coffee bag

After interviewing each producer, today I feel proud and fulfilled of seeing my family’s, the producers’, and the region stories into the importers’ website and I know that it’s reaching the roasters and I believe even consumers. It comes to my memory that moment in Paris four and half years ago that motivated me to challenge myself. Finally, the farmer is now the protagonist and from their perspective this is so meaningful because it broke a paradigm that has existed for years, in which coffee was simply traded as a commodity and the producer had no idea on its quality and destination. The stories are being forwarded to a numerous number of people and for those who value it, they’ll be able to dive into a journey behind an apparently single cup of coffee. 

After this first year of export experience, Aequitas presented above market prices in relation to the region’s physical prices basis and could pay an average for ready to export coffee from 70% to 75% of the FOB price to the producer, in comparison to the C-Market, considering the day the producer was paid and a fixed currency established via export financing. The other part refers to packing, logistics, bank financing, port, government taxes and Aequitas work. 

For 2018, the expectation is to continue creating transparent, win-win relationships, long lasting, and meaningful coffee connections and share with the world our specialty coffee, our people and our stories. If you’re interested in learning what we have to offer please contact me. Or if you want to know our coffees and their profiles, please visit Crop to Cup Coffee Importers – look for Edson Tamekuni and Yuki Minami. Also Mercanta – at UK warehouse, look for Fazenda Olhos d'Água, Yamaguchi Farm Lote 68, Fazenda Onze Mil Virgens, Fazenda Santo Antonio and Fazenda Agrovila.

I couldn't finish this post without thanking my family, the producers, importers and IWCA who have trusted in Aequitas work and contributed to making this dream a reality.

See ya!

Coffee chain shortcut: from producers to barista and vice-versa

As part of Aequitas’ initiative of approaching farmers to the market, during one week in August, a series of lectures and coffee brewing workshops was held for 4 distinct groups of coffee producers in the region of São Gotardo.

During three and half hours, a brief outlook about the US market was presented – as result of my research field trip to the US in April for SCA coffee expo and impressions from the specialty coffee scene around Seattle, Portland, Bend, and San Francisco. Afterwards, throughout 3 hours Maria Antonia Mion, barista and partner at Supernova Coffee Roasters located in Curitiba – 1.100 km from São Gotardo – presented filtered coffee brewing techniques, perceptions about Curitiba’s specialty coffee consumers and her everyday experience behind the counter making lots of espressos, macchiatos, cappuccinos and drip coffee to Supernova clients.

Maria’s workshop is quite interesting, she teaches not only about extraction techniques but also curiosities and the history of each method. She divides the methods in timelines: classic, modern, and post-modern and focused on teaching the most popular methods in specialty cafés.

Specialty coffee talk at COOPACER co-op

At this edition, she taught in minute-details the importance of coffee and water qualities, storage, different coffee infusions and extractions due to different types of grinding and lastly a step by step for making a delicious coffee with a French press, Hario V60 and Aeropress. We used the producers’ coffee from the 2017 harvest. The workshop got more stimulating for everyone, especially the sensorial perceptions in body, sweetness and acidity when tasting the same coffee in different methods.  

At Coopacer, a co-op located in São Gotardo, the first group had producers, agronomists, co-op employees and local roasters participating. They were quite curious and lots of questions arose about the specialty coffee market.

The second group were formed by small producers, from 2,5 to 30 hectares, who are assisted by EMATER (Minas Gerais State Company for Rural Technical Assistance and Extension) and the activities happened at Mr. Rafael’s house in Agrovila – thanks a lot Mr. Rafael for your hospitality! They were quite curious about Maria’s teachings and it’s interesting noticing that each audience has different doubts, behavior and needs, even though dealing with the same thing that is coffee. This is the beauty of human nature.

 Brewing workshop with Maria Mion at Mr. Rafael's house

Brewing workshop with Maria Mion at Mr. Rafael's house

The third class was at Coopadap where most of the participants were coffee producers. The class were quite advanced about concepts of specialty market and delighted themselves at the workshop.

At last, the 4th group was my darling one. I was there not just representing Aequitas but it was my contribution to IWCA, as an IWCA Cerrado Mineiro member and advocate for women empowerment, especially in the coffee chain. The women producers belong to the rural community of Chaves and to the co-op Carpec in Carmo do Paranaíba, 50 km from São Gotardo. Maria and I were quite surprised and pleased for seeing Maisa, a curious 16-year-old girl who were attending the workshop among adults. Her mother couldn’t participate so she was there to represent her. This is such a significant participation that express the importance of family succession in farming, whereas sometimes we see the younger generations that don’t want to continue in rural activity.

 Women producers from the rural community of Chaves and CARPEC co-op. Maisa is the second on the left

Women producers from the rural community of Chaves and CARPEC co-op. Maisa is the second on the left

At the end, after an intense week sharing and learning through talks, workshops and visits to farms, the feeling was of fulfillment for the opportunity of impacting 40 people’s lives and a reinforcement to myself: I simply enjoy establishing connections with people and even more when those new links are created through coffee.

 

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