specialty coffee

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.

 

Other pictures

The region of Sao Gotardo or my hometown

Coffee plantation

São Gotardo's official flag with coffee tree

São Gotardo is a small town located in the Midwest of Minas Gerais. Rio Paranaíba, Ibia and Campos Altos are other cities that integrate the region of São Gotardo. We are a microregion inside the Cerrado Mineiro, the only coffee producing region in Brazil that holds a denomination of origin.

In 1973 an ambitious rural settlement project called PADAP - Programa de Assentamento Dirigido do Alto Paranaíba, in English (Alto Paranaiba Guided Settlement Agricultural Program) that involved the Brazilian government, Minas Gerais state and the city of São Gotardo governments in partnership with the Agricultural Cooperative of Cotia set the kick off for farming activities in this unexplored area of Cerrado. This cooperative used to be the largest one in Brazil, formed by Japanese immigrants and Japanese descendants. The entity was responsible for selecting a group of young producers, the pioneers, whose mission was developing agriculture in the region.

A united and strong Nippo-Brazilian community was established in the city of São Gotardo. Until the end of 1990's the pioneers' children attended the Japanese school. We had many cultural and sports activities and meetings in our association. Today we have fewer activities, although we try to keep some Japanese traditions.

After more than 40 years, the region of São Gotardo is nationally well known for the quality of its agricultural production. The main products like carrots, potatoes, and garlic supply many urban centers all over the country. There are also avocado, sugar beet, soybean, corn, wheat and other crops. We say that we are in blessed region that allow us growing many things.
What about Coffee? Coffee is also one of our main products. The region is recognized for producing an excellent coffee due to its climate, soil and altitude conditions that are particularly different if compared to other Cerrado Mineiro areas. The region presents hot days and cool nights, an average cooler temperature throughout the year and altitude that varies from 1.000 to 1.300 meters above sea level. A combination of these factors allow us to do such a farming rotation.

Today the region wants to be a protagonist in specialty coffee production. Proof of that are the consistent results from our producers in several Illy's awards and last year at Cup of Excellence Naturals we had excellent results, considering that it was the first attempt of some producers. Our region had two awarded coffees from Edson Tamekuni and, my father, Niculau Minami