Brazil’s Chapada Diamantina is as unique and interesting a coffee origin as you’ll find anywhere in the world. The former diamond mines that littered the rocky canyon cliffs and waterfalls were designated as a national park in the 1980’s, but the history of the region, the state of Bahia, and its capital city Salvador, are integral to the cultural inheritance of the entire nation.
Salvador de Bahia was the original Portuguese capital of all of Brazil dating back to the 14th century, and it remains a busy port and the third-most populous city in the country. In addition to exporting agricultural products and minerals from the region, Salvador was the center of Brazil’s slave trade for many years even after the practice was formally criminalized. Nowadays, Bahia boasts the most diverse population of the country, owing much of its legacy to Afro-Brazilian cultural contributions to fields as far reaching as the linguistic, culinary, and performing and martial arts.
In terms of coffee, the Chapada Diamantina region is vastly different from the flat plains of Cerrado or Mogiana or the gently rolling hills of Sul de Minas. The region is remote and rural, and while large-scale farming does exist here, there is a higher ratio of smaller scale farms. Here, one will often see more crop diversity in terms of both intercropping and uncommon coffee cultivars. Sustainable practices have taken hold here, too – Bahia is the leading producing state in Brazil of biodynamic agriculture, a holistic practice that attempts to bring order, balance, and spirituality to practice in organic cultivation.
This coffee comes to us from Luca Allegro and his farm, Fazenda Aranquan, located within the municipal district of Ibicoara, just south of the Chapada Diamantina park. Luca, along with a few other farmer-neighbors, has established the Asociación Biodinámica d’Ibicoara to help promote and export their coffees. The coffee we’re featuring is pulped natural, so some of the coffee cherry was removed mechanically prior to drying. It stood out to us with its complex array of mild fruit flavor, confectionery sweetness, and bright acidity.
This lot is 100% Acauã cultivar, a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Sarchimor. Noted for its resistance to both coffee leaf rust fungus and root-knot nematodes, don’t confuse it with Acaiá, another Brazilian variety of similar name but differing genetic origin. Luca’s coffee has some very nice drying numbers, showing off its classic Brazilian precision in this department. While not terribly dense – albeit a little higher than average for its elevation – it sports a pretty wide and somewhat small screen size. The sizing anomaly, while common in microlots from Bahia, is uncharacteristic for larger Brazilian lots we’re more accustomed to seeing in bulk which typically adhere to a more regulated export grade.
A very sweet and clean pulped natural Brazil, that proved to be flexible in the drum. The two roasts differ in energy applied and the Rate of Rise. Our First roast, PR-495, is a traditional roast of a low density coffee, with low flame and a gradual incline towards the end of the roast. Notes of poached pear, honey, vanilla, and hazelnut butter created a very sweet and smooth flavor profile.
Our second roast, PR-496, has a higher charge temperature and more applied energy, creating a steeper curve that amplified more of the acidic structure of this coffee. We experienced notes of cherry, honeydew, and creamy-sweet pistachio. Both roasts are similar in total roast time and have similar end temperatures. Note that first crack occurred quite late in both roasts.
Luca Allegro’s coffee is a really nice example of what some of the nicest Bahia coffees have to offer. Sweeter and more complex than the big-farm bulked lots found elsewhere, it’s characterized by its mild fruity complexity, confectionary sweetness, and bright acidity. When I brewed a couple of Chemexes for the team here at the Crown to taste, I was surprised by how quickly the brew cycled and how soluble the coffee turned out to be. The panel was split on preference: Jen’s first roast produced a denser cup with more sweetness and soft fruit flavor, while the second roast was brighter and more citric and hints of floral notes with a strong almond flavor.