Flavor Profile Cherry, chocolate, boozy
Sítio Café da Lalá & Sítio Água Limpa
1200 - 1350 masl
Red catauí and caturra
Alto Jequitibá, Caparaó Region, Minas Gerais state, Brazil
June - October
Brazil’s Parque Nacional do Caparaó, on the border of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo states, is an awe-inspiring place. For coffee buyers conditioned to the sight of central and western Minas Gerais, with its endlessly rolling, shade-less coffee savannah, coffee grown in the Caparaó foothills looks like Minas turned on its side: slopes are aggressively steep, shaded, and wet, more resembling places like Nariño, in Colombia, or the Sandia Valley, in southern Peru, rather than the vast majority of Brazil. Southeastern Brazil gets little credit for its mountainousness, at least in coffee, where all of the scale is achieved in the more mechanical-friendly inland regions of Minas Gerais and São Paulo. But Caparaó is part of a scattered chain of ridgelines that combines the tropical rainforests of the Atlantic side with the warm, dry climate of the western inland expanse, whose closest ecological resemblance is the Andes mountains.
This particular lot is a micro-blend of 2 farms located in the Alto Jequitibá community, in the western Caparaó foothills. Sítio Café da Lalá is a 15 hectare farm owned by Josimar, who goes by Lalá, who inherited the plot from her parents and has been living on the farm for 20 years but only started producing specialty grade coffee very recently. 7 of her 15 hectares are planted with coffee, with the rest reserved for forest and vegetables grown for the home. In her own words, “I've always worked as a coffee producer, but I've never had the recognition for my work like this year. I realize working with specialty coffee unites people from everywhere and this is fantastic. This year we learned a lot. In this area the people who are most involved in specialty coffee for now are women, and we try to exchange ideas with people who already work with quality coffee and we learn a lot. We are in the process of certification, but even without completing the certification I realize how important it is to respect the environment. Our water comes from the forest, and I am aware of how we must preserve it, the water we have is our greatest asset. I really love my daughters who always help me, and I am sure that the specialty coffee we produce in the coming years will be more than enough to support all future generations."
The second farm in the blend, Sítio Água Limpa, is a 32 hectare farm managed by Maria Aparecida and her husband Amando José. Their farm started as abandoned land next to Lalá’s. They bought the land themselves in an effort to put down roots. At first coffee production was new to them and extremely complicated; after spending time with Lalá, however, they became inspired to integrate their farming into a healthier, sustainable way of life. Água Limpa now produces specialty coffee in addition to vegetables, pigs and chickens for local consumption. And, Aparecida has become a passionate evangelist for women farmers: “Lalá inspired me to try and produce a different coffee, a coffee that takes a lot of work, more care, is cleaner, and most of all a partnership with family, with nature and with friends and always with honesty. We have delivered our first specialty coffee and I want to continue this work. This is just the beginning and we the women and families of the Vargem Grande Highlands can make a difference. We are women of coffee, we plant, we care, we harvest and we prepare with love the coffee shows it. We are entering a world where we never imagined we could belong. The world of special coffee.”
This micro-blend from Alto Jequitibá is part of a small lineup we have this year from FAF Coffees, a specialty exporter in Brazil founded by the Croce family. During their years spent struggling to revive the soils of their own family estate in the Mogiana region, the Croces connected with like-minded family farms struggling as well to make farming viable for the next generation, with a strong focus on their immediate ecosystems—the watersheds and canopies that made the land worth living on—as well as quality, as means to economic independence and self-esteem. Over the years the Croce’s network of farmers grew. FAF now exports coffee on behalf of 150 small and sustainable farms throughout the Mogiana region, and increasingly, other pockets of entrepreneurial small growers dedicated to the same combination of cup quality and environmental health, exuberantly referred to in the FAF network as “total quality”.