Fazenda Rainha (pronounced “hai-nya”) is an award-winning 280-hectare estate situated in Brazil’s Vale da Grama, an ancient volcanic valley that spans the borderlands between São Paulo State (still referred to as Mogiana in the coffee world) and the state of Minas Gerais. Fazenda Rainha is located just across the Mogiana side of the border. A repeat finalist in the country’s Cup of Excellence competition, Fazenda Rainha took home first prize in 2011.
200 hectares of the estate’s land is planted with the heirloom Yellow Bourbon variety. The region’s rolling hills make mechanical harvesting impossible – all the coffee from Fazenda Rainha is hand-picked. Wet milling, patio and mechanical drying, as well as machine sorting are all accomplished on-site by the farm’s full-time, year-round employees, all of whom also reside on the farm. In addition to housing, healthcare and education are provided to the workers and their families.
The farm is part of a small group of medium-sized estates in the Grama Valley region that utilize the export services of Bourbon Specialty. Their offices in nearby Poços de Caldas (pronounced “po-shows”) boast a state-of-the art cupping lab and ample warehousing space. The group have collaborated with local universities and luminaries, including Dr. Falvio Borém, who heads the famed agricultural center at University of Lavras, to perform research.
This lot is 100% heirloom Yellow Bourbon. The variety traces its ancient history back to Reunion Island (formerly “Bourbon”) off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, where it was planted by French explorers in the early parts of the 18th century (resulting in the alternate name “French Mission”). Brought to mainland Africa before the turn of the 20th century, and thereafter to Brazil, its subvarieties have become exceedingly common across both Africa and the Americas. Brazilian Bourbon typically exhibits the yellow fruit recessive genome.
Using a processing method invented in Brazil and known locally as cereza descascado (de-husked cherry), the Pulped Natural style of coffee tends to result in a middle-ground between the flavor profiles of Fully Washed and Dry-Processed (or Natural). Using minimal water, the cherries are stripped of their skin and most of the fruit, and then taken straight to a patio to dry in the sun. After a few days, during which time the drying parchment coffee is turned frequently, the coffee is finished in mechanical dryers and then conditioned in wooden bins before exporting.
The result is a highly shelf-stable product with moderately high density and relatively low moisture numbers. The coffee is pretty large with a full 98% of the coffee measuring 16+, and more than half of the lot above screen 18.
I chose to develop the coffee with espresso in mind as its foremost application, while trying to keep the color relatively light. I approached this coffee gently, but my assumptions about a Brazilian coffee’s heat-absorption rate were misplaced. The combination of fairly high density and low water activity resisted the heat energy, and for both roasts I needed an additional boost of heat entering first crack to maintain some momentum. Both roasts ended between 10 and 11 minutes, not very long but more drawn out than our usual 1 lb roasts on the Probatino.
For the first roast (PR-570, red) I extended the development after First Crack to about 2½ minutes, about 25% of the total roast time. I accomplished this by starting with a mid-range gas setting and only making one small adjustment immediately before first crack when I saw the rate of rise dip.
With the second roast (PR-571, blue/gray) I extended pre-crack development during both the initial drying stage (by using a lower charge temperature and gas setting) and during Maillard reactions (by making small incremental increases throughout the color changes preceding first crack). The roast was 45 seconds longer than PR-570, but not significantly darker due to the shorter, hotter post-crack development time.
I pulled a few shots of espresso with both roast styles, five days off roast. I felt like the first roast approach, PR-570, was an easier-going espresso. I didn’t find it very difficult to dial in to a place where it was smooth, sweet, and flavorful. The second roast style seemed less soluble (based on how much longer the shots took to extract at the same dose/yield), but produced a more interesting and bright acid profile. Recipes below:
Brewing the coffee as drip in Bonavitas produced different results. I enjoyed the smoothness of the first roast, my colleagues enjoyed the complexity of the second. My total dissolved solids reading for the brew of the second roast was quite high, indicating I may have over extracted or otherwise mixed up my dosage or brew water weight. In either case, the coffee proved smooth and chocolatey, full of the kinds of flavors we are accustomed to associating with pulped natural Brazils: roasted almonds, fudge, caramel, and baking spice.