If you would like more than 8 samples, please contact a trader directly.
Between our 2022 import and the 2023 harvest in Brazil, the market shifted. A year ago, in August 2022, the C-market price peaked just below 240; by the end of harvest a year later in August 2023, the index price had collapsed to just over 150—nearly a 40% decline. Higher prices allow farmers to commit a smaller portion of their farm to the commodity contracts that they need to cover monthly overhead and operating expenses; commensurately, lower prices require a larger portion of one’s harvest to secure this financing, leaving less to sell as specialty.
With this context as backdrop, a group of coffee producers in Cerrado organized under the banner of Aequitas to upend consumer expectations about the quality of coffee from Brazil and put forward a new narrative on the innovation coming from the world’s largest exporter of Arabica. In order to change minds in the market, however, this group is starting closer to home with educational campaigns aimed at showing family and neighbors the value of what they produce. Using all of the knowledge, infrastructure and enthusiasm at their disposal, these producers are banded together through their curiosity and common mission to make their community a preeminent partner for North American high specialty roasters. To do this, they must first win over family and neighbors to produce mind-changing lots. And they must contend with the commercial realities and expectations of coffee from Brazil—both in terms of price and quality. This tension between Brazil’s legacy and Aequitas members’ aspirations for the future of specialty coffee from Brazil sits at the center of Crop to Cup’s sourcing plan for 2023. To bridge the duality of needs for both producers and roasters, we have been working closely with Yuki Minami and her team at Aequitas to set new standards, share new knowledge, and bring entirely new categories of coffees to export.
Crop to Cup is actively building volume and booking for our 2023 import from Brazil; if you’d like to make a lot reservation or learn more, contact your trader.
Coffee came to Brazil nearly three hundred years before anyone at Crop to Cup was even born.
By 1727, coffee was growing in Brazil, but commercial production didn’t begin in earnest in Brazil until after the country’s independence in 1822. After that, Brazil built virtually its entire economy on coffee, clearing massive tracts of land and rainforest for coffee plantations. Coffee exports grew, and by 1850 Brazil was the largest coffee exporter in the world—which it remains today.
Like in Indonesia and Haiti, the coffee agro-economy of Brazil was made possible only through the enslavement of indigenous people and Africans brought to Brazil by Portuguese colonizers. By the time Brazil outlawed slavery in 1888, more than four million human beings had been captured and transported to Brazil from Africa.
To meet the labor demands of the large coffee estates across the coffee growing regions of Brazil—Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná—the government encouraged immigration – specifically from East Asia.
In Japan, coffee was initially seen as a luxury import. After the trade reforms in kaizei-yakusho went into effect in 1866, tariffs on coffee reduced dramatically, but still: a decade later, the price for 1kg of coffee was equivalent to that of 75kg of rice. In 1908—twenty years after the abolition of slavery in Brazil—a ship named Kasatu Maru arrived in Brazil, carrying aboard 165 families from Japan, who, like many families from Italy and Spain, immigrated to work in the coffee fields.
The venture, organized by Ryo Mizuno in exchange for 7,125 bags of 70kg of coffee from the government of São Paulo, led to a change in Japanese law after intervention by statesman Shigenobu Okuma, who declared that “The coffee produced by Japanese emigrants in Brazil should be treated as a quasi domestic product. Because coffee obtained through the efforts of Mizuno increase consumption of sugar, this business will bring happiness to Japan in the future.”
In the first seven years of this emigration project, nearly 15,000 Japanese people arrived in Brazil to work in the coffee fields. World War I led to an acceleration and by 1940, there were 164,000 Japanese in Brazil—75% in São Paolo, the most concentrated area of coffee production in the country.
Outside Minas Gerais, in São Gotardo, a family immigrated from Japan in the 1920s to work on coffee farms. Four generations and nearly a century later, in 2017, Yuki Minami—whose great-grandparents immigrated to Cerrado to work in the coffee fields—founded Aequitas Coffee with the hopes of connecting coffee from her family and community in São Gottard to specialty roasters. Aequitas—our exclusive partner and raison d’etre in Brazil—is built on the desire for fairness and transparency in coffee through meaningful relationships. In Yuki’s words: “Aequitas is the Roman goddess of equity. But she was also a goddess that meant justice, transparency and fairness. And this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to promote a fair trade for producers.”
Though Brazil is seen by much of the world as a behemoth of commodity production, Aequitas represents a new generation of coffee producers whose focus is on quality and the opportunities opened up when one begins producing for specialty. Yuki and her contemporaries are the first generation of coffee farmers from this region to attend university then return to the farm and are assembling an array of expertise from genetics to processing to operations, cupping, roasting and everything in-between.
Harvest in Cerrado began on time in mid-May, shortly after Yuki and a contingent of Aequitas producers returned from the U.S. for SCA Expo and a tour of the U.S. specialty industry branded as the “Aequitas Coffee Experience.” The winter in Cerrado, which coincides with harvest and the final stages of cherry maturation, was dry as usual, with hotter-than-usual temperatures and occasional light rain—uncommon during harvest but not expected to impact quality. The volume of production is greater than last year, affording a larger commensurate share of coffee of the highest quality even in spite of weather-related impacts.
In June, Aequitas producers throughout Cerrado met for harvest planning ahead of their 2023 export. Overall, Aequitas members expect around 30% of volume to be exported as specialty quality (83/84+) with a few members reducing their production to focus exclusively on 85+ quality coffee. For volume lots closer to the lower end of specialty (84 points), prices will track with the c-market, but for top lots and microlots—where initial evaluations indicate a plethora of 86-87 point cups—prices will remain stable compared to last year owing to the labor, time and selection that is required to produce these exceptional coffees.
The strength of the Brazilian Real, which impacts costs and represents another risk at time of export due to currency exchange, remains stable or slightly stronger than the same period of 2022; inflation jumped in Brazil in July 2023 ahead of export, but remained far below last year’s levels.
Crop to Cup has worked exclusively with Aequitas as our export and sourcing partner in Brazil since 2017. Throughout harvest, our quality lab in Brooklyn calibrated with Aequitas’ lab, expediting the process of separation and selection of lots for booking or entry into regional competitions. With the lab, Aequitas is able to provide rapid feedback and technical recommendations for producers such as the evaluation of quality for: new cultivars; processing experiments; and microlot separations. With its lab in town fully operational for the 2023 harvest, Aequitas expanded their support of producers in their network.
At the start of harvest, Yuki solicited interest from producers throughout Cerrado (Campos Altos, Carmo do Paranaíba, São Gotardo, Ibiá, Rio Paranaíba and Patrocínio) for participation in a new program that in June began with harvest planning and then, in July, visited fourteen producers during harvest to check in on their post-harvest infrastructure, evaluate post-harvest processing practices, techniques, challenges, and experiments. Of the producers Aequitas visited, eleven had contracted post-harvest consulting services, twelve were using or had used unconventional processing (processes other than natural or pulped natural) in an effort to incrementally improve cup complexity, and all already produced some coffee for specialty markets but needed access to a calibrated cupping lab to accelerate feedback and knowledge transfer.
Aequitas organized an event, Aequitas Sharing Knowledge, to create space for knowledge exchange between buyers and producers and orient around market expectations and shifting demands. In attendance were different actors from the value chain: producers, cooperatives, a university professor, and bank institutions that finance Aequitas.
To further differentiate coffee coming through the Aequitas network from commodity specialty coffee, Aequitas developed and implemented a code of conduct and ethics for its partners, providing transparency for buyers and suppliers about Aequitas and its network. The code of conduct requires that all of its suppliers abide by Brazilian laws and includes a focus on environmental and conservation issues and serves as a checklist for postharvest practices, environmental and social issues.
In September,Yuki’s team received their first round of samples from members. Yuki’s reflection on Aequitas’ first cupping of the year / quality preview: In Yuki’s words, “Although those lots are quite fresh, we could taste a variety of flavor profiles: classic Cerrado and on top of it berries, stone fruits, tropical fruits, floral, and spices from natural, pulped natural and fermentation processing. We had the presence of some lots that are on the edge—some will love it, others wouldn’t choose those coffees at all. The lot that stood out the most was a Paraiso microlot from Coopadap Experimental farm that cupped an average of 87.25.”
These notes came out of Aequitas’ new cupping lab, led by a competent cupper and long-time ally named Maxwell. This is the center of outreach and education on With the investments Aequitas members have made in post-harvest processing, with and a focus on production of specialty microlots but also on helping members to convert larger tracts of their farm to specialty production , initial quality expectations for our 2023 import are high particularly for microlot separations. The goal, then, is not just to raise the ceiling but also to bring up the floor of how many coffees a farm can manage to produce at 85+ levels.
We are working with Aequitas to build a pipeline for more standard qualities from Brazil through these same supply chains so as to provide an ethically-aligned alternative to commodity specialty imports for more price-sensitive or volume-based needs.
Below are additional updates from the Aequitas lab.
Marcelo Assis (Bioma Cafe)
A perennial partner for Aequitas and Crop to Cup since 2018, Marcelo Assis Nogueira has shifted the focus of his entire production on microlots after having made significant investments in infrastructure through last year’s harvest. “It was a record for us here ,” Marcelo reported, “not in volume, but in quality.” For 2023, nearly 88% of his entire production is scoring 85+; this is higher than the expected average of 30% scoring 84+ from most Aequitas members, which is itself an exception within the region. Marcelo hopes that by next year he will have an optical sorter at his dry mill to be able to manage all levels of processing, separation and preparation himself and ensure full traceability through his farm.
While they didn’t invest in infrastructure for this year, like many Aequitas members, the Minami family invested in training for the 2023 harvest, bringing a postharvest processing consultant to their farm to develop alternative protocols for coffee processing. They prepared two larger lots for specialty, each grown and processed with a particular profile in mind. One sample is labeled as tropical fruits and the other one as berries. There are two microlot offers coming as well – an experimental aerobic fermentation lot that aimed at tropical and stone fruits in the cup, as well as the return of the pineapple fermentation which has been scaled up using an improved process.
Sao Luiz is known for producing the best pulped naturals in the region. They are expanding on this focus, but also taking a deeper look at post-harvest processing. “This year we are very excited because we have done some microlots for the first time with fermentation,” Ana Branco told us. “We have a lot of coffee to offer.” While this year Fausto do Espirito Santo Velloso and family will sell most of their coffee through the local cooperative, the 7-year Aequitas members plan to install a washing station and de-pulper for next year and will be able to offer more pulped naturals. For 2023, Sao Luiz provided post-harvest processing services to neighbors. These samples are inbound to Crop to Cup’s offices, but the Aequitas lab reported that initial samples are “the trustworthy, consistent, clean cup and sweet coffees that we are used to receiving from Ana and her team.”
Edu Leandro (Cafe Melo)
Edu also received a post-harvest process consultant at his farm and is interested in exploring the use of native and wild microorganisms to drive fermentation. One of the new processes the team explored this year involved modifying a cylindrical sieve setup to separate a coffee by size and maturation level without using water to specify process based on the starting material. For Edu and Cafe Melo, 2023 is a learning year; 100% of their production experienced some sort of designed fermentation protocol. They executed dozens of processing styles, focusing on natural processes of overripe fruits (la pasa), which are normally processed for commodity outlets but hold high quality potential if processed using specialty production techniques. “We are so excited,” Edu reported, “it was a great crop for us.”
Coopadap Experimental farm
One of the standouts of our 2022 import from Brazil was an experimental lot from the Coopadap experimental farm. Ahead of 2023, the group—led by Diego Bernades for 15 years—built a laboratory to develop the expertise needed to recommend the best cultivars and technical knowledge to members of the cooperative. To bolster their knowledge and recommendations, the lab collaborates with different research institutions across the country, keeping Cerrado part of the exploration and development of knowledge related to coffee productivity, resistance and quality. This year, the farm had a small production in order to focus on the production of specialty microlots. The Coopadap farm employed a post-harvest processing consultant to experiment with mapping cultivars with targeted processing and drying practices to achieve predictable quality.
A new member of Aequitas for 2023, Eduardo’s family owns one of the biggest coffee nurseries in Brazil and is locally famous for developing cutting edge cultivars. Their sophistication with cultivars extends to processing; they perform quality mapping across processing styles, and have won regional awards for cup quality. Like other Aequitas members, Eduardo and his family have started receiving post-harvest consulting this year for their own farm. Talking about this year, Eduardo told us, “I’m proud, to be honest, because we got some coffees that are hard to find. It was a great year.”
Ernesto and his son Cassio joined Aequitas in 2022 with a negligible percentage of their production scoring above 84 points. But they were eager to make use of the education Aequitas had to offer, and invested in moving their family business into specialty. According to Yuki, this has paid off in the cup: “While in 2022, 40% of their samples were 84+ this year this percentage reached 55%. Also, postharvest defects have decreased as well. Maxwell mentioned that it became a balanced and trustworthy coffee.”
If you would like more than 8 samples, please contact a trader directly.