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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.

At Bioma Café, Marcelo Assis is focused exclusively on producing specialty microlots for 2023


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.

Processing anaerobic lots at Minami Agricola


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.

Minami Agricola
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
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.

Eduardo Pereira
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 Yamamoto
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.”

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.


Conditions in Brazil set the pace for pricing the world over, but nowhere more than in Brazil itself. Variables such as currency exchange rates and weather forecasts impact both the C-market—against which coffee around the world is traded—as well as our partners in Brazil who experience frosts and devaluations directly. Even within specialty, producers contract a portion of their crop in large futures contracts against the C-market, hedging with an aim of guaranteeing income and economic security for the year. Then, with some certainty that they can cover their costs, they set aside a smaller portion of higher scoring lots to sell through specialty channels. 

The market volatility of the last year coupled with lower production this year, though, mean that many producers are left with little coffee to sell as specialty: in order to fulfill their existing futures contracts, they delivered more of their total harvest than expected. Those contracts may have been established when the Brazilian real was high, the C-market was low, and forecasts were strong; the reality left producers exposed. With such volatility, and such low volumes to work with, producers are understandably inclined to “wait and see”, rather than contracting too far in advance of export.

As a result, we entered the harvest aggressively, knowing we’d have to compete for the qualities and volumes that we’d hoped to put together with our partners at Aequitas. Ultimately, this meant that Yuki and the team at Aequitas had to grow their network to build volume for export; thanks to investments she made such as opening an Aequitas cupping lab locally to provide faster feedback to producers and evaluate quality and strengthening communication and relationship with the producers in the Aequitas network, we were able to allay concerns that we initially held about quality potential ahead of the harvest. Here, again, Yuki Minami’s strength as a collaborator helped to navigate the Aequitas family of farmers through this time of market disruption. 
Because of inflationary pressures and costs increasing in Brazil for Aequitas and Aequitas members, pricing will be higher this year. We expect our import volumes will be lower this year.

If there are specific projects or lots you’re interested in, we recommend booking early. 


Peak Harvest
Lot Selection
On the Water
Aug – Sep Sep – Oct Nov – Dec Dec – Jan
Type samples, lot reservations Offer + PSS samples, initial bookings Contract approval + export Arrival samples + spot offers


As with all things in 2022, prices are up over last year. A multitude of factors contributed, but the theme is ‘inflation’ and ‘volatility’.

  • Operating costs increased – from inputs to labor to finance, storage and transportation.
  • Export costs increased – including a 16-24c average increase in shipping alone. 
  • Volumes are down over last year, and over projections from earlier this year – most farms are short on the future contracts they signed to finance operations.
  • The C-market is up 15-20¢ over last year with volatility and speculation creating additional scarcity. 
  • The Brazilian Real weakened significantly against the U.S. Dollar, with even more volatility past that from inflation due to an elongated election season.

In total, inflationary costs will account for about 20-25 cents of increases and market differences account for 15-20 cents per pound of increases before we encounter increases stemming from the global logistics crisis and container shortage—meaning that at the end of the day, we expect that final prices will be, on average, 50-60 cents higher than last year for microlots and top lots. 


Our access in Brazil, and reason for working here, is found in our relationship with Aequitas, led by Yuki Minami and founded on the notion of creating equity through coffee. We’ve bought from Aequitas since their first export in 2018. 

Last year, we bought a battery of microlots that showcased a diverse range of processes and flavor profiles coming from Aequitas members that came from a “recipe book” of postharvest processes we put together with Yuki. Aequitas once again used the recipe this year, targeting processes based on the results of last year, helping to achieve consistency in quality across those unconventional lots.

These efforts in separation and diversification of processing were aided by the new cupping lab and office that Yuki opened in town. Aequitas’ cupping lab used to be on a farm—moving it into town makes it more accessible for other producers and increases the amount of cupping and speed of feedback on coffees submitted.

Yuki also expanded the Aequitas network in search of more affordable 84+ commercial-plus style lots through COOPEDAP, the local cooperative that also warehouses and mills coffee for Aequitas members. This creates an opportunity for more price-sensitive and/or larger scale roasters to buy Aequitas coffee.

Marcelo Assis and Biome Café doubled down on lessons learned from their processing experiments from last year.

Lot Availability Updates

Often overlooked due to its reputation as a commodity producer of Arabica coffee, Brazil’s landmass and diversity of microclimates, regions and cultures results in a remarkable diversity of cup profiles—if you know where to look.

Soraia Guimarares

We’ve partnered with Maria Soraia Guimarares since 2019, two years after her family received their first premium for specialty coffee. Unlike most producers in her region, Soraia’s farm is harvested by hand—a small example of the attention to detail and care Soraia takes in producing coffee, which has garnered recognition through awards from Cup of Excellence, the Minas Gerais State Coffee Quality Awards, Cerrado Mineiro Region Coffee Awards and Florada Contest.

For our 2023 import, Soraia focused purely on microlots—her favorite being Arara Anaerobic, which presents in the cup with notes of blue raspberry, cherry taffy, cotton candy, honey, lemon verbena, melon, and thyme.

Minami Family

Yuki Minami and the Minami Family Farms are our raison d’être in Brazil, and we’ve imported coffee from them since our first year operating in Brazil in 2017. For 2023, they’ve produced a mixture of single batch (~100 bags) and smaller (~10 bag) lots.

Included in these are iterations of the most successful of last year’s more experimental-style lots, like the Minami Anaerobic Fermentation with Pineapple, which has notes of dried peach, black cherry, hibiscus, red licorice and is on the wilder, more adventurous side of the specialty spectrum compared to classics like Fazenda Olhos D’Agua Natural, a quieter, more nuanced coffee with notes of candied orange, dark chocolate, honey, nut, persimmon, and raisin.

Marcelo Assis and Bioma Café

Marcelo Assis, a partner producer of Crop to Cup since 2018, dedicates Bioma Café, the farm he operates in partnership with Flavio Marcio Silva, to specialty production. They approached selecting the site for the farm from a technical lens, evaluating the quality potential of each parcel.

Over the years, Marcelo has proven to be an innovative and collaborative partner, and for 2023, the fruitful collaboration between Marcelo and Rosalina Zamai resulted in a unique natural processed lot with notes of pomegranate, dark plum, marigold, rose, brown sugar, and apple cider. His Paraiso MG2 Anaerobic Fermentation lot is tropical and complex with character of guava, anise, magnolia, strawberry, vermouth and floral schnapps.

How to Book

We have completed our booking for this harvest. Review our Forward Offers to see upcoming availability. Available lots are limited—reach out to your trader to forward book for December/January arrivals.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team

Micro-lots make it through an uncertain harvest

“If a producer goes after quality coffee they will always go after quality coffees – no matter – it’s a mindset.” – Yuki Minami, Aequitas.

Here, the term ‘no-matter’ actually refers to the many matters that add up to incredible uncertainty for Brazilian coffee farmers this year. Matters that include climate, politics, pandemic, warehouse shortages, as well as local currency and international commodity markets.

With so much unknown, farmers are seeking assurance from customers, and are looking to specialty for price stability. In a year where most farmers in Brazil find it hard to invest in quality, Aequitas top producers are communicating often and continuing their commitment to quality, pushing up again the limit of what is possible for premiums out of Brazil.

This is the argument for relationship-focused sourcing.  Despite the grim intro, and everything that follows, we will be bringing in more, higher scoring specialty micro-lots from Brazil than ever before. Read on to learn more.



Brazil’s 2020 harvest came on 2-3 weeks later than last year, but it came on in force with an estimated production of 61.6 million bags, according to CONAB* (National Company of Supplying, an organization from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock). This is Brazil’s second largest harvest ever! This also means that it’s the highest production for any country ever. Uniform rains during the flowering period (September to October) and fruit formation (November to April) led to a uniform harvest and higher qualities this year.

On the export side, CECAFE* (Brazilian Coffee Exporters Council) report of August 2020 shows that there was a 3% fall in Arabica green coffee exports compared to August 2019, even though harvest yields are 25% up in relation to last year. Comparing the accrued data from January to August 2020 and 2019, the decrease of Arabica green exports is of 5.2%. From the producer perspective, this means more marketing for their specialty coffees, selling specialty at commodity prices and downgrading investment in top-end micro-lots.

In August, a bubble in prices led to a rush on commodity buying, which filled up local warehouses early so that now, in peak harvest, producers are having to agree with traders to keep their sold coffee longer in co-op and private warehouses. Traders then have a hard time finding space to store or containers for export. With these factors in motion, producers are compelled to sell quickly for less than they expected.

By the time September rolls in, temperatures reach above the average time of year and a severe drought due to La Niña occurs in most of the producing areas. This comes at a time when rains are needed to trigger flowering for next season’s harvest.

Peak Harvest Shipments Arrivals
June – August October – November December



Overall, quality is up within Aequitas. The producer engagement was high from last year’s harvest and the momentum continued through the off-season into high-quality deliveries so far this season. These factors make for a tight export window and a more efficient way to evaluate more high-quality samples. And this is only possible because of Aequitas’ off-season investments in planning, producer outreach, training, and QC staff. Cherries started arriving the first and second week of August through end of September.

Pre-harvest planning includes a flavor mapping exercise, which take samples from throughout the farm to establish ‘flavor zones’. These zones are used to inform harvest scheduling, processing, lot separation and processing. This, combined with improved traceability within individual farms, allow lot tracking from the farm to warehouse and through each stage of post-harvest processing. More data gives producers more options for separating lots, conducting experiments and learning. The result has been more differentiated lots from within each individual farm—not to mention sharing best practices within the Aequitas network.

For example, old friends Marcelo Assis and Maria Soraia just learned that their coffees are finalists for the Cerrado Minero regional quality competition. Both farmers focus purely on coffee – with a fully dedicated coffee team – and are planting new varietals; Marcelo is planting Paraiso, and Maria is cultivating Arara, both of which are receiving recognition for their cup quality. This has encouraged other members of Aequitas to dedicate more of their team to coffee, and more of their coffee fields to these new varietals.

We see the promise of the Aequitas network. As individuals experiment and improve upon quality their lessons are shared within the network. Every small success is leveraged for larger, more informed efforts year over year.


Covid hit Brazil a lot later than the rest of the world. Lock-down came on March 18th , before the first death on March 24th. However, responses were localized; lock-downs impacted major cities, but those like Sao Gortardo (pop. 30,500) never saw mandatory quarantine, even though the city has logged over 1,100 Covid cases (of which over 200 are active right now).

Or so it is thought. Information is not good. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro is widely considered to be even more divisive than Trump. During the pandemic, he fired the Health Minister, and prohibited the publication of Covid cases or related deaths. Without official statistics, the country is relying on local news source and don’t know when the next lock-down will come.

From drought to market uncertainty to Covid – Yuki and hers are avoiding the news. They’ve chosen to focus, instead, on their farms. And on a few tasty experiments.


Many Aequitas farmers are participating in a fermentation project called Artisans, sponsored by NuCoffee, an unconventional buyer who trades coffee for agricultural inputs. Farmers sell them commercial coffees to finance their farm inputs. In addition to the coffee, NuCoffee gets data – farmers are given bonuses for submitting details on farm management. This year NuCoffee is trialing a program to encourage experimentation in anaerobic fermentation.

Farmers were supplied with 10L of yeast – the same yeast, so as to act as a control.  They were also given an overview on fermentation and training (via zoom) by a federal university. Farmers were then asked to buy the barrels and contribute 10 bags of coffee to the experiment; 9 of which they could sell themselves, 1 of which could go back to the university for evaluation. The Aequitas team heard from the Artisans technical assistant that Nucoffee cupped a dozen of these experiments from members, and found some of the lower-scoring lots (below 80) improved on score (to 83, for example) with a different profile (more, and more complex fruits). However, among Aequitas partner producers where coffees come in 83 and above normally saw little change from their controls (those which did not undergo fermentation). As with many fermentation experiments, the results were inconclusive. It tended to teach that fermentation can bring up the bottom of a bad tasting coffee but isn’t as impactful on raising the ceiling for those which are already scoring well. Over 400 producers participated and results are expected to be shared prior to next year’s harvest.

Fruit Trials

Independently, Yuki and some of her colleagues decided to have their own fun with fruity fermentation. That’s literally combining coffee cherry with macerated fruit for 48 hours of anaerobic fermentation.


1-Flavor mapping was used to identify areas that produce higher quality coffees.

2-These areas were scheduled for hand-picking instead of mechanical harvest.

3-Cherries were floated to remove debris and lighter beans.

4-Cherries were then soaked in cold water (15C, anaerobic) for 48 hours.

5-After 48 hours, next came the fruit mixture: intensively prepared by slicing fruit, blending, and adding a little water. This they did with two different concoctions (which were in turn put next to a control).

– Citrus: 50KG of lemon-orange fruit mix put across 10 barrels (5KG per barrel, each of which contains 200L of coffee).

– Pineapple: 30 KG of pineapple pulp put across 5 barrel, (6KG per200L of coffee cherry)

– A control was established using 5 barrels of the same coffee, undergoing the same process except without the fruit mixtures.

6- After 72 hours they opened the barrels, cherries were then placed on raised beds and they washed the coffee with a water solution used in food  sanitization to stop the fermentation process.

7-Cherries were then left to dry as a natural. First round, full sun, two weeks. Second round, partial shade, 30 days.

It’s a lot of fruit, a lot of work. And it burned out a blender. But the results were fun on the tongue. The citrus batch gave off big spicy lemon-mint gingerbread aromatics which held through in the cup, and cooled tropical. The pineapple experiment tasted like, surprise, pineapple wine with watermelon / green apple schnapps on the aroma, a sweet brown bread body, and some mint on the finish.

Lot are listed on offers, but have not yet been milled – so availability for this year is uncertain. However, experiments will be replicated in the off-season so that they are ready to scale come next harvest.


If last year was about information, education and experimentation – then next year is about outreach. Most coffee in Cerrado comes from larger farms. For reference, Aequitas member farms range from 40 – 250 hectares (averaging closer to 150 hectares per). Large farms are 1000+ hectares, but there are smaller farms in the area as well. These small producers don’t have information, infrastructure or technical assistance.

While most of Brazil’s coffee comes from larger farms, most of Brazil’s coffee farmers are small – an estimated 88% grown on less than 50 hectares, according to the IBGE* – Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Without capital or storage, these farmers have to immediately sell. Their lots will likely get blended into large stock lots without them ever knowing what kind of quality they are producing.

For next year, Aequitas plans on reaching out to these small producers in Cerrado. The plan is to solicit samples and provide free feedback as an entry to trainings on post-harvest processing.

In 2021 we can expect a new lineup of micro-lots as well as a few smallholder blends.

One of which is a producer named Maria Soraia who was new to the Aequitas network in 2019. Experimentation since then led to one of the most unique collections of the harvest; one lot is described as ‘chai milk-tea with figs, ginger and cardamom’.

To us, this demonstrates the diversity that can be found even within the same region and has us looking forward to all that’s to come.

What’s in a name

São Gotardo means ‘village of confusion’. This is the Cerrado Mineiro region of Minas Gerais; an area best described as a high-altitude savannah, and best known as the carrot capital of Brazil. In addition to producing nearly half of the country’s carrots, this region also grows onions, garlic, onion, potatoes….and coffee.

Coffee was the most recent to join the party, starting in the 1970’s around the same time that São Gotardo earned it’s name. This region was designated as a destination for a rural resettlement program that the government was promoting in an attempt to feed growing urban centers. São Gotardo was the town to which people were relocated, and coffee became the way out of confusion.

Up to this time the land was owned by one rich individual who, it was said, was above the law. Enter Cooperativo Cotia, a cooperative owned by and representing Brazilians of Japanese descent. As part of a government resettlement program, Cooperattivo Cotia opened an office in São Gotardo to recruit farmers and then support them in the region.

This support led to pressure on the land cartel, which ended in the breakup of land into 100 lots, all reassigned to new farmers as part of the government resettlement program. To this day lots are still referred to by their number, with many still operated by Japanese Brazilian members of Cooperativo Cotia.

Coffee in the area was the exception until 1975 when a bad frost– called the black frost –wiped out many plantations further south (further from the equator, mind you). After this, more farmers moved up to the highlands of this region which, previously, had not been explored much at all, let alone turned to crops.

Compared to land around it, the terrain here is of a higher altitude, cooler and pretty flat. Perfect for fruit orchards, tubers plots and coffee gardens. And so, for the past 40 years, coffee from this region has been cultivated and sold as a commodity along the same channels and by the same brokers by which their potatoes get to market.

But now a new generation of farmers is looking back, bonding together in celebration of their Japanese roots. And looking forward, to the challenge and opportunity of bringing specialty coffee to their region. This group is patriotic, proud of their state and wanting nothing more than to see their name on coffee menus worldwide. Well, not their name, but names from their region – ‘Minas Gerais’, ‘Cerrado Minerio’, ‘Alto Paranaiba’, or ‘São Gotardo’ for example..

Behind this movement is a young entrepreneur named Yuki Minami (age 36). She is starting off representing her family and two other young farmers (Michael Tomizawa, age 35 and Edson Tamekuni, age 37) under the name Aequitas Coffee. The name means was chosen to represent Yuki’s belief that when farmers know what their coffee is worth, it is possible to do coffee differently than the way her dad did it.

“Aequitas is Latin for 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.”

While raised on a coffee farm, Yuki never thought she would work in coffee. She started with an interest in languages, and later in business administration, before realizing that this work took her too far away from the hands-on agriculture that she loved. Her studies exposed her to people from around the world, and ideas too. For example, the idea that coffee can have different flavors – and that people will pay more for better tasting coffee.

Her ‘come to coffee’ moment happened in 2013 in a Parisian café. Here she saw coffee from São Paolo and realized two things at the exact same time. The first was how far coffee travelled, the many hands and miles travelled from her home to her. And the second was how her home needed a better agent; this coffee was from Minas Gerais but marked simply as a product of Brazil.

“One day I would like to have coffee from my community on a menu like this. This was in 2013 – I came home with a question in my mind – do we have this coffee in my home, is it possible to produce coffee that is good enough to get it on menus worldwide”.

In 2015 Yuki brought a sample of her coffee to a micro-roaster in São Paolo and asked him for feedback. “I did not know that we were already producing specialty coffee”, Yuki said, “or that an 86 was a good score. I also didn’t know anything about specialty, and so didn’t get a fair price when I sold to this guy. From this experience I realized that farmers must know what they have”.

Yuki had moved back home with her father, and could not get over one fact. He has been doing the same thing – farming coffee – for over 40 years. But his situation has not changed, has not improved. Yuki identified the need for good management – she described it like seeing incredible talent without an agent. If her father, and her neighbors, could get better representation, Yuki thought, they could get better customers. With better customers they could get a bigger share of their harvest, getting up enough to see the path forward.

Four, five years ago there was no talk of specialty coffee. The idea that coffee could have different flavors, and different values, was foreign to the region. But this is part of what Yuki brought back. With a plan in place she started recruiting her neighbors behind the simple idea – we do the work we get the reward. She argued that they could get better prices on the commodity market by working together to pool costs and negotiate sales as a block. She argued that some of their coffee could be kept aside, improved, and sold as specialty. And she convinced them that she could find buyers interested if they were willing to invest in quality. Lastly, she had to convince them that she was the right person, that she would get the training (Q), and make the connections (IWCA, SCA) necessary to make this dream come true.

This 2018 import was Yuki’s first. We are honored to have met such a spirited and capable partner in coffee. Please join us as we welcome Yuki and her community to specialty coffee.

Let’s meet the farmers

Farmer:            Yuki Minami and her father Niculau Minami
Farm 1:            Fazenda Olhos D’agua (Lot 71)
Farm 2:            Fazenda San Antonio (Lot 42)
Production:        5,000-6,000 bags between the two farms.
State:             Minas Gerais
Region:            Cerrado Mineiro
District:          Alto Paranaiba
Closest town:      São Gotardo
Map:               https://goo.gl/maps/PXn8g3CB4xm
Varieties:         Red and Yellow Catui
Altitude:          3750 – 4000 feet

Farm 1: Lot 71, the original. 56 hectares but just got a coffee plot in December ’17. In three years will produce a yellow Catui variety. Altitude = 1150m.

Farm 2: Santo Antonioaka Lot 42. Coffee was planted here in 2002 and now has 122 hectares of coffee. Altitude = 1150m.

The main challenge is renewing the coffee trees. They will start an experimental plant to try out classic bourbon and the new hybrid capped ‘parasio’ or ‘SL-34’; historically they have only planted red and yellow catuai.

2- Edson Tamekuni (pronounced: tamae – kuni)

Region:            Cerrado Mineiro
State:             Minas Gerais
Farm:              Vargrem Grande
Production:        98 hectares of coffee
Closest Town:      Campos Altos
Map:               https://goo.gl/maps/V63vhm5qt3y
Varieties:         Bourbon, Yellow Catui, Margoype
Altitude:          3800 – 4000 feet.

37 years old, Edson’s grandparents came from Japan, just like Yuki’s, and his wife is an incredible baker. They produce naturals and pulp naturals across two farms.

Farm 1: Pacoes [pronounced posoiynes; the ‘c’ is a placeholder for the ‘ç’ (c-cedilla)]

Focus of this farm is on productivity.

Farm 2: Vargem Grande (pronounced Var – Gem). Was purchased two years ago from a man who grew too old to manage the farm. But he was an award-winning coffee farmer (#13 Cup of Excellence in 2016 on the first year they took over operation of the farm). They just needed younger labor and management. The focus is on quality; shade-grown low yields.

3- Michael Tomizawa

State:             Minas Gerais
Region:            Cerrado Mineiro
District:          Alto Paranaiba
Farm 1:            São Bento
Production:        42 hectares 
Farm 2:            Fazenda Paraiso
Production:        28 hectares
Closest Town:      Carmo Paranaiba
Map:               https://goo.gl/maps/1FVN1j3ZYEM2
Varieties:         Yellow Catui, Yellow Bourbon, Mundo Novo, Paraiso
Altitude:          3400 – 3500 feet

Maycon (Michael) is 35 years old. His wife Patricia roasts; you can find their coffee at the local Farmers Markets.

“It felt kind of funny”. My first few days back from my first time in Brazil, this is how I tried to describe my experience. “It was familiar. Yet totally different.”

Food is relatable, so I start by describing the mixture of queues, customary and new, that make Brazilian food a masquerade of the familiar. Beautiful, bountiful breads I later learned are made with manioc or cassava flour instead of wheat [1]. Pizza is popular, thank you, but only to be eaten with a fork and knife if you please. Peppers; you’ll find peppers galore – sweet, though, none of them are spicy.  And you’ll walk into a random road-side gas stop to find it seats 200 people and serves up top-notch BBQ. Even the local rum, cachaça, it tastes like rum you know … only with a distinct ‘fresh, green, sugar cane’ flavor [2].

Or take the landscape, contorted cerrado trees cut by straight rows of coffee that ran out over the horizon. It was a complete cross between an African Savannah and Iowa corn-field.

Or listen to the stories – familiar formulas with totally different denominators.

I traveled with urban-educated farmers in their 30s, each of them fresh back to the farm and in a generational struggle to get their parents to take specialty seriously. Each teaming up with agronomists, Q-cuppers and one another to make the most out of whatever leash they’ve been given to surf the third wave. Running experiments, reading articles and developing specialty brands while managing the day-to-day responsibilities (and change of pace) that comes with being back on the family farm.

And I met their parents, Japanese-Brazilian cowboys, and some of the region’s first settlers. Proud to send their children to college, and even more proud that they chose to come back. Stern-faced and straight-laced, they prefer the tried and true ways of how things have been done…but you may still find a Brittany Spears cassette hidden away in their car.

It was a mash-up of vignettes from the America Midwest with scenes from Hollywood’s Grease, imposed over How The West Was Won. It is the story of many family businesses and entrepreneurs that I know, of many Americans in coffee, complete with a road trip outfitted with Brazilian chicharrons and an Alabama Shakes soundtrack.

The effect was disorienting, and by the time I got to the farms I was halfway to dizzy. Coffee, at least, finally something familiar to me.

Except it wasn’t.

I saw farms absolutely thriving without a sliver shade in sight, yet chock-full of life.

I met twenty-foot tall harvesters that treated trees more gently than any but the most careful of hand-pickers.

I watched top quality specialty coffee set out to dry, constantly being turned with amazing loving care and attention. By tractors.

I met farm workers who have more rights than Walmart employees, and farmers with 30+ years of experience managing the world’s most modern coffee farms … while they were tasting their coffees for the very first time.

I saw vegetable coolers being used to experiment with cold fermentation, and living libraries of new varietals, designed in the lab for performance in the cup. I saw coffee grown at a scale I’ve never seen before, and experimentation at the nano-lot level that I never thought possible.

As I said, it all felt kind of funny. Conflicting, unsettling even. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I remembered a design term that described my feeling fully – the uncanny valley.

The uncanny valley refers to renderings of humans which appear “…almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit uncanny, or strangely familiar, feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers” (thanks Wikipedia). Somewhere past cute and into creepy – I think of the puppets from Team America.

In the same way everything in Brazil was close to how I expected it to be, but just different enough to be unsettling. That funny feeling I felt was just all kinds of bias leaving my body. Bias which was getting in the way of me seeing specialty in Brazil for what it is and what it is coming to be.

This bias is a gap that stands between Brazil and specialty. So small you can skip it if you know where to step. But with conventions so deep that you can fall right in if you don’t know where to look. It is why older generations in Brazil find it hard to believe that specialty is the real deal. And why U.S. specialty balks at the idea of Brazilian micro-lots.

But I came to see Brazil as a serious source for top-end specialty. There is momentum and mass building behind quality in Brazil, right now, so obvious as to be undeniable. As proof I’ll point to the people I met who are pushing top-end coffees to new heights, using infrastructure and tools unavailable to farmers elsewhere in the world. I am excited to watch a new crop of farmers as they take their farms forward in generational strides, every harvest pushing back the horizon of what’s possible with Brazilian specialty.

So now I describe my trip as one through an uncanny valley. A personal journey to the belief that the future of Brazilian specialty is near, here, even, if only we will get out of the way. And if you have the patience, my good readers, read on and I’ll tell you how I got here.

Our story starts with one woman, Yuki Minami. That’s her pictured between Maya and myself in the photo above. Without her we wouldn’t be in Brazil. But hers was a mission so aligned with ours, and a personality so compatible, that because of her we were inspired to study up on Brazil to see where were could pitch in, and if we could find happy homes for her coffee.

This was 2017/2018, and Yuki’s first export as Aequitas Coffee.

For readers new to this story, Aequitas Coffee is equal parts educator and exporter. It is Yuki’s vehicle for helping fellow producers to become aware of what they have and their options for participating in specialty.

The normal exporter – farmer relationship in Brazil is paternal, patriarchal even. It’s not common for farmers to know where their coffee goes, how it is priced or if it could score well enough to break out of the top-shelf designation of Sc 16+ 2/3 SS FC. And while that’s the premium price a farmer can get, it’s still only top of the heap for commodity coffees, and not at all how specialty is traded.  So, for Aequitas to invite us down to host a workshop that gives feedback, talks pricing strategy and discusses trends with producers – well let’s just say that this was a first in many ways.

Yuki’s mission is to empower farmers with knowledge of what they have and how they can compete in this game we call specialty.  She plays the game well and her work lives up to her word; Yuki does so much to support her community that even she’d blush if I listed all that I saw here in one place. Her primary communities are those around her farm in São Gotardo, fellow members of her Japanese-Brazilian community in the greater Cerrado Minero region, and women in coffee anywhere.

Her style is more to connect, collaborate, facilitate, educate and lead by example. She’s the type who needs to eat her weight every lunch so that her body can keep up with the energy within. She’s a researcher at heart, I think, because she takes time to get smart but when she moves, but when she it’s towards long-term objectives barely on the horizon. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan.

Still, the last thing a fish will discover is water. And even as Yuki raises the bar in Brazil her work is overshadowed by stereotypes that stand between Brazil and specialty in the minds of her parents, colleagues and customers.

With few exceptions, we still see coffee from Brazil as bulk, mechanized, a commodity.  Responsible for supplying nearly half of the world’s coffee, and by far the biggest influencer on price – we have reason to think Brazil and bulk in the same sentence.

I mean, the one time I asked for a sample of a Brazilian 2/3 SS FC I was laughed at – apparently this is like asking to taste a Big Mac before buying it. [3]

And because interactions like of this we assume that farming in Brazil is unsustainable, and incapable of producing specialty. Even as I met people, saw farms and tasted coffees to the contrary, this base assumption somehow held on, impacting what I was looking for and what I saw.

My resume is working with smallholders in places more remote than Minas Gerais. Places where we measure harvests in terms of kilograms cherry per tree, not in liters per hectare as they do here in Brazil.

Sidebar: I smile when I think back on just how difficult it was to show Yuki’s father what a coffee farm in Africa looks like. After stumbling over conversions of trees per hectare and liters to kilograms I resort to showing photos. But even when looking at a photo of a small Ugandan shamba one of the farmers asked ‘so, where’s the coffee’?

“You see”, I said, “before running off to Ethiopia to get those prices remember that they only get 1.5 – 4 KG cherry per tree to your 9 – 12”.

When working with smallholders the best we can do for quality is to encourage healthy trees through good agricultural practices, backed up by selective picking and proper drying. They simply are not able to separate by varietal or experiment with post-harvest processing. In contrast, here in Brazil, coffee is harvested and dried mechanically; efforts to improve quality are in genetics and fermentation techniques.

In the end it all makes a difference – genetics, harvesting, processing and drying. But to-date I had only been trained to the see upstream indicators of quality associated with smallholders[4] and not what was possible when we put our scientists to the task. I found myself looking for what I knew instead of into that which was new. And the more I actually looked the more I liked what I saw.

There’s harmony to be found in the relationship between proud farmers, honest leaders and strong organizations. I appreciate the craft of feeling the soil to judge its health, or in knowing fermentation by the straightness of a stick. I grew up in coffee rubbing parchment to measure moisture or biting on a bean for the same, and still do this while my moisture meter takes its time to tare. I see integrity in varietals that are heirloom and native to the region. And wisdom baked-in to how each family selects for the right shade of red, then navigates the complex web of relationships, business and personality that guides how coffee is processed from there.

But there’s also something to be said for the modern means we have for quantifying, measuring, tracking and influencing the world of variables that impact quality. With enough control, coffee can be closer to a clean science than a messy negotiation between nature, culture and environment.

I love the mess, don’t get me wrong, and I always will. But I wasn’t even really aware that there was another way until I started seeing things from Yuki’s point of view. She has an eye for artistry, absolutely, but she paints with pragmatism.

She has never said as much, but the mission of Aequitas is empowerment through education, so I imagine that to Yuki learning is what is most important. And with learning as priority #1 the rest is easy to breakdown. To learn you need the ability to track. Tracking requires taking measurements over time. For measurements you need consistency and controls.  For time you need a plan and some patience, cause there’s just never enough time.

Which is why Yuki, Edson and everyone in this generation seems ravenous in their hunt for knowledge. Yuki’s curiosity is as big as her appetite, and the world a buffet of examples she can learn from. The tastiest of notions make it back to her cupping table via the living laboratory that is her farm, where she has the control to try for consistency, to track and improve over time.

From the way she talks about it, Yuki sees mechanical dryers not as a short-cut, but as additional tool that helps her practice her art which is quality.  Through her eyes I can see the daily danger that is dew, and the beauty of watching coffee dry in a straight line. I see the possibility that comes with control.[5]

Where I once saw rows of technified coffee and thought, ‘hmm, no shade, no birds, poor soil, unsustainable’. Yuki sees life in soil that otherwise would be too acidic to support more than sparse savannah. She sees the immense amount of effort her family puts into maintaining the land, and points proudly to the white streaks of calcium that line the road in to town, without which nothing would grow.[6]

Yuki grew up walking along the rivers, lakes and other permanently protected areas of their farm. She played in the forests that make up an additional, mandatory 20% of her family’s land. She’s spent time poking through the coffee trees and knows well the abundance of life they contain.

All the data points kept adding up, but my shift still seemed to click over at once. Emerging from the uncanny valley felt like shrugging off a heavy backpack or that moment when the sun escapes from behind a cloud.

It was the birds that did it.

Sereima and Jacu birds eating berries off the patio. Sparrows, swallows, kestrels and parakeets, owls and toucans. I’m not talented enough of an author to tell you what I mean by this, but if you lend me your imagination I’ll do my best to take you there.

Driving through Yuki’s coffee farm was like racing through a healthy hedge maze. It had been a long day, my head full with all the all aforementioned information. Whipping past rich green leaves, vibrant red and yellow berries; life bursting from the trees up to the point of pruning up living walls of green stretching 12’ overhead.

With such straight lines, from a distance, it’s easy to forget that it’s still just nature in here.

Until we are in there and an orchestra of chirps trumpet in from the left or right, heralding a flurry of black and blue (and yellow, and red) as tiny birds blast out from the branches and stream into the alley between. They join in the middle of the row, a confetti cannon of chaotic colors leading your way through the hedgerows, staying just in front of your windshield like flying toasters in reverse.

We chase them down row by row until we until we finally come across the harvester, a 20’ tall needle in a 120 hectare haystack. One of her playmates from back in the day, Almir, was driving a harvester.

We hopped on.

This was my first encounter with a harvester and, quite frankly, I’d been anti. I’d assumed them to be incapable of selective picking, and harmful to trees. But by the time I hopped off I wanted my very own.

I looked up and saw not a monstrosity, but a beautiful, modern machine designed to vibrate berries off of branches as gently and efficiently, as possible. I looked back and saw a row of happy trees, slightly disheveled but better off for it. I got exciting hearing Yuki talk about the technology progressing every year. About how you take your quality map into a harvest plan, which informs how you set arm placement, vibration and rotation speed … for example. Needless to say I was impressed, and asked for the specs on her Jacto K3 Millenium[7].

Ears still buzzing, we made our way over to the drying patios where we get out of the car and took a knee to look for pooling after a recent rain. Even with our attention down we could not help but notice the toucan perched up above. This was the final straw, where I made up my mind that I’d had it all wrong.

While there’s no arguing with the Smithsonian standards for Bird-Friendly farms, and that these farms would not qualify.[8] Farms which do not qualify are not inherently unfriendly to birds.

But if you go at dusk you may see two owls, like we did, just waiting for a meal. Or hummingbirds darting in to the irrigation line, looking for a drink. If you have a farm dog you can smile as they bound through the coffee bushes, disappearing for a moment only to produce squawking grouse chased from their perch. If peregrine falcons can take roost in downtown Chicago it should not be a surprise to see Toucans thrive here in Brazil.

The sun sets early here; it’s already getting lower when Yuki suggests we break for coffee. She drives us up to a ridge within the coffee farm that overlooks a newly planted plot, short enough that we can see all the way west. There’s a trailer here, set up as a lounge. A long picnic style table runs down the middle with water, a stove and coffee setup.

This trailer moves around the farm as a break-station for workers. A bit nomadic, but in this case, totally romantic. Looking out over the coffee fields, hearing nothing but the buzz of bees and rustling of leaves, I would have fallen in love with any coffee Yuki wanted to serve in this setting. But it was this juicy yellow bourbon, which we drank to the last drop, making another before heading back to the farmhouse.

We arrived there at 5:01. I remember the time because as we pull up motorcycles are pulling out, and Yuki explains ‘5:00, time to go home’. While land is wealth, and ownership associated with the political right, the left has been in power for long enough that farm workers have more rights in Brazil than they do in America, or on any other farm I’ve seen. The amount of times I heard “there’s a machine for that”, is one reason why – most labor on the farm is mechanically assisted. But it’s also in the relationships. Due to the diversity of crops allowed in the São Gotardo region most farm workers were from the community and there year-around.

São Gotardo grew to 30,000 people in under fifty years, yet receives an additional 20,000-30,000 more seasonal workers each year, in particular for the winter (July) carrot harvest. It is said that these workers are from the Maranhão region of northern brazil, though in truth they can come from anywhere. And

they are just some of the many ‘sem terra’, without land. This is a movement, associated with the political left, that represents the rights of many migratory workers and which encourages squatting as a strategy. It’s a real issue; like the US, Brazil’s history saw waves of immigrants coming in to settle land in large tracts. This leads to a large landed elite, as well as many (former slaves) who were not able to take part in this land grab.

Still, without coffee, today these workers from the north would be ‘sem emprego’, without jobs. Jobs which seem to be very organized and regulated. Not taking a side here, just rounding out a rather complex issue. Because, in fact, some argue that the reason you don’t see many small coffee farms any more is because labor is so well protected that most cannot afford to mechanize, comply and compete.

Regardless, the outcome is that those farmers who are left are competitive, and are just now turning their attention to specialty.

We leave São Gotardo,, and the Minas Cerrado region, to visit another farmer in Santo Antonio do Amparo. The story of Miriam is beautiful, and inspiring. It involves paint horses, funky fermentation, the dawn of Brazil’s organic movement and the mobilization of women in coffee in the support of women in coffee. That is to say that it is a story for another day.

We did not get to share about our visits with Edson or Maycon; partners in Aequitas and heart-warming people. You did not get to learn of Ana and her work at São Luiz Estate. About Renato or Maxwell; sharp, young Q-cuppers on the rise. Or about Camila’s research on the gastronomy of varietals. Suffice it to say that has a deep bench stocked with top talent. We have found great partners, and can only hope to be great partners in return.

Like Aequitas, we want suppliers to know what they have so that that they can compete, thrive and sustain in their commitment to specialty. But as Saturday morning cartoons taught me, ‘knowing is half the battle’. I add ‘only’, because on a long journey, halfway still leaves a long way to go.

Farmers are getting on the specialty train at every stop, but without an open-minded market they won’t have a ticket to ride. The other half of the battle, then, involves changing mindsets about how we in specialty think about Brazilian coffee. Starting with our own.

Towards this end I offer my journey through my own bias as example, and hope that it is useful in yours. But if you find yourself still questioning Brazil’s ability to get down with specialty, ask yourself this. How can coffee from a place with such passion fail to have heart? How can the world’s leader in coffee production, policy and research not have what it takes to execute at the upper end of what’s possible? How can generation of farmers with the heart, mind and hands for specialty – people like Edson Tamekuni (pictured above) – how can you expect them to sit back and not take part in their own future?

With a generation of people like Edson taking the reins US specialty buyers will be lucky to just hold on. Did you know that most of Brazil’s coffee goes to Europe (Germany), and that every auction sees Asia (Australia) taking the top? Did you know that the washed process was invented in Brazil, as were pulp-naturals? Farmers here have always adapted to what customers ask of them. It’s time we got their ear.

Still skeptical? That’s fine. Visit us at SCA 2019 in Boston where we will be making room for a cupping of Brazilian experimental lots. Tasting is believing, so put your skepticism in your pocket until then and come with an open mind and clean palate.

 (mural from ‘King of Fork’ café in São Paulo)

(mural from ‘King of Fork’ café in São Paulo)

[1] Which gives them the best of textures. Firm, chewy on the outside, fluffy in. I came back and made this Pao de Queijo recipe right away and found it quite good (I subbed half the shredded mozzarella for fresh, and used a top notch parm, which I think made a difference).

[2] A flavor that comes from distilling sugar cane juice directly, skipping the step in refinement that makes molasses

[3] 2/3 = the first number states how many defects are allowed; 2/3 is the cleanest commodity designation with maximum of nine secondary and no primary defects (which is close to the C2C standard of 0 primary and no more than 5 secondary)

SS = Strictly Soft; this is confusing, as technically it means lower altitude (less dense) beans, but in practice in means beans which are clean of rioy defect

FC = Fine Cup; a designation of cup quality

[4] Farming for quality as a smallholder: (1) Get to red ripes. (2) Plan for lot separation. (3) Dry slowly.  Farmer for quality in Brazil (1) Know your genetics, (2) Quality mapping (lot separation plan), (3) Proper post-harvest processing

[5]Speed: 0.35 to 1.25 miles / hours.

Brake: 8 KG max (heavier brakes slow roll rotation, aka, the forgiveness of the harvester)

More information, and a 3D tour of the machine, available here

[6] SMBC certification requires adherence to the same standards for organic coffees, plus an additional requirement that 40% of the farm have shade cover

[7] We haven’t talked about this yet, but next year I want to see if Yuki would run experiments to see what happens in the cup when we modulate the drying curve over extended periods of time.

[8] Yes, Minas Gerais (translation; general mines) is a mining state, and the next town over has old quarries that bring all the calcium the soil in São Gotardo needs to support the State’s richest diversity of crops.