Farm: Fazenda Bela Vista
Varietal: Yellow Catuaí
Altitude: 980 metres above sea level
Owner: Luciano Tannuri
Town / City: Ibia
Region: Cerrado Mineiro
Overall: Dark chocolate, grape, creme brulee
Fazenda Bela Vista Yellow Catuaí Nat - Brazil
Luciano Tannuri and Adilio Zorzal were working as agronomists at the Cooperativa Agropecuária do Alto Paranaíba (Coopadap) co-op in Alto Paranaíba when they first formulated the idea of forming a group of coffee producers focused on quality and productivity. Initially, the proposal was presented to all co-op associates. The concept resonated with some members of the group, and in 2010 the company Café Agrícola Limited was officially established. The producers joined funds and eventually acquired an area of 300 hectares: what was once part of a much larger farm known as Fazenda Bela Vista. Bela Vista was ideally situated in a region of the same name, which means 'beautiful view' in Portuguese. Today, the group has 18 members and is represented by Luciano Tannuri, who is not only the farm manager and agronomist but also one of the partners.
Every producer member of the group is from a family that pioneered farming activities in the region of São Gotardo beginning in 1973, when a rural settlement project was launched with the aim of developing the region. Apart from being pioneers in farming activities, the producers are also pioneers in establishing a group focused on quality in coffee production. The road to specialty hasn’t been without its challenges, however.
In 2016 a severe frost damaged 80% of the coffee crop in the region and decimated Bela Vista, putting a check on the group’s hopes. It was a sad and difficult moment for all producers, as they were expecting a payback after years of massive investment. Far from bailing out, they decided to redouble their efforts. Now, more than 2 years later, the coffee is healthy and vigorous, beyond even the recovery that was initially expected. As a crowning achievement, in 2018 Luciano Tannuri and the members of the group one first place at the 5th Coopadap Quality Awards. Looking back at where they had started, Luciano is amazed at what they’ve achieved in so little time.
Over the years, the main challenge in starting the group was gathering a group of producers within the same objective. Once that was complete, they could begin to worry about the growing! Because the region presents different types of soil, there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’ agronomic solution. This characteristic can reflect in different attributes and cup profiles from lot to lot, which is great for specialty, but it also means that each lot demands different attention, which is more costly than a single approach to implement. Furthermore, as the farm is located at a relatively lower altitude in the Sao Gotardo microrregion – the average in the region is 1,100 metres above sea level – careful post harvest techniques are required to ensure coffee quality.
Today, 90% of the farm is covered by a drip irrigation system, which gives greater control over periods of flowering. Soil undergoes annual soil analysis and then is submitted to a correction process by applying chemical and organic fertilizers. This is done, of course, on a plot by plot basis. Part of this fertilisation is done through a ferti-drip irrigation which optimises the use of chemical fertilisers and helps reduce the overall required dose, resulting in up to 20% savings on inputs in the areas where it is applied.
During the harvest season, great care is taken to ensure that those lots with quality potential receive a careful and different treatment during harvest and post-harvesting. Harvest plots are delineated according to planting year and variety. This Yellow Catuaí lot was mechanically harvested, with at least two passes being completed. The first pass is completed without vibration in order to harvest only the most fully-ripe cherries and to avoid any fruit drop. The second pass happens 30 to 40 days after this, just in time for the second ripening!
Once harvested, the coffee cherries are laid on patios in very thin layers for the first day. Here, they are left to pre-dry without turning. On the second day, the coffee is raked several times, slowing reducing moisture levels. As the coffee dries, it is raked into thicker layers to slow the rate of moisture loss. Coffee will continue drying on the patios for 8 days, after which it will be moved to mechanical dryers for finishing. Here it dried at 30 to 45 degrees with ‘cool down’ periods approximately every 8 to 10 hours (it is dried during the day and rested and cooled during the night). The coffee will remain for up to 3 days in the mechanical dryer, after which it will be bagged and rested.
Luciano came to São Gotardo in 1996 to work at Coopadap in the grain sector (soybean, corn, wheat and others). He worked here for three years and then spent one year at the cooperative’s experimental farm working in coffee and vegetable production. In 1998 he started working as a field assistant agronomist in coffee and fruit (avocado, atemoya, mango, khaki, macadamia and lychee), assisting 25 farms representing an area of 2,900 hectares. In 2010 he left the co-op department of agronomical assistance and started working as manager of Fazenda Bela Vista.
Luciano Tannuri has an Agronomy degree obtained from the State University of São Paulo, an MSc in Vegetable Production by Federal University of Viçosa and an MBA degree from the Getulio Vargas Foundation in agribusiness management. Currently he's attending a post-graduate course in Soil and Plant Nutrition at Luiz de Queiroz Higher Education School, University of São Paulo, considered the best agronomical and agricultural engineering university in Brazil.
Luciano has said that entering the specialty coffee world is something new to him despite his years of experience with coffee. What he sees as interesting and valuable is the relationship: it's not only about coffee, but the producers' story that is transmitted throughout the coffee chain. It's a different way of seeing the coffee chain and understanding how products are valued. For those producers who are passionate and dedicated to coffee quality, their product should be treated and valued as specialty not as commodity.
About Aequitas Exporters:
Aequitas Exporters is a huge part of the story of how Mercanta came to work with Fazenda Bela Vista, and they share Luciano’s perspective.
Aequitas is a family business owned by the Minami family, a Japanese-Brazilian family whose members were some of the first to farm coffee in the Cerrado Mineiro. The Minamis believe that volatility in pricing due to fluctuations in the market pose huge challenges to coffee production. Part of the problem is looking at coffee as a commodity rather than as a connection between people. For more than 40 years, their production was traded following the traditional path: Farmer > Cooperative > Middleman > Exporter > Importer > Roaster > Consumer.
In August 2015, this logic changed. A specialty coffee roaster and Q-grader cupped the Minami family’s coffee and gave it a score of 86 on the SCAA scale. The family could not believe it so they asked three other Q-graders to cup their coffee samples. They all provided similar results. At this point they realised the potential of the region’s coffee.
They started to sell their coffee directly to coffee shops in São Paulo and gained some insight into consumer preferences for high quality, specialty coffee. The experience was empowering and made them feel more confident that they could reach markets that valued coffee in a different way. In May 2016 they exported a container loaded with specialty coffee – with lots ranging from 82 to 87 points – to an importer in Europe.
After these achievements, the family started thinking: “Why not do the same for other producers in our region?” Aequitas Coffee Exporters was born. Today, 42 years after Nicolau Minami (the current owner of the company, along with his daughter Yuki and other children) arrived in the region, he finally has the opportunity to make a huge difference in the local and global coffee community.
Engaging fellow cooperative members in speciality coffee is part of the company’s mission, and investment in exploring quality potential plays a crucial role. For instance, from May to August of 2017 a group of producers from Coopadap including the Minamis received a consultation with Professor Flavio Borem and his team – experts in specialty coffee processing. During the harvest period, the producers listened to lectures and engaged in cupping sessions with the professor, who also visited farms to analyse the coffee’s potential and to give post-harvesting trainings. As a component of the assessment, the team also conducted stringent processing experiments. Ripe coffee was hand-picked from two different coffee plots, one of a red varietal and the other a yellow varietal. These were then taken to the co-op's experimental farm where the professor’s equipment was installed. The team processed the lots separately, using pulped natural and natural methods. The coffee started the drying process in raised beds and then was moved to the professor's lab at the Federal University of Lavras in order to continue drying. This guaranteed the best controlled conditions for drying and storage. In August 2017, Professor Borem presented the results and compared coffee sensorial analysis using SCA method according to the variables processing, varietal and altitude (below or above 1.100). The experiment was instructive for Cooperative members who are deciding which varietal planting they will undertake (taking into account altitude) and which processing method will result in expressing the coffee's highest cup potential.
Aequitas Coffee is 100% committed to transparency and equality. Equity is their core value, and the name of the company itself derives from the Latin word Aequitatis, or Equity. Aequitas was the Roman goddess of fair dealing and honest measure. The goal of the company is to connect coffee producers from the region of São Gotardo to the specialty coffee market and to create overall awareness amongst them of the choices they have rather than being reduced to a secondary link in the supply chain. Aequitas feels that producers deserve to be recognized and rewarded by the coffee community for the love and effort they dedicate in producing an outstanding coffee.