Farm: Fazenda California
Varietal: 100% Mundo Novo
Processing: Fully Washed
Altitude: 800+ metres above sea level
Owner: Luiz Rodrigues
Town / City: Jacarezinho
Region: Norte Pioneiro do Paraná
Overall: Dark chocolate, citrus, brown sugar
Fazenda California Mundo Novo FW - Brazil
Located in the city of Jacarezinho, State of Paraná, Fazenda California is a 100 year old farm central to the history of coffee farming in one of Brazil’s foremost coffee producing states. Today, the farm is taking the heritage that is its birthright and blending it with a more modern and experimental approach to production aimed at sustainability, quality and relationships.
Norte Pioneiro do Paraná is located on world’s southern borderline for specialty coffee production. Located right at the base of the ‘coffee belt’ on the Tropic of Capricorn, the region has distinct characteristics not shared by its northern neighbour of Minas Gerais and São Paulo, which are characterized by a warmer, more tropical climate.
Northern Paraná, rather, has a sub-tropical and very wet climate (as do many areas along the Tropic of Capricorn). With four distinct seasons and regular rainfall throughout the year, the temperature in Paraná is much lower, with cool days and nights that are only found at higher altitudes in Brazil’s more tropical regions. This cooler climate presents challenges for coffee farmers in the region, including heightened risk of frost even at lower altitudes and potential hazards with drying during the harvest season. However, these potential drawbacks are countered by the possibility of being able to farm very high quality coffee at lower-than-traditional altitudes due to cool climatic conditions which allow slow plant growth and cherry maturation.
Paraná used to the biggest coffee producer in the world. Coffee arrived in the state in 1892, and at the height of its production, in the 1950s, the state produced equal to what Minas Gerais now produces today.
Famous for the richness of its history, Fazenda California was one of the state’s earliest estates and was settled at the beginning of the 19th century by the New Orleans-based coffee importer, Leon & Israel. Among its most glorious moments are its appearance in the 1963 film ‘Instant Love’ and Mr. Nelson Rockefeller’s visit in 1947. Despite the farm’s privileged location and rich, volcanic soil, however, Leon & Israel were fixated on producing as much coffee as possible with little effort. The sum total of the farm’s 900 hectares – previously all forest – was converted into coffee plantation with a focus of productivity over quality.
By 1984, the original Leon & Israel owners had both passed away, leaving Fazenda California to be sold in 1986. The new owners, however, continued with a focus on quantity and used a great deal of chemical fertilisers and herbicides to ensure high productivity. They harvested all the way right through January using these methods (the normal harvest would have ended in December), but the payoff was coffee of low quality.
The farm was acquired in 2004 by the Brazilian Saldanha Rodrigues family, who were intent on transforming the farm and maximising its potential as a producer of quality coffee. Initially, Luis Rodrigues (who had no background in coffee but brought to his new career a passion and commitment to knowledge and innovation) rented sections of the farm to sugarcane farmers. The income all went towards complete renovation of the coffee farm. Luis began planting coffee in 2006, deciding that what the farm needed was a total re-boot. By 2008, his hard work had resulted in 200 hectares of exceptionally managed plantations of Mondo Novo, Yellow Catuai and Obatã and a new era focused on professional management and sustainability in speciality coffee production. Social and environmental sustainability are a significant part of the farm’s aims, with California achieving UTZ certification in 2007 and Rainforest Alliance in 2012.
The farm, for the past three years, has been 100% mechanically harvested, though Luis’s innovations have enabled them to do a special ‘selective’ process that ensures only the ripest cherries are picked per pass. The farm currently performs five processes: fully washed (somewhat unusual in Brazil), pulped natural, black and yellow honey, and natural. The process that is picked for each lot (usually about 30 bags in size) is often determined by the climatic conditions at the time – particularly drying conditions. The majority of coffee on the farm is wet processed, which lends itself better to the cool wet conditions of the region. Honey processing is reserved solely for long periods of sunny, warmer weather.
Fazenda California’s wet processing is unusual. After being picked, the coffee is delivered to the farm’s mill, where it is ‘doubled fermented’. This method of fermentation – which Luis learned from a COE winning Nicaraguan farmer – starts with the freshly harvested cherries being delivered to the farm’s flotation tank where instead of being floated and pulped it remains, still in its skin, for 24 hours, gradually pre-fermenting ‘in the cherry’. The coffee is then pulped and fermented again for another 24 to 48 hours before being washed and delivered to patios to dry. Due to the region’s cool climate, fully washing and fermenting coffees can often be tricky. Coffee can take up to 7 days to ferment fully, which leads to the risk of over-fermentation and also takes far too long to manage for the farm’s size. By pulping first in the cherry, the fermentation process is given a controlled ‘head start’ which also shortens the fermentation time after pulping. The result is a better, more reliable fermentation in half the time.
To help deal with the unpredictable weather, the farm also has an integrated drying system which combines sun drying on patios and controlled used of guardiolas. Normally coffee starts its drying period in the centrifuge, where excess water from the washing process is removed. The parchment is then delivered to sun-dry on the farm’s extensive patios. When it reaches 70 to 80 percent humidity, the coffee is then moved to mechanical dryers where it dried at a slow, even 30-40 degrees. It is then rested for 7 to 10 days and returned to finish drying until it reaches 11% humidity, at which point it is delivered to the farm’s warehouses to rest before being milled and exported.
Each lot is cupped twice: once for defects (after the first drying period) and later after it has rested at 11% humidity for quality scoring.
In addition to coffee and quality, Fazenda California is fully committed to social sustainability and has invested in school programs and church renovation for the workers on the farm.