This month we are excited to welcome back two long term partners of La Cabra. We have been working with both of these producers since the 2014 season, and they have been much loved staples of our line up ever since. In Brazil, we work directly with a producer who owns and runs his own farm and processing operation, whereas in Burundi, we work with a small family company, striving to provide a better life and conditions for Burundian farmers. Both produce very different coffees in very different parts of the world, but it is their dedication, passion and consistency that keeps us coming back to buy every year.
First is Paulo César Junquiera, better known as Lilica to his friends. Lilica is a third generation coffee farmer, Sitio Pinherinho having been in the family since the late 1800’s. Although coffee is in his blood, Lilica was never interested in taking up his father’s passion during his younger years. As he grew older, Lilica had problems with alcohol, and grew even further from his father. He says himself that he could have a had a great education in coffee farming, but was never able to take advantage of this. This meant that Lilica was forced to learn very quickly after his father passed away around twenty years ago, leaving Pinheirinho in Lilica’s hands. In order to continue his father’s legacy, Lilica was able to overcome his issues and pour his effort into the farm. This was taken to a new level, when he started working with Carmo coffees, an exporting firm based in the Carmo De Minas Region. Carmo have helped Lilica to understand that he is growing specialty coffee, of very high quality, and have begun helping him to search for buyers that will pay a premium for this. They have also helped Lilica to control his quality, producing more consistently, for example by switching to hand picking his entire farm. He has also begun to cup his own coffees, learning their attributes so as to better understand his product. All of this leads to delicious coffee. This year for the first time we have been able to purchase 2 different lots from Lilica, the Catuai that we have bought previously, and a small amount of the Icatu, that you will be enjoying in your subscription this month. Catuai is cross between the varietals Caturra and Mundo Novo, initially crossed in 1949, intending to keep the cup quality of Caturra, but some of the disease resistance of Mundo Novo. As time went on, and diseases changed, the resistance of Catuai became less strong, so more drastic action was required. The Icatu varietal is a cross between Bourbon, which is very closely related to Caturra, and Mundo Novo, but with a small amount of robusta rootstock bred in. This means that the disease resistance os very strong, but Icatu also has very minimal compromise on cup quality. In fact, Icatu varietal lots have placed highly in several Brazilian Cup of Excellence competitions. We are finding the Icatu lot fairly similar to our expectation of the Pinheirinho profile, with a sweet chocolatey backbone, and a typical Brazilian nutty character. However, we are also finding an interesting and soft grape-like character in the Icatu, which we haven’t found with Lilica’s coffees before.
The other coffee in your pack this month comes to us courtesy of Ben and Kristy Carlson, an American couple who have chosen to call Burundi home. There are several reasons why producing speciality coffee in Burundi is an incredibly difficult task. There’s the incredibly unstable political situation, where government can change rules on coffee prices and production seemingly overnight, the geographical constraints, that come with being a small landlocked country attempting to export coffee by sea freight, the constant threat of military coup. But through it all the Carlson family have managed to establish themselves as producers and exporters of consistently delicious coffees, all while providing some semblance of stability to the lives of smallholder farmers that surround their two washing stations, Heza and Bukeye, in the northern Kayanza Province, near the border with Rwanda. They have been producing coffee, and attempting to pay fair prices to the small holder farmers they support, since they built the first mill, Bukeye, in 2013. We have purchased coffees from the Long Miles project since their second season in 2014 ,and have been consistently impressed with their quality. They split up the production of their mills by ‘hills’ or ‘collines’ in French. These are the smallest unit of separation in Burundi, like small communes, and most contain a couple of hundred smallholder farmers. We have purchased coffees grown on several of the hills in the past, and each seems to have their own distinct character. In the last couple of years, Long Miles have also started to experiment with processing, exporting some of Burundi’s first natural and honey coffees. Their story, of a pursuit of quality and stability in a hostile environment, is inspiring. You can read more at http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/history-harvests/. The coffee in your pack this month is a washed coffee from the Gaharo hill, the first of many lots we have purchased this year, to be released over the coming weeks. It is showcasing a classic Burundi profile, with a clear berry-like acidity, and some distinct dry leafy notes in the finish.
It is also interesting to note that these are both good examples of the importance of strong export and support networks at origin. Without Lilica’s work with Carmo, and the smallholder farmers of Kayanza’s work with Long Miles, we would have no access to any sort of traceability of these coffees, and it is very uncertain that the quality would improve year on year as it has. We are excited to have delicious and traceable coffees from both of these producers back in our line up, and hope that you enjoy their work this month.
Stay bright and curious