Chocolate, Raisin and Vanilla
Fazenda Bonfim is a family-run farm in the Cerrado Mineiro region of Brazil, not far from the city of Patrocínio. Ariovaldo and his wife both come from coffee-producing families in the state of Paraná, but unpredictable and adverse climate conditions for coffee growing led to a search for a new location to ply their trade. In 1987, they found their way to Cerrado, where they found a much better environment for their plants. Cerrado is a more established coffee producing area, mainly for climate reasons, but this brings other challenges. Initially, the Bonfim family struggled with the higher cost of production in Cerrado, things like machinery and labour cost were much more expensive. They were also now competing to sell their crop with many established and quality focussed producers in the same region. All of this led to two things, they had to increase their productivity on the farm, and learn about and invest in coffee quality.
Over the 30 years since, Ariovaldo and his family have honed their production methods to create a profitable business, and delicious coffee. This is a great example of the potential of the Cerrado region to produce balanced and clean coffees; creamy milk chocolate is joined by a deep dried fruit sweetness, before a finish with hits of sweet vanilla.
The region of Cerrado Mineiro is part of the state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. In 2013 the region became the first in Brazil to be granted a protected designation of origin certificate, similar to Champagne or Scotch whisky. To qualify for the title ‘Cerrado’, the coffees must be speciality grade (80+) and grown above 800 masl in the Cerrado Mineiro region. The 4500 producers of the Cerrado region produce 6 million bags of coffee a year, from 210,000 hectares of coffee growing lands. Most of the lands here are of quite low altitude compared to most of the coffee we buy here at La Cabra, and are more flat, rather than on mountainous terrain. The region has characteristic and distinct seasons, with a wet warm summer, and a dry winter, leading to more consistency in growing conditions between years. The dry climate during harvest means less issues with drying coffees, part of the reason so many high quality naturals are produced here.
If we don’t feel that a coffee suits our style or what we like to present, we simply won’t buy it. Sometimes this leads to issues in green buying; we have to pay very close attention, to a level of green quality that will support this approach, and to how this will develop over the life of a coffee. We are required to focus heavily on the freshness of coffee, both green and roasted, to avoid introducing taints into our cups. We always use clean and fresh water, of an ideal mineral content to present the coffee in its best possible light. Once we have the correct roasting profile, water, and coffee age, the act of brewing is much more simple. A wide variance in brewing parameters can still produce delicious and transparent cups. It is also important to note that this is not always the most consistent approach. The coffee is laid completely bare, so any flaw with the raw material is clearly on show. We could often develop some coffees slightly more, to make them more approachable or easy to work with, but wavering from our philosophy like this would compromise our commitment to complete transparency in coffee.Read more
The natural, or dry process, is the traditional process, going back generations. When accomplished in a controlled and careful manner, dry processed coffees can produce flavour experiences not found in wet processed coffees, deep fruits and florals, normally with heavier mouthfeel and lower acidity. The cherries are first sorted, and then laid out on in thin layers (2-6 cm) on raised drying beds. These are almost always used for high quality naturals, as they aid airflow around the coffee as it dries, enabling more even drying. It is very important that coffees are sorted very carefully early on in the drying process, as all of the cherries quickly turn dark brown, making it impossible to separate under and overripe cherries. The cherries are turned frequently to avoid mold formation or over-fermentation, until they reach a moisture content of below 20%, and the outer cherry layer shrinks and blackens. This process takes between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on weather conditions.