São Judas Tadeu Natural

  • Country
    Brazil
  • State
    Bahia
  • Region
    Chapada Diamantina
  • Town
    Piatã
  • Elevation
    1,300 – 1,380m above sea level
  • Variety
    Red Catuaí
  • Processing
    Natural
  • Producers
    Antônio and Terezinha Rigno de Oliveira
  • Awards
    Cup of Excellence 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020

Bright strawberry, green apple and maraschino cherry in the cup, with floral complexity. Winey acidity, with great structure and clarity.

Fazenda São Judas Tadeu lies outside the small town of Piatã, in Bahia’s Chapada Diamantina region, sitting at an elevation of 1,300 to 1,380 metres above sea level. Chapada Diamantina translates to ”Diamond Plateau” in Portuguese, and for 100 years this area was mined for the gemstones embedded in its cliffs. Today, the region is famous for its specialty coffee.

The farm is owned by Antônio Rigno and his wife Terezinha, who have been farming coffee in the region for more than 40 years. Antônio owns a number of farms in Piatã and is very well respected in the community. Many farmers in the area look to him for advice and mentorship, and he graciously lets them process their coffee at the wet mill located at São Judas Tadeu.

Antônio and Terezinha are incredibly warm and always welcoming, which is part of what makes them so influential in Piatã. They regularly bring the coffee community together at the town’s clubhouse and run a café in town, where they showcase the region’s exceptional coffees. Here, a number of Cup of Excellence and other quality awards cover the walls. Over the years, the pair have worked tirelessly to produce great coffees – and have helped their neighbours do the same by teaching them improved agricultural practices that consistently lead to better results in the final cup.

Sharing his knowledge and expertise gives Antônio a great sense of purpose and pride. “There are no secrets” he explained to us. “Here, the people in Piatã are like my family. I want to help them produce great coffee. It’s my duty and my joy”.

Antônio’s coffees have been recognised in Bahia’s state-sponsored Coffee Quality Competition countless times, including consecutive 1st place awards in the first 3 years the competition was ever run (2004 – 2007). He has also been awarded a number of Cup of Excellence awards, including 2nd place in 2014 and first place 2015.

Fazenda São Judas extends over 35 hectares, with 15 under coffee. The farm is mainly planted with Yellow and Red Catuaí variety trees, although Antônio has gone on to plant Bourbon trees after trialling them successfully over a number of years. Because sustainable farming is also very important to Antônio, he keeps his use of chemical pesticides to a minimum and recycles coffee pulp to use as fertiliser. He has also planted numerous large shade trees around the farm, as these prevent erosion and protect coffee trees from the sun. The rest of the farm is covered by natural forest, which Antônio both protects and extends by regularly planting new trees.

Antônio is incredibly mindful of the people who work with him, and makes sure he always shares the fruits of his success — after placing 18th in the 2011 Cup of Excellence competition, he purchased a motorcycle for each of his full-time employees. Most of his staff have been with him for over 20 years. “They are like family, and care as much as I do about quality,” he explained. “I am very lucky.”

They are also, Antônio claims, the secret to his success. “Many people ask me how I have been so successful in the Cup of Excellence competition. The terroir is important, but the real reason is my people.” 

ABOUT PIATA

Piatã is a unique and distinct coffee-growing region. The coffees produced here tend to be very floral, sweet and complex, and quite different from those that we source elsewhere in Brazil. There are two main factors behind this: Coffee grows at elevations of up to 1,400 meters above sea level, which is very high for Brazil. Additionally, temperatures in Piatã range from about 2°C to 18°C in winter, some of the lowest in the country. Combined, the high elevation and cool climate are key in slowing down the maturation of the coffee cherries, leading to an increased concentration of sugars in the bean. The result is a cup profile that is bright, transparent, and distinctive. Piatã’s relative closeness to the Equator line ensures coffee trees can experience such drastic conditions without being affected by frost, unlike traditional coffee-growing regions in the country.

Coffees from Piatã are considered some of the best in Brazil. The town was first internationally recognised for its high quality in 2009, when five of the top 10 spots in Brazil’s Cup of Excellence came from Piatã. The region’s dominance in the competition has continued every year since, particularly in 2016 when an astounding 19 of the 24 winning lots came from Piatã!  These coffees are extremely limited, as production here is relatively low, given the small scale of the farms in this part of Brazil. MCM has been sourcing coffee from this region since 2012, thanks to the support of longtime partner and coffee mentor Silvio Leite. Head here to learn more about Silvio and the incredible work he’s done in Brazil.

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED

Antônio has invested in modern processing facilities, including a wet mill and both conventional and greenhouse patios. He also ensures that his processes are reviewed and guided annually by technicians from AGRIPEC, an agricultural support community, and is highly attentive to new technologies and methods that will improve quality.

Here, cherries were picked by hand only when fully ripe, with two passes a day during the peak of the harvest. This job was mainly conducted by local women (called “panhadeiras de cafe”), who are extremely disciplined and ensure only the very best cherries are selected. The cherries were then taken by tractors to the wet mill, which is located right on the farm. A dedicated team of ten processed the coffee at the mill with great care. “We treat every single lot like it has the potential to be a 90+ coffee,” Antonio explained.

This coffee was naturally processed. Antônio used to process all of his coffee using the pulped natural method. However, this changed recently after achieving spectacular results from a small trial run of a natural lot in 2019. Cherries were washed gently and carefully laid out on patios to dry in the sun.  They were raked several times a day to ensure they were drying evenly. Finally, the beans were separated into numbered lots, and later stored and rested in parchment in a purpose-built warehouse. They were then cupped for quality control prior to export.