Meet Silvio Leite

We have been lucky to have known and worked with Silvio Leite for over a decade. He is one of our favourite people working in coffee, and is a dear friend, mentor and supplier for Melbourne Coffee Merchants.

Silvio Leite is one our favourite people working in coffee. Our paths first crossed in 2008, and the moment we met him we knew that we had found a friend for life. He is warm, humble, honest and passionate, and has a tonne of knowledge, experience and expertise that he was accumulated over the last 3 decades and generously shares with all that cross his path. We hold a huge amount of admiration and respect for Silvio – for his expertise, incredible work ethic, dedication and commitment to specialty coffee. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s best cuppers and as a leader in specialty coffee and has played a pivotal role in shaping specialty coffee both in Brazil (and in particular the state of Bahia, where he was has worked for over 27 years) as well as globally. Silvio is one of the founders of the Cup of Excellence program, and has served as a Head Judge for over 30 Cup of Excellence competitions and travels the globe to lead coffee lectures and cupping training. He has served as President of the BSCA, and has worked for a multitude of coffee companies supporting them with everything from coffee processing and quality control to all stages of post-harvest processing.

More recently Silvio founded Agricoffee and works to connect exceptional farmers with specialty coffee buyers. We have worked with Silvio to build a strong portfolio of Brazilian coffees that we extremely proud of, and which we consider to be some of the best coffee that Brazil has to offer.

We sat down with Silvio to ask him questions about what makes him tick:

MCM: How did you get into coffee?

Silvio: I was only 12-years old when I first joined a peanut/coffee dealer small company. I was still attending school. My role there was to receive the samples brought by the small producers and calculate the yield the samples would generate once processed.

It was at this company that I met my first mentor, who helped me build my skills and discover my talent [for tasting and evaluating coffee] and pleasure to do what I do today.

When I first saw a professional cupping table for the first time it ignited a tremendous curiosity but also a lack of trust, wondering if the results were really measurable. That curiosity touched me deeply and I continued seeking knowledge.

What do you love most about what you do?

First of all – cupping and tasting coffee.

At the beginning of my career I really worked very hard to learn and to have recognition for my work in the coffee business.

Today, I think the most important thing at this point in life is to be able to share the knowledge obtained and to go beyond the coffee business. It is about transforming the whole coffee scenario, from the producers, to trading, processing, roasters, in a very transparent and sustainable way, in all segments.

 

What have been some of your career highlights?

In the commercial coffee business, I was able to work in an huge international company with both Arabicas and Robustas, having exported over 1.2 million bags a year.

As for specialty coffee, I helped develop and establish the BSCA (Brazilian Specialty coffee association) in 1992, and as a result of this work I was able to present to the world the Brazilian Specialty coffees from Bahia (a Brazilian state)  and thereafter from other regions of the country. In 1999 I co-founded the Cup of Excellence (COE) and along with George Howell, I co-authored all technical protocols for the COE.

During my career I was president of several entities, such as BSCA and today I am the president of the Coffee Chambers of Commerce of Bahia State.

I opened my own coffee roasting company (BBC Café Gourmet) to supply the local market. At the same time Agricoffee is the name of my company used for consulting and trading of specialty coffees.

2020 forced me to launch something new, due to the Covid19. The result was a creation of a educational platform where I could teach and train professionals from a distance, on cupping methods, protocols and sensorial analyses calibration.

And last but not least, I also harvested my first coffee crop. Being a coffee producer has always been my dream. With Cerca de Pedra São Benedito Farm I hope to expand this dream, going beyond the production of specialty coffee, but also being able to use my farm as a “school”, a “reference” in technical support to the small producers of Piatã.

Can you tell us more about Agricafe? What is your role within the business?

Agricafe is our local brand for roasted coffee. Agricoffee is the company I use for technical trainings, calibration, consulting, and in the trade of specialty coffees – my own (from Fazenda Cerca de Pedra São Benedito) and also from producing partners.

This special niche has brought me in contact with very unique partners, like Melbourne Coffee Merchants, giving me the opportunity to build true connections between the producers and the end consumers, and this is more than just having very fine specialty coffees, this is about relationship, providing sustainability with transparency throughout the coffee chain.

 

You have worked very closely with producers like Antonio Rigno and Fabiano Borre. Can you tell us about these relationships and how your support of these producers has helped to elevate the quality of their output?

My relationship with Fazenda Progresso, family owned company, started in 2008, through Fabiano Borré, a highly qualified professional, who wanted to produce and export specialty coffees. Every crop we raise the quality standards up through team training, preparation, expansion of coffee area and the improvement of the flavors produced, in a very consistent way – crop by crop. [They are] an extremely competent and loyal partner in the coffee business.

Antônio Rigno is a 3-times champion of Cup of Excellence Brazil, and 16-times finalist. In 2020 he was awarded national winner. Our friendship started in 2003, when he asked me to help improve his harvest and post-harvest processes, which he did with extreme confidence in me. These improvements increase the cost of production, but he believed in the format and in the outcome, becoming today a Champion and super recognized.

Since  we have a relationship, besides being friends, also commercial, selling the coffees from both of his farms – São Judas Tadeu and Ouro Verde.

With both producers’ eager to improve the quality of their coffees, we were able to perform selective picking, but also improve the way the coffee was dried, with very special drying processes for quality coffees.

We are currently working on several studies seeking to understand more about fermentation processes, along with a Federal Institute (Federal Institute of Venda Nova do Imigrante/Espirito Santo).

 

What are your dreams for the future?

Make the farm Fazenda Cerca de Pedra São Benedito a reality in production of specialty coffees, and have it served as a role model, a reference to support the small producers, increasing the true connections between the production, trade and consumption of specialty coffees.

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To learn more about Brazil and how we source coffee there, click here.