Updates From The Road: Brazil 2023

Published 31 Oct 2023

After a successful and rewarding trip to Brazil in September, we’re sharing insights and stories from what we learned on the road, along with more on what to expect from this year’s crop.

Brazil is a hugely important origin for Melbourne Coffee Merchants, accounting for nearly half of the coffees we source and sell. Here, we primarily buy coffee from Fazenda Progresso, a family-owned estate near the small city of Mucugê, and from a tightknit community of quality-focused small holder farmers who grow coffee in and around the small town of Piatã, both located in the high hills of the Chapada Diamantina mountain range, Bahia. During our annual trips to Brazil we are hosted by our good friend Silvio Leite, who acts as a mentor and advisor to the farming communities we source from, informed by his decades of experience and knowledge-building as a pioneer of Brazil’s specialty coffee industry. We feel incredibly fortunate to work with Silvio and look forward to spending time with him on the ground each year — inevitably returning home feeling invigorated and inspired by the warm welcome we receive and the forward-thinking approach of the individuals we visit. 

The 2023 season has seen a return to some normalcy in Brazil, with trading conditions stabilising after back-to-back harvests of low yields and volatile prices. The Chapada Diamantina region experienced an early harvest with lower than hoped for rains, and our partners have had to invest in their irrigation systems to ensure their yields don’t suffer. At Fazenda Progresso, Fabiano Borré has implemented a carefully executed pivot irrigation system that uses advanced technology to monitor the crop and calculate the exact water and nutritional requirements of each individual plant daily. The correct amounts are dispensed via a long pipe with sprinklers, which rotates across trees planted in a circular pattern, ensuring no water or inputs are wasted and thereby minimising the impact on the surrounding environment. Water is sourced from a nearby lake, and Progresso’s team isolate and cultivate beneficial microorganisms from the soil on the farm to be used as fertilisers and for pest control – a far eco-friendlier option than man-made inputs.

In Piatã, where estates are much smaller in size and most farmers rely on rain to irrigate their crop, larger estate-owners like Pedro Santana, of Cafundó, and the Rigno family of São Judas Tadeu, have recently introduced drip irrigation to their farms. This system is comprised of a perforated pipe running beneath the trees to deliver water directly to their roots, fed by a water reserve pumped from nearby waterways and lakes. Drip irrigation was initially modelled by Silvo, who has spent the past few years setting up his own water reserve, pump and piping at his estate, Cerca de Pedras. His hope is that, as more producers adopt the system, Piatã will be protected against the challenges of a dry season. At Sítio Canaã, Kleumon Moreira has established his own water reserve (complete with fish!) to irrigate his 10-hectare estate, which includes coffee trees and a thriving nursery where he cultivates and sells seedlings. The result of these upgrades speaks for itself, with good yields and quality from the 2023 crop despite dry conditions, and a strong flowering boding well for next year’s harvest.

While the lack of rain brought challenges, the early arrival of this year’s harvest was beneficial to our sourcing trip. Most years, we travel to Brazil before the slow-ripening, high elevation lots from Piatã are ready to cup. Due to this year’s conditions, the coffees were ready earlier than usual and we were able to select and confirm our full line up while still on the ground. Coffees from Piatã are distinctly sweet, floral and fruit-driven, the result of the year-round cooler temperatures and high elevation of the region. We’re delighted to have secured several exquisite lots from our favourite estates, including Cerca de Pedras, São Judas Tadeau, Sîtio Canaã and Cafundó. We’re also happy to introduce Sîtio Capão to our list, from third-generation producer Aneiuson Souza, whose lush and fertile farm produces exceptional lots. Taking advantage of the earlier season we’re hoping to land these lots earlier than we typically do, with our first shipments arriving from as soon as January 2024. 

Along with our forthcoming Piatã offerings, we’re excited to share the lots we selected from our long-time producing partners, and dear friends at Fazenda Progresso. Their excellent pulped natural and natural estate lots are well suited to espresso or blending applications, and offer exceptional quality, consistency, longevity and value. Typically, we also source two microlots from the Borrés, Airumá and Sincorá, and this year we’ve added a third, Gandula – the result of a passion project of Progresso’s long-time Head of QC, Ednaldo ‘Gandula’ Nascimento, who has developed a slow drying natural process that results in great vibrancy, distinction and fruit in the cup.

Forecasting for Brazil can be a mammoth task, but we’re here to help! With the first of our offerings landing in January 2024, getting in touch with your requirements and requests now is key in planning a successful line up. Over the coming weeks, we’ll continue to share more stories and insights from the 2023 season, along with pre-shipment samples around mid-November. Get in touch anytime to request samples or head here to learn more about our Brazilian sourcing program!