Frank Sinatra sang, "They grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil." It is unquestionably true; it's the largest producer of arabica coffee and not a small amount of robusta too. Brazilian coffee is nutty, sweet, low in acidity and develops exceptional bittersweet and chocolate roast tastes. There's a long tradition of roasting Brazil in the United States, often used in commercial "all-arabica" blends for the sake of cost control. Even the broken fragments of beans and the dust from the dry mills is sold as "coffee", ending up in some awful coffee product somewhere. Our focus is quite a bit different than that! We try to find good examples of both the fruit-forward dry-processed (aka natural) coffees and the cleaner-tasting, nutty pulp-natural process as well (cereja descascado). Here's a helpful article on roasting Brazil coffees. [Read more about Brazil in our Coffee Library.]
Fazenda Santa Lucia is located in the growing-region of Campos Altos, the town itself sitting at 1000 meters, much higher than what is average altitude from much of the Cerrado region. This particular farm topping out right around 1200, and is planted in several different varietals, this particular lot being Red Bourbon. Much of the coffee is still manually picked, as part of the farm is situated on a slope, a grade that does not allow for mechanical harvesting. The farm is well-managed, with new milling facilities onsite and the infrastructure to process and store large and smaller lot separations. This particular coffee is naturally processed, meaning the whole cherry is picked from the tree and then laid out to dry for roughly 30 days, after which the dried cherry and parchment layer are mechanically removed. This type of processing tends to impart some fruited flavor on the seed, as well as mute acidity, and produce big body. This lot is one of two peaberry separations we procured from Fazenda Santa Luzia this year, a blend of the different cultivars they are growing on the farm. Roasting can be a little tricky, because there is usually much more chaff produced. Yes, chaff is messy, but more so, it is dark in color, and if still connected to the bean can give the impression that a coffee is darker than it actually is.
A mild nut and unrefined sugar mix comes off the ground coffee, and of the two roasts I tasted, the darker of the two showed a balanced savory sweetness, falling somewhere between City+ and Full City roast level. There's a slight dried fruited smell when adding hot water, like black currant, but is nearly eclipsed by sugar browning and nutty roast tones. One of my roasts was a light City, which turned out to be much too light for this coffee, lacking the developed bittersweetness found in my deeper roast. The flavors in the darker roast showed a melding of nut and cocoa notes, hazelnut chocolate, macadamia, and almond note a few. There's is a subtle fruit accent too, but it's more like the fruited notes you get from some raw nuts, like hazelnut and Brazil nut. There's no accompanying dryness in the finish, and the cup flavors are particularly clean for Brazilian coffee. Nice cup, and I'd like to go back and taste at Full City next time around, which I imagine will also work well for espresso.
Fazenda Santa Lucia is located in the growing-region of Campos Altos, the town itself sitting at 1000 meters, much higher than what is average altitude from much of the Cerrado region. This particular farm topping out right around 1200, and is planted in several different varietals, this particular lot being Yellow Bourbon. Much of the coffee is still manually picked, as part of the farm is situated on a slope, a grade that does not allow for mechanical harvesting. The farm is well-managed, with new milling facilities onsite and the infrastructure to process and store large and smaller lot separations. This particular coffee is naturally processed, meaning the whole cherry is picked from the tree and then laid out to dry for roughly 30 days, after which the dried cherry and parchment layer are mechanically removed. This type of processing tends to impart some fruited flavor on the seed, as well as mute acidity, and produce big body. Roasting can be a little tricky, because there is usually much more chaff produced. Yes, chaff is messy, but more so, it is dark in color, and if still connected to the bean can give the impression that a coffee is darker than it actually is.
From City+ to Full City, this Brazil packs a hefty sweetness of rustic dark sugar notes that balance out bittersweet cocoa tones nicely. The dry fragrance has a bittersweet smell of butter toffee and dark cocoa. The wet grounds give off a whiff "Almond Roca" candies and raisin, a particular sweet spot in the aromatic profile. As a brewed coffee, expect a culmination of dried fruit and unrefined sugar up front, with bittersweet cocoa flavors in the back end. City+ is my recommended starting point, but I think Full City roasts are where the most balance is achieved between developed raw sugar sweetness, rustic dried fruit accents, and lingering cocoa powder flavors. I was taken a back by the sweet and fruited accents in the cup of my Full City roast, natural slab apricot, caramelizing sugars, and a chocolate/hazelnut flavor. This makes a nice single-origin espresso too (or for espresso blend base), with distilled chocolate bittersweetness, subtle prune note, and creamy nut. Best with 48 hours rest.
We selected this lot from Fazenda Sítio Senhor Niquinho, the farm of Luiz Paulo, one of the founders of the coffee intermediary based in Carmo de Minas, who are responsible for organizing the farms in the region we buy coffee from. The farm is located in Carmo de Minas in the Mantiqueira Mountain area, and is named in memory of Luiz' grandfather. Sitio Niquinho is situated on a sloping hillside that spans 1100 - 1500 meters, and has a mix of varietals, though this is a separation of Yellow Bourbon. It's a dry-processed coffee, meaning the whole coffee cherry is harvested and laid to dry for roughly 30 days before being run through dry hulling machinery in order to remove the outer layer of dried fruit and skin. This is the oldest processing method, and when done well, can yield big fruited sweetness, as well as weighty bodied cup. Fazenda Sítio Senhor Niquinho is as fine an example of dry process Brazilian coffees as any we've tasted this season, fruit forward in comparison to the pulp naturals we selected and a great option for blending as a sweet fruited, bodied coffee component.
Sítio Niquinho stood out as a fruit-forward Brazil when put on the cupping table with the other arrivals. It was not alone, but when tasted in context with pulp natural offerings from some of the other neighboring farms, this coffee's cup profile seems 'wild' in comparison. The dry fragrance has a complex web of dried and dehydrated fruit smells, and the wet aroma pushes dark, dried berry to the forefront, along with a palm sugar, rustic sweetness. I don't always recommend light roasting with Brazil, and I'd still say that medium roasts of this coffee are probably my favorite, but unrefined sugar sweetness tasted developed, and dehydrated fruit notes showed nicely in the City roast I cup tested. Still, City+ and Full City roasts are where I think you capture the highest level of sweetness, and balance of sweet and bitter tones too. Dark berry notes come through when the cup is hot, and are even more present when the coffee's cooled a bit. The underlying sweetness is on the rustic side, like rice syrup and date/palm sugar. A ribbon of earthy cocoa runs through Full City roasts, and at this roast level, will make a nice blend base for a fruited espresso (or try on it's own). I would avoid taking the roast too dark as there's a chaffy/roast bittering quality that is just below the surface at Full City, that I think will be much more dominant if taken into 2nd cracks.
This coffee comes from Sitio Sao Jose located in the Carmo de Minas region. The coffee is grown at 1200 meters, and this lot is a separation of cherry from their red Catuai trees. While there are other areas in Brazil that produce some fine coffees in respect to the classic Brazil flavor profile, I feel we have found consistently good lots in the Carmo zone. Here there is a bit more altitude than most of the Cerrado coffees, and certainly more than Mogiana farms. The cultivars are generally the same as the other zones, but I feel the processing, while still on a large scale, has a good quality focus. And I really like how these coffees perform in espresso. This is a pulp naturally processed coffee, which means that the outer cherry and most of the fruit is mechanically stripped from the seed before moving to the drying patios. It takes less than half the time to dry pulp natural coffee than fully natural processed coffee, and they tend to be less fruit forward, and in the context of Brazilian coffees, much cleaner all around.
Coaxing a sugary sweetness out of this coffee takes a bit of roast development, and I recommend trying to draw out the initial roast time up to first crack. We find that Pulp Natural processed Brazils in general seem to benefit from a slower, more gentle roast approach than say a dense Guatemalan or Colombian coffee, helping to develop sugar caramelization while avoiding ashy flavors that can result from roasting lower density coffee. Aromatically speaking, this lot from Sitio Sao Jose has a mild brown sugar sweetness at City+ roast level, creamy condensed milk and roasted peanut in the aroma, and bittersweet at the edges. Brewing produces a mild mix of unrefined sugar and creamy nut tones, roasted peanut and almond flavors bathed in rustic cocoa bittersweetness. Full City boosts the latter, and I would consider this for a chocolate/body base for blending. I personally wouldn't go to Full City+ as the ashy flavors are strong, but some might find that appealing for creamy milk drinks. Best with 48+ hours rest.