The origin trip to Brazil was at the end of September for 10 days. The trip was organized by one of our importing partners that we purchase some of our coffee through, Atlas Coffee Importers, and included three other roasting companies, Broadcast Coffee from Seattle, Cafe Grumpy from New York, and Hunter Bay from Montana. We flew to Sao Paulo, and toured the heart of Brazils coffee growing region in Minas Gerais.
Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, so the purpose of the trip was both coffee buying as well as an educational opportunity. We visited small-holder farms, large estates, multi-national buying centers, a specialty coffee exporter, the largest mill and export operation in the world, and some killer coffee shops. Our timing couldn't have been better to see the coffee in blossom during our visit (the blossoming of the coffee trees only lasts for a few days). It was absolutely beautiful, white cherry blossoms, like snow covering the coffee plants, and smelled of jasmine! That was my first time ever seeing that. Other farm visits I've experienced have all taken place during the harvest time when the coffee cherries are ripe and being picked. So seeing the coffee in full bloom was really a treat.
There were so many great experiences that we had in Brazil. The Brazilian people were beautiful, the food was fantastic, and I got to experience parts of the coffee industry that gave me new perspectives. One of the highlights was judging a cupping (tasting) competition for an association of small coffee producers called AFASA, who submitted their best lots of coffee to be evaluated. We tasted over 100 lots of coffee for this competition. The purpose being to promote and reward producers for improving the quality of their coffee. The award ceremony consisted of about 40 producers with their families and a traditional Brazilian barbecue. The competition was a big deal for these small farmers, as the winning farms are recognized and given a price premium of more than a dollar per pound going directly to the farmer. It was awesome to see the pride of these farmers when we announced the winners.
I was grateful to have shared a few days with our gracious hosts from Santo Antonio Estates, where Evans Brothers has purchased some of our beans before. Making that connection with the producers, seeing the care and passion involved to produce amazing coffee, is just invaluable as a roaster. Our goal is to establish relationships with the people producing our coffee, and to provide transparency about the product we work with. We've been fortunate to get connected with some really quality farms and producers doing great things with coffee.