ORIGIN STORIES: BRAZIL FAZENDA AMBIENTAL FORTALEZA (FAF)
Words by 49th Green Coffee Buyer, David Pohl
MEET: Ivan and João Hamilton
49th's relationship with Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) is relatively new, going back to just three years.
In that short time we have developed a strong partnership and really look forward to these unique coffees every year. FAF is a family farm and business, managed by Felipe Croce and his parents. They are located in the state of Sao Paulo, on the border with Minas Gerais, the heartland of coffee production in Brazil. The farm has been in the Barretto-Croce family since 1852 (Making Felipe the 5th generation), while its transformation to a sustainable specialty coffee farm began in 2001.
Felipe and his parents are emblematic of a new generation of coffee farmers, embracing sustainability, quality and a mission to elevate coffee beyond its status as a commodity. This is especially significant in Brazil, the largest producer of coffee in the world, much of it falling into the commodity focused marketplace. FAF bucks that image, working both through its own farms as well as with around 200 family farms in Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, to create and export high quality and sustainably grown coffees.
Among the many initiatives FAF has spearheaded is the Agronomist Program, which provides monthly visits by an agronomist and a soil expert every three months. This helps move farmers away from the use of the dangerous but still commonly used herbicide glyphosate and towards natural methods of weed control.
Many of 49th’s partners through FAF are members of the Agronomist Program. This includes Sitio Canaã (Joao Hamilton) and Sitio Seriema (Ivan and Rose dos Santos), two of our favorites. The coffees produced by these innovative farms demonstrate the potential of Brazil to be a top-class producer. We are currently featuring the Sitio Seriema Yellow Catuai, which was produced using a slow fermentation and drying method that brings out the fruit and chocolate notes in the coffee while also maintaining a very clean cup.
Felipe and Ivan recently explained in detail the processing method used on Sitio Seriema that results in such excellent coffees. The freshly picked ripe cherry is cleaned and then laid out to dry on raised beds in a very thin layer for four days. Untouched during this time, the coffee begins to naturally ferment while the low humidity unique to this part of Sao Paulo state helps keep the fermentation from getting out of control (which can lead to unpleasant acetic or vinegary flavors). After that the coffee is consolidated to create a layer that is twice as thick, where it ferments another two days, before being moved to concrete patios for the final drying stage. At this point the coffee is put into volcano shaped mounds that are spread out and reformed hourly until the humidity level reaches 11%. This meticulous process can take up to 35 days! According to Felipe “This produces beautiful fruit aromas of berries, to jam, to dried apricots and dates. Another characteristic is a dense and creamy body which comes from the yeast breaking down simple sugars and creating longer polysaccharide chains, which when roasted created the sensation of viscosity.” It is precisely this attention to attention to detail that creates the outstanding coffees FAF and its partners are known for.
The coffees from FAF are always outstanding, but according to Felipe 2020 was a particularly wonderful harvest season for Brazil and the quality of coffees are some of the best he has tasted. We are currently wrapping up our contract with FAF for 2020 and have just cupped some preship samples, and couldn’t agree more - chocolate, orange-mandarin-citrus fruits, sweet, jammy, and heavy bodied coffees. We are looking forward to receiving these wonderful coffees early in 2021 and in the meantime hope you enjoy the Sitio Seriema available now.