Cafe do Brasil – 2005, page 4

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It also means a few colored lights and a smoke machine. The guy on the smoke machine was a little overzealous. I guess being a rural Faroh muscician on keyboards means knowing how to play and sing when you can’t see your hands or the mic. Besides a few times when the power went out, these guys were pros.
Mixmaster, with kids. Back at the sound booth, running the PA, children sleeping soundly underneath.
Next day we are off to the old, crooked-street, maze of a city Ouro Preto. It’s a strange mix of old, wealthy mining city (Ouro Preto means Black Gold), tourist mecca (though most are Brasilian tourists) and college party town. We were there for the Doze, the 12th of October, the Dia de Nosa Senhora. It was crowded and crazy. The “Republics”, basically frat houses, were welcoming back all the alumni with pitchers of Cerveja Skol. But in the evening light, the town was busy and beautiful.
Your Majesty: The most famous Cathedral in Ouro Preto. UNESCO has set aside the entire town as a world historic site and no historic buildings can be altered.
Pick a Size: Sloping streets in Ouro Preto mean doors of differing heights. Short people, enter to the right…
How Old? Nothing really, just a 14 foot tall door carved in the mid 19th century. It’s the stuff you find down every side street of this amazing city.
Grafitti, Of Course: I love anything out of place and this was some very innocent, almost artsy grafitti on a rock in town. Poor Mauro.
Disneyland? No, just Ouro Preto at sunset, bouganvilla, hillside cathedrals, antique lights. It is an incredible place.
Fat Man’s Misery: I don’t even know if the door on the one side could swing fully open before hitting the back wall. Perhaps this is the flavor that comes from a historic gold rush town, where every square inch is used, no wasted space. But this 1 meter wide building seems a bit ridiculous.
Viva the Republic. Of course Aphonse, who knows everyone everywhere, had a cousin who ran a Republic (ie Frat). We stopped by at a low point, as Bolivia tied Brasil in World Cup Qualifying competition. But everyone was friendly, and Alberto put on somebodies Bug-Eye sunglasses AND found a willing young woman to pose with him. Go Alberto!
It was another hour in the car to get to the town of Ervalia, a small town between Vicosa and Aroponga where the international worldwide headquarters for Fazenda Brauna lies (in other words, and office over their Mom’s house). We had a very late meal and I guess it was my first starry-eyed glimpse of the Monark, the ubiquitous Brasilian bike that can traverse barriers and handle the potholes and dirt roads with ease. It’s awesome. It has no cables, just metal bars and linkages to operate brakes and shifters. The hand brakes are one solid bar under the handle bars. I need one!
Mom’s House: Beautiful orchids outside the room I stayed. Offices of Fazenda Brauna are on the 2nd story. Mom is a doctor who works with farms, doing mostly routine physicals required by the government. Monica is the oldest sister who handles much of the office work, the backbone of the farm. Joao and Aphonse are out on the farm or dealing with their small roasted coffee business. They even have a cousin Elena with a cafe who sells only Brauna coffee. She is a fantastic Braista too, spending time training in the PNW with some excellent companies.
Mom’s Flowers: Sra. Schmolz has beautiful flowers. The family also has a colorful history. Of German heritage (does Schmolz seem English?) her husband was a priest for 23 years before running into problems for his progressive views. He left the church and married, became a lawyer for some time, and a coffee farmer. They retained a little property near the ocean north of Rio (Niteroi) from a time when he helped platte out the area. But the farm was the main interest of the family business. Sadly, he died a few years ago.
Eden’s Island: Yet another amazing bloom in the Garden.
Stuffed Animals: No, this is Lulu, one of 3 dogs at the Souza home, a 4 month old chow in a rare moment of repose. Usually, she is a bouncing, richocheting, hand-standing 30 Lb furball.
Mapping it out: Aphonse has a detalied satellite image of the farm that they use to manage the areas of cultivation, and those left untouched. Brauna is a BSCA certified farm, meaning they follow strict environmental guidelines, sustainable practices, worker safety, and careful/discrete handling of fertilizers and pesticides.
One unique feature of Brauna is an unparalleled ability to keep each lot separate. Each sack here represents a particular date of picking, from a particular plot of land. They maintain this information throughout the milling process, able to offer coffee in these specific lots or cupping each and combining to create a cup with greater dimension. All this effort takes a true “estate” coffee system, and autonomy in all the processing steps. That said, I wish Joao would put his shirt back on – egad!
Brauna works with the agricultural university in Vicosa to implement new farm processes. One of the most facinating is a water cleanzing system that can return pure water back into the wet mill and filter out dirty water contaminated with coffee pulp. This process usually involves a system of holding the fermenty water in ponds, and evaporating it. This type of water is an environmental hazard if it re-enters creeks/rivers and such. But this compact machine could solve the entire problem in a compact form. Unfortunately, there was trouble with the filter screens and it wasn’t 100% effective. Next year promises better results.
As I mentioned, Brauna also roasts some coffee at the farm, offering it at upscale restaurants and cafes in Brazil. This is their little 12 kilo roaster on the farm. It needed some adjustments; Joel and I offered to help but I am not sure they wanted nosy gringos tampering with the equipment. I saw scortch marks on the coffee because they were overpacking the drum. And it needed general cleaning of the cooling system. Joel suggested a baffle under the gas flame, since the flame actually touched the perforated metal drum! Alas, maybe next year I will sneak in at night and modify it!
Next stop was the school by the farm. Many of the parents of these children work at Brauna or on surrounding farms. It wasn’t a serious school day because the next day (Wed) was a holiday. It was a “fun and games” day. These kids were amazing – even with all the problems, Brasil respects its children and cares for them as best as possible. I had a hella good time playing with these kids. In fact,. I left them with the new soccer ball I had just bought…
How can you resist a face like this?
She has diabetes, and has to walk 3 km to school each morning. Theres a fund gathering to buy her a horse to make the trip a bit easier.
Aroponga, Matas de Minas; This is one of the higher elevation areas in the region, with 1250 to 1300 meters. Coffee grown here has been well represented in the Cup of Excellence competition (did I mention that Brauna was a winning coffee last year?)
Coffee flowers were actually still open in the higher spots in Aroponga. In other areas, there was not yet flowering, or the flowers were still tightly closed in a candle-like form, waiting some rain to inspire them to open.
A colorful Friend: I cannot remember the name of this insect, but it is beneficial to the coffee plant…
Lunchtime in Aroponga: Debutante in the house …This was one of my favorite meals during my entire trip. We ate in a Pousada, basically a private house that you can receive meals or rent a room. It was fantastic “comida typica” and as with Jamaica, all produce came from the garden in the back!
More Work: That evening, it was back to cupping at the mill, a new cooperative mill that is a joint project of Brauna and 11 other cooperatives and producers in the region. It is one of 5 BSCA certified mills in the country (meaning it can hold Cup of Excellence lots during the competition, among other things).
Tico at Work: Alberto Miranda, pushing it into the late night hours to cup these lots. Actually, this was not a good thing. Trying to cup at 8 pm is not wise for the cupper nor fair to the coffee. But we had an agenda to follow, dammit! The first table was full of horribly defective coffees. The second table was quite beautiful. Were they just messing with us??? I don’t know.
The next day, out at the Brauna farm office, Elena took over at the espresso machine. As mentioned, she is a very skilled Barista. This an amazing thing about the Brauna Bros and family: they are farmers, they can roast, they can cup, they have espresso equipment on the farm. Too many farmers say, “I grow the finest coffee, blah, blah blah” but put it on a cupping table and ask them to find it among a few others. They can’t. Farmers need to roast samples, and cup, just as roasters need to… Otherwise, we are all talking BS with eachother! Here we have a full commercial espresso outfit at the office across from the wet-mill on a coffee farm, and a barista to boot!
Grave Addiction: The next morning at 6, I am at the local cemetary in Ervalia to shoot photos while all others sleep.