Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2017

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 38 of 115

Especiais da Região da Alta Mogiana, an impressively well-structured regional group that was founded in 2005 and has since notably raised the quality and status of coffees from the area. After a good night's sleep in the comfortable Messias de Almeida family home, we gathered on the patio for sweet mango and papaya chunks and just-baked pão de queijo, the addictive cheese bread on offer throughout the country. The heads of the Alta Mogiana produc- ers association would host us for the day as we visited Sitio Bela Vista and the aforementioned Fazenda São José da Boa Vista. After walking the fi elds, which varied in terrain from fairly steep inclines at Bela Vista, to high, rounded hillocks at Boa Vista, we gathered in the dry-storage warehouse at Boa Vista for a cupping Cafés Especiais da Região da Alta Mogiana member farms. The coffee champs shared their impressions with the numerous farmers gathered for our visit. As harvest in this region had concluded just days earlier, many of the coffees were too fresh to properly evaluate. There were, however, some standouts on the table. "The potential of the coffees coming out of this region is tremendous," Steve told the producers. "It's an honor to be here and taste your coffees." We piled in the vans and drove farther into Alta Mogiana before unloading in the middle of a picturesque avocado grove. This was Café Minamihara, where the bountiful, soaring coffee trees are inter- spersed among mature avocado plants. Was that the reason the coffees we cupped shortly after blew many of the champs' preconceived no- tions about Brazilian coffee limitations out of the water? Perhaps. Mr. Minamihara explained that he has so many varieties of coffee growing on his farm that he's still counting them, and not all of them have been classifi ed anywhere in the world. The place was, simply, pure magic. The coffees were still fresh on our tongues as we joined in the Harvest Festival, hosted in the champions' honor by the Alta Mogiana producers association. In a special ceremony, Mr. Minamihara present- ed each guest with a pair of custom leather boots, made by hand in the nearby town of Franca, which is known for exceptional leatherwork- ing. We danced and drank caipirinhas (Brazil's national cocktail, made , and lime) until late. Still, as these things often go, Gianni stayed later and danced longer than anyone else. Our Ally and Fazenda São Francisco hosts knew we'd had a long, ex- hausting day, so we took things a bit slower the following morning. We would spend that day on the grounds of Nilton's farm, exploring his fi elds as well as his impressive, brand-new dry mill. Then there was a lazy afternoon: Some rode Nilton's family's horses, others swam in the pool, and because it was a coffee trip, a group of others just geeked out about brewing for hours. One of the many reasons I love traveling to producing countries with coffee champions is that they are fi nally able to relax and absorb. At Expo and in competition settings, they're distracted, they're preoccupied. I don't want to interrupt them and they don't want to be disturbed. The Ally Coffee Champs Trip was an educational adven- ture, a chance to develop their coffee intelligence to be sure—but it was also a prize. Ricardo wanted the champions to enjoy themselves in his native Brazil, to experience the famous coffee lands, but also the food, the hospitality, the nature, and easygoing spirit. Seeing Kyle throw his head back in laughter, and Berg swing his legs in the pool, or Chad mount a horse, suit jacket and all, while Andrea led him patient- ly around the paddock—these aren't coffee-related memories, but that doesn't mean they're not some of my favorites. At sunset we assembled in the fi eld behind the house—was that a Victoria Arduina Black Eagle set up in the pasture? Why were two cows tethered to the fence close by? Ricardo could hardly stop 39

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