100% Brazil Serras de Minas
Cupping Notes: Caramel | Dark Cherry | Pecan
A Tribute to the History of Coffee
According to legend, coffee was first discovered by an Ethiopian farmer named Kaldi who observed his goats begin to jump and dance after eating the red berries of the plant. Dancing Goats is a De Mello Palheta mainstay, a blend that pays hommage to the fascinating history of the little beans we all love so much. Rich caramel notes blend with a smooth pecan and dark cherry finish to create a cup that’s familiar but forward.
This blend also stays true to our namesake, Francisco de Mello Palheta, in that it is always comprised of 100% Brazil Arabica coffee. As it was de Mello Palheta who smuggled the first coffee seeds and shoots into Brazil in the 18th century, it’s only fitting that these beans should make up our most popular offering.
A Different Way Forward
Despite Brazil’s major status in the history and present of coffee, it’s oft-maligned as an origin for producing low-quality coffees in massive volumes. However, this is slowly changing and we are proud to be allied with a group of quality-focused small producers that are showing the true potential this country has as a top-tier coffee country.
All of these producers are based in the Serras de Minas micro-region of Minas Gerais, and due to the volume capacities of this region, we’re able to receive coffees on an ongoing basis year round. Each new shipment is made up of coffee produced by a specific community — the current installment features a group of nine producers situated around the town of Posses — and is constructed to match our desired profile, one that is rich in caramel, nut, and dark red fruit flavours.
We’re proud to share with you for the next several months as Dancing Goats the beautiful work of producers Luiz Fernando Bernardes, Onicaldo Melo, Adriano Melo, Celso Mares, Paulo do Lago, Joao Borges, Rodrigo dos Santos, Jose Rosa, and Roberto Bernardes.
For the better part of the year, we‘ll be working with the father-son producer duo, Samuel and Sildes Caixeta Goncalves. These two operate in tandem their farm know as Alto da Serra, and are considered amongst some of the best producers in the Serras de Minas micro-region for their dedication to a consistently high level of quality.
The current iteration of Dancing Goats comes from Samuel, the son of the duo. The yellow and red catuai coffees from Alto da Serra are perfect for the profile we’re seeking — deep chocolate and cacao sweetness, with a round and full body and a lingering fruit complexity makes for a syrupy espresso or a comforting cup of filter coffee, whichever you prefer.
Quality Making a Difference
Brazil is an incredibly unique coffee producing country. Through a combination of protectionist measures such as guaranteed floor pricing and also the luxury of incredible volume outputs, Brazilian coffee producers are typically able to pick and choose when they wish to sell their coffee and to whom in order to get the best for themselves.
However, the current system has incentivized a volume over quality mindset which has left producers putting very little effort into improving quality. For many farmers producing 2000 plus bags a year, the notion of gaining extra by putting more work in seems pointless as they’re able to reap such a reward already with little effort at all.
In the Serras de Minas micro region, it becomes a little trickier. Producers are growing between 400-1000 bags, a monumental amount for many coffee producers, but such a small amount that they are often overlooked by major brokers who would buy their coffee. Add to this the fact that this region is very hilly and features some of Brazil’s highest altitudes, it renders mechanical picking impossible, thereby slowing down production and volume even more so.
As such, this region represents a great opportunity for quality incentives. If these producers can receive more for a higher quality, they see the benefit as they can maximize their returns and make the farming more profitable despite its relatively small size.
The 2018 average price per bag of unsorted coffee (coffee in Brazil is sold unsorted, which means it has to be milled and will suffer a 50% loss before being ready for export) was around 400 Brazilian Real a bag.
Legender Specialty pays a minimum premium above the market price of 50 Real per bag, and in this current case, paid an average price of 500 Real for these coffees. This means that these producers received 25% more than the average market rate for their coffee this year.
We hope you’ll enjoy this true taste of Brazil, produced by a dedicated group of coffee farmers who are focused on showing all their country and their specific terroir can show!
Why isn’t this coffee Fair Trade & Organic?
Rather than basing our purchasing on certifications like Fair Trade or Organic, we work with small producers, offering prices well above both market or certified prices. We then return to purchase from these producers year after year, offering economic sustainability and most importantly, respect. This is because we believe that quality has a social value, investing in people leads us to higher quality.
In countries where small producers form the majority, like Honduras or Guatemala, Fair Trade and Organic can offer a premium system that is undeniably helpful to producers. In Brazil, however, due to the size of the coffee industry and the impact of global agri-business, Fair Trade and Organic certification are much less common.
For many producers in Brazil, their volume is so large that even at a low price, they do very well. For small producers like Samuel, however, their volume puts them in a somewhat riskier position and selling to buyers at a higher price for the quality they produce is more desirable. In fact, Samuel and Sildas now know how good their coffee is and wouldn’t sell it for less than a significant premium.
They could potentially pay to be certified as Fair Trade, but this would be costly and likely not guarantee them more than they earn working with buyers like us at De Mello. As for organic, as they are smaller producers, switching to organic would guarantee a decline in production, which would lead to even smaller yield. The loss they would see in volume would likely not be offset by a premium paid for organic coffee.
We believe that our relationally sourced approach to Brazilian coffee has offered higher net benefits to everyone along the supply chain, from Samuel all the way to you, drinking this coffee right now!