The Art of Farming Coffee
Behind the scenes at a Brazilian coffee farm
"A great cup of coffee is no small miracle," remarked John Moore, V.P. of sales and marketing for Dallis Bros.
And granted, given how widely accessible coffee has become — especially in the U.S., where you need but travel a few blocks in any direction to get your quick on-the-go fix — it's easy to see how the complexities of the production process can be overlooked. But spend even just a little time on a coffee farm, as I was recently invited to, and it becomes quickly apparent that Moore's statement is made without hyperbole.
The quality of the soil has to be just right, berries need to be picked quickly and efficiently, but careful — you don't want to damage the leaves at the end of the branch, that's next year's crop. And make sure those beans get to the mill's reception bin right away, within two to four hours at the most. Then of course, once through the mill, the coffee needs to air dry, and you know how important it is that the layer of beans not be too thick or the batch will start to ferment. The list goes on.
This window into the farm-to-cup lifecycle was provided by Fazenda Nossa Senhora Aparecida, a farm located in Pedrogulho, Brazil, in the Upper Mogiana region. It's a fitting setting for the lesson, considering that Brazil is the number one coffee-producing country in the world. But even more so when you take into account that it is the farm behind Octavio Specialty Coffee, a brand with a long, rich history and whose São Paulo café is at the forefront of the country's burgeoning café culture.
And to be sure, it's also important to note that the road to a great cup of coffee extends far beyond the farm — in this case to the Dallis Bros. roasting plant in Queens, N.Y., which is owned by Octavio. The laundry list of things that could go wrong — or rather, have to go right — in the roasting process is as long as the one for the farming practices.
Read on for a taste of what's involved in farming and making coffee, it's no small miracle indeed.