This dry-processed Yellow Catuai tastes much richer than Carmo Estate’s standard pulped natural Bourbon. Mellow, dense cocoa, roasted nuts, touch of winy complexity.
Many of you know that we purchase coffee from Carmo Estate in Brazil each year for our Espresso JJ. You may not know that Túlio and Lu Junqueira are some of the most generous and wonderful people on the planet. We love the quality of Carmo Estate coffees. But it is so gratifying to know that we are purchasing this coffee from people who love what they do and who are committed to honouring people as much as we are. It is a wonderful partnership and a beautiful friendship. All we can say is obrigado!
The Junquiera family started growing coffee 150 years ago. Túlio Junquiera leads the fifth generation of the family’s coffee growing efforts, combining tradition with innovation to make Carmo Estate a sustainable farm dedicated to the production of specialty coffees.
More about Carmo Estate and Minas Gerais, Brazil coffees
Carmo Estate is a beautiful and very well-run farm. The soil is composed of red and yellow clay, which Tulio says is perfect for growing coffee. A number of varietals are grown on the farm, including Bourbon, Mundo Novo, Catuaí, Catucaí, Acaiá and Icatú. Túlio feels the yellow varietals taste better at Carmo Estate. Unlike in Central America where the coffee is hand-picked when ripe on a number of passes, the coffee at Carmo is harvested in the traditional Brazilian manner, all at once. Once 80% of the coffee in a given area is ripe, all the coffee in that area is harvested and sorted afterwards, where the greens and over-ripes are separated from the ripe cherries. This year, about 40% of Túlio’s coffee will be harvested by machine, and the rest by hand. The cherries are processed on the same day that they are picked. First, the cherries go into a sorting machine where the coffee is cleaned and ripes are separated from the greens and raisins. The coffee then travels by water to the processing station. Here, the coffee destined for pulped natural processing is mechanically demucilaged by forcing the coffee through a sieve. The pulp of the ripe cherries comes off easily. Túlio’s version of pulped natural is essentially washed coffee without fermentation, as all the mucilage is removed before drying.
He also produces very high quality dry processed coffees, like this Yellow Catuai. Unlike the rest of the Americas where coffee is traditionally fermented and washed before drying, 80% of coffee is Brazil is processed using the dry or natural method. This means the coffee seeds remain in the fruit while drying, becoming almost raisin-like on the patios. When we cupped at the farm, David and I preferred the dry processed coffees. They were very full-bodied and rich, with low acidity, heavy chocolate flavours and a hint of winy fruit (quite unlike Ethiopian naturals, which are wild and berry-like).
Once the coffee is processed, it is dried first on the patio down to 11.5% and finished in the mechanical dryer. The coffee is milled on site where the parchment is removed, and then sent to the warehouse where the green is sorted, the defects are removed, and the coffee separated into screen sizes. Túlio is proud of the fact that each lot is completely traceable back to the specific area of the farm, the varietal, and the date it was harvested.
Túlio hires an agronomist who comes to the farm about once a month to advise him on the tending of the trees, treatment, nutrition, varieties and other aspects of growing coffee. About 44% of the farm is left as a natural forest reserve, which is home to lime and guava trees along with 33 natural springs and a number of creeks and many birds.
Túlio’s wife Lu is a doctor, and the health and safety of the workers at Carmo Estate is her special department. She makes sure everyone complies with safety regulations and that anyone needing medical attention gets proper treatment.
Lu also oversees the social responsibility of Carmo Estate. The Junqueira’s are firmly committed to helping improve the lives of the people that work on the farm and those that live in the nearby village of Sobralada. 15-20 training courses a year are offered to employees so they can grow in their knowledge and experience. When workers wish to buy their own land, Túlio and Lu pay for 50% of the land and for the wood supplies for building houses. They also give interest-free loans and rent pieces of land to workers so they can grow and sell their own coffee. Along with providing social housing, the Junqueiras also donated the land for the village clinic and daycare. It was clear to us that Túlio and Lu really love the people they employ and who live in the village. Not surprisingly, their employees are extremely loyal to them.
On last year’s trip to Brazil, right before we left Carmo Estate for the airport in São Paulo, Túlio called us outside to plant a tree with him. Earlier in the week he had showed us the tree that he planted with John and Neto in 2014, and now he wanted to plant one with us. Trees have special significance at Carmo Estate. There is a large coffee tree at the entrance to the farmhouse. Each of the Junqueira’s children was christened at the farm, and the water from each baptism was poured onto this one coffee tree. The tree ended up growing so large, they had to move the gate.