Four months ago, we embarked on our Cup of Excellence tour, which welcomed award-winning Peruvian, Colombian and Brazilian coffees to our cupping tables and cafes.
As much as we love art, music, and band puns (thanks for hanging in there for 4 months!), it’s time to close out the festivities with our final CoE selection, Natural Fazendas Klem from Brazil. Seeing as this is our last stop for the year, we thought it only fitting to share our Japan roaster Yu Yamamoto’s experience judging both the Natural and Pulped Natural categories in the Brazil Cup of Excellence in 2017. His experience illustrates exactly why we love the CoE – it’s sculpted the specialty coffee scene in a way that allows roasters to access top quality beans while elevating the standard of living for the farmers passionate about their craft and neighbouring communities.
The Cup of Excellence, which began in 1999, received around 900 samples from the 300,000 small farmers across Brazil this past year. The judging panel buckled down to taste the steep competition over the course of a week, a process that contrasted with Espirito Santo’s relaxed vibe. “We cupped about 80 samples,” Yama says, “which makes 700 cups to slurp in a total of 6 days!”
The currently-brewing Fazendas Klem Natural, which won 3rd place in the competition, was one of the major stand-outs for Yama, who describes the certified organic coffee as a ‘super-clean tropical fruit bomb’. 83-year-old Nagipe Viana Klem grew this winner on his mountaintop field and attributes the CoE to his success in eco-innovation and the expansion to 11 farms across the Matas de Minas region.
After the hectic week was through, the panel was given the chance to visit two of the local farms near the CoE site. “The farms we visited won 6th place in the Pulped Natural category and 1st place in the Natural category,” Yama relays. “From Espirito Santo, only two farmers received CoE awards. We visited both and had the chance to hear the farmers’ voices. How lucky is that!”
The farmer who won 6th place in the Pulped Natural category told the panel how he shifted the focus of his farm to specialty coffee at the age of 58. Until recent years, quality hadn’t been a priority; as he told them, “We didn’t work before; we fought to survive.”
The farmer never thought he’d grow something that warranted a reason for international guests to visit his farm. Now his farm is on the ACE website.
“The Cup of Excellence program changes farmers’ lives,” Yama says. “Now, more and more farmers think about quality.”
In addition to the focus on quality, technology has become a prevalent part of the coffee producing process. Farms are using IT for traceability, and each coffee sack comes with a QR code, making it easy for anyone with a phone to access information about the coffee’s origin, harvest term, process and producers. And as a coffee roaster, Yama is now able to send feedback directly to producers through their social media accounts.
“Now, those farmers change our lives,” Yama continues. “I’ve only been in the coffee industry for 10 years, but I feel there is a big difference between what we were drinking 10 years ago and now. Because of the farmers’ efforts, we can now access quality coffee more often. And there’s so much more to come. So, I can say, thanks to the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, coffee has changed my life.”
We’re thrilled to see the distance between consumers and producers are getting tighter and will continue to take part in the Cup of Excellence because of what it means for producers like Fazendas Klem and how it helps with quality discovery across the globe. We couldn’t agree more with Yama when he says, “Coffee makes the world closer.”
As you try our closing act on the tour, raise your cup to farmers like Nagipe Viana Klem, who put their love and dedication into the process; none of us would be here without them.
CURRENTLY TOURING (& ROASTING): Fazendas Klem, Brazil