Sul de Minas (South of Minas Gerais) is one of the first coffee producing areas in Brazil. Here lies Fazenda Bela Vista run by Otávio Reis and his family. This farm is around 1000 hectares, with 500ha of coffee fields at an altitude of 1050m. The entire family has been growing coffee for generations and is an integral part of their family identity.
Otávio’s family also runs also Fazenda do Salto, a classic traditional Brazilian coffee farm we visited in 2019. Otávio Reis is the 5th generation and the last three generations are currently managing both farms together. The name of the farm belongs to history. More than 100 years ago Otávio’s great-great-grandfather gave this name because of the beauty of the region. “Bela Vista” means “beautiful view” which is indeed related to the region in the South of Minas Gerais, with amazing landscapes and horizons.
“Me, my mother, my grandfather…we did not become coffee producers, we were born” – Said Otávio Reis during his interview, when asked what coffee means to him.
The traditional Fazenda Bela Vista gives an insight in the old traditions, although the farm is run like any modern company. This solid and extremely organised and structured farm uses all the experience from generation to generation, and is highly mechanized for producing high quality coffee. All the hard work have resulted in the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certificates for over more than 15 years now.
The farm is a member of BSCA – Brazil Specialty Coffee Association. Many times their coffees have been finalists in regional competitions and in the Cup of Excellence as well. Otávio has now started to experiment and use other new processing methods to produce specialty coffee.
During the crop, 40 out of total 90 workers are on the farm permanently. They work on administration and taking care of the coffee plants year round, with different responsibilities. About 80% of them have lived their whole life on the farm. They live in well-constructed houses, get opportunities for education and their children have access to school. If they reach the age and if they are willing to, they have the opportunity to work on the farm as well.
Varieties on the farm are Yellow Catucai (2SL and 24137), Yellow Catuai, Red Catuai, Yellow Bourbon, Red Bourbon, Robi, Yellow Icatu, Mundo Novo, Arara and Topazio. The chosen coffee in 20/21 season is all from the high altitude Yellow Bourbon plot.
The production techniques that are used come from decades of experience in the field and from continous agronomist, advice. They include the latest information from the research centres and universities. Fermentation techniques are applied based on farmplot, terroir and variety. Experimenting is done to find new processing and create different profiles, like aerobic and anaerobic fermentation. Every step is monitored and controlled on PH and temperature. The fermentation times vary from 12 up to 72 hours.
Their main volumes are dried on the terrace, sometimes in combination with the mechanical dryer. The drying time for pulped natural usually is 4 days on the patio and 4 to 5 days on the rotary dryer. After the drying the coffee stays to rest at the wooden granary to rest. Natural coffee dry on the patio for 15 up to 20 days, 10 days in the static box and in the rotary dryer for 10 days. A mix of several techniques can be used for one coffee.
In Brazil it is not uncommon to see larger farms succeed in making specialty coffee efficiently. The current inflation is making things harder. The Reis family is focussed on production and processing high quality coffee both from Fazenda do Salto and Fazenda Bela Vista. The larger volumes are traded succesfully based on day prices in cooperation with local cooperatives.
Together with the youngest of family, Otávio, The Coffee Quest is exploring the separation of high quality coffee finding a market for their more expirimental micro lots. We contribute in providing quality feedback and pay a quality premium accordingly.
Climate change is influencing the current outlook for farmers. Higher temperatures in day time and frost at night are affecting the quality of the coffee. Moreover, during 2021 most of Brazilian farms suffered from drought and frost. The family recognizes the change and wants to take care of the environment.
The native forests and springs on the farm are preserved, and the water used for processing is given back to the ecosystem, treated and filtered. Pest control is done following the updated recommendations from the agronomist. The preventive treatments to limit the use of pesticides. All this hard work resulted in the certification by Rainforest Alliance for more than 15 years and UTZ.