Imagine a place high up in the table mountains of Bahia in the North-East of Brazil. The area of Chapada Diamantina is famous as National Park, but largely unexplored coffee area. The main reason is the large distance other producing areas in Minas Gerais (it takes three flights and drive for another 5 hours) to reach this raw diamond! The steeper the mountain, the harder the climb, the better view… this tough journey is definitely worth the effort.
About three years ago our local partner Bruno Andrade travelled through this rural area and reached Chapada Diamantina’s beautiful National Park. It is an amazing scenery with beautiful waterfalls and deep caves, steep mountains and wide valleys. In the old days this region was discovered by diamond and gold-diggers, we are now searching for ‘the black gold’.
Our new project Diamantina is an amazing origin in the making. Chapada Diamantina is far outside what you expect from Brazil. The small farmers with an artisanal approach are in sharp contrast to famous mechanized coffee areas in the State of Minas Gerais and São Paulo. Between the producers you find indigenous tribes with small farms of around 1-2 hectares.
Among the independent farmers we found the modest producers Kleumor Silva, Alex Sandro and Glayco Barbosa. Good friends to each other that share their knowledge, help each other to improve in processing and produce high quality coffee. Kleumor actually is cupping the coffee for all three farms! This group of producers was our start for this season 19/20
The Coffee Quest bought the first bags in 2019 during one of the most difficult harvests in Brazil’s past years. Unpredictable weather and difficult growing conditions. Several farmers managed to produce small specialty lots using a very labor-intensive approach. More is expected for the 20/21 season!
This year The Coffee Quest has been able to pay quite high quality premiums. Aim is to continue purchases in the quality segment and stabilize access to the specialty market in Europe. The 2019/2020 lots have been an excellent pilot to test the supply chain.
Chapada Diamantina is often marked by a more artisanal approach where small farmers use what they have to improve production. We do see a great example among the farms. Bruno has gotten in touch with Nelson from Fazenda Floresta and his Demeter Bio-dynamic certification. Nelson works on the farm with his two sons, and has been truly inventive when it comes to coffee productions.
There are many examples of circular use of resources. For example;
- To dry the cherries, they made a cover to protect against the rain. This cover collects the rain and makes a small lake. In the lake there is fish, surrounded by a diversity of plants (including soy) and the sediment is used as a natural fertilizer for the coffee plants.
- The fast-growing shade trees that protect the coffee plants for the intense sunlight, are also used for making wood constructions. The cows on the farm supply milk and also take care of the weed that is growing. and so forth. Everything is (re)-used. The farm is bio-dynamic, by taking care of the coffee and the ecosystem.
Local farmers are inspired by Nelson’s production methods. They have the knowledge to grow coffee in a sustainable way and want to continue sharing knowledge. Other small producers in the area are challenged by the lack of resources. Currently, harvesting is done by handpicking, no machines are used and fertilizers are kept to a minimum to limit costs. Building a long term relation will provide an opportunity for investing in sustainable practices.
Our Brazilian partner Bruno is the first one to take initiative. For the upcoming 2020 season Bruno has found an unused electronic defect sorter, to help reduce manual labor in export preparation. The machine needed to be moved around 400 kilometers to Bahia. This was quite a risk. First, the machine needed to be repaired, and second, there was the challenge to transport it along rough roads into the rural mountain area (See photo’s). But they managed! It was the start of a long-term friendship and collaboration, to develop and improve the production of specialty coffee together. We are happy to see our partner getting so closely involved!
This is just the beginning of a story about an undiscovered coffee diamond we call “Project Diamantina” (Do you also get so excited and can’t wait to try this coffee? Order it now and share the story with your customers).
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