Rio Brilhante, Brazil
Roast Level: Medium
Process: Double fermentation
Roaster's Notes: When we tasted this coffee from Brazil, we knew we had to get it into the roastery. The double fermentation process gives some interesting coconut and jam notes with a cranberry finish. Juicy!
Producer: Inacio Carlos Urban
Altitude: 1,050 metres
Inacio first arrived in Minas Gerais in 1976 with the dream of producing great coffee via sustainable and innovative practices. After acquiring his own farm in Cerrado Mineiro in 1984, Rio Brilhante has grown to become one of the biggest farms in the region, as well as one of the largest in the country; spanning over 2000 hectares. Since Inacio planted those first trees over 30 years ago, he has continued to strive for excellence within the speciality industry, mainly via his use of rigorous quality control methods.
Made up of 55 separate counties, the region of Cerrado Mineiro can be found to the east of Minas Gerais, one of the primary coffee-growing regions of Brazil. Famed for its quality coffee production, the region ranges from 1,000 to 1,250 metres above sea level, providing ideal conditions for coffee production due to the perfect balance of wet and dry seasons. Cerrado alone is estimated to produce as much as 12.5% of Brazil’s total coffee output and has now received ‘Origin status’, meaning only coffee from ‘Cerrado’ can be called ‘Cerrado’; similar to Champagne in France. This exceptional quality is noted to result from a combination of climate, soil, terrain and the general ‘know-how’ of its people, something Inacio is proud to be a part of.
Inacio originally named his farm Rio Brilhante, translating in English as ‘bright river’, to honour the clear crystal water that provides life to his farm. This lifeblood that Urban notes to be so important to Rio Brilhante success originates from ‘Guarani Aquifer’, the second largest underwater reservoir on the planet, partly located underneath the Cerrado region, but also stretching as far as Paraguay and Uruguay. As well as the colossal 1600+ hectares dedicated to coffee, Urban also has a further 700+ hectares, where he grows a combination of cotton, soy, corn, tomato, beans and grazing pasture for cattle. Urban’s sons are now also involved in the running of the farm. Urban notes that family care helps to keep responsibility and innovation at the heart of best practices for Rio Brilhante. He also believes his sons’ passion, will help to honour Rio Brilhante’s existing 30-year history, for decades to come.
The high level of quality found at Rio Brilhante can be attributed to the standard of cultivation. Both the soil and coffee tree leaves are analysed every quarter. Using these results, corrections are made using specific products and fertilizers. Pruning is conducted on average every two years when crops begin to reduce in productivity. Trees are evaluated by a trained professional, with precision cuts made either at the lateral (secondary branches), neckline (upper part of the plant) or reception (total cut of the plant).
A wide selection of varieties common to Brazil can be found at Rio Brilhante. These include; Bourbon, Topazio, and Catucai, amongst others. As part of their core drive to always innovate, new varieties such as Arara and Paraiso are also being introduced. These varieties have been chosen not only for their great cup attributes but also for their pathogen-resistant characteristics that help deter diseases such as leaf rust. This, in turn, increases the productivity of the tree and also reduces the quantity of fungicide application needed. This particular lot from Rio Brilhante is 100% Aramosa: an interesting hybrid of Arabica and the lesser-known Racemosa species. Aramosa is well known for its great cup quality, as well as being naturally low in caffeine content.
This particular lot from Rio Brilhante is one of several experimental fermentation lots. In this case, the coffee is subject two fermentation processes; both aerobic and anaerobic. Cherries are picked and sorted, before undergoing a process of anaerobic fermentation. Here, the coffee cherry is placed into 200-litre pots and the oxygen removed and a valve allows for excess carbon dioxide to leave the chamber. After 36 hours, the coffee is removed, cleaned and poured onto a cement terrace; spread evenly so that it is 15cm in-depth and left to dry off any excess water. For many coffee processes, this is where the coffee would remain until completely, dry, however in this case, after 2 days the coffee is scooped back up and placed into large sacks to undergo the aerobic fermentation. Here, coffee will remain for another 18 hours. The sacks are kept in dry conditions and away from direct sunlight, limiting negative effects on the ferment. Finally, the double fermented cherry is removed from its sacks and replaced in layers of 5cm on the terrace and left to dry.
Rio Brilhante takes part in a number of social projects; their main being ‘Seeds of Change’. ‘Seeds of Change’ is a program focused on helping Rio Brilhante staff to learn skills such as reading, writing and calculating in everyday life. The driving force behind this scheme is that staff are constantly being faced with new challenges, both at work and home, in our modern world. ‘Seeds of Change’ helps to give staff the tools they need, to be able to thrive under such circumstances. Members of staff who take part receive a professional qualification, to help further their career. Rio Brilhante also offers this project to staff member’s relatives, highlighting the importance of the family as one of their core values. As well as Seeds of Change, other education initiatives such as ‘Escolinha Tia Edna’, a disability school for 85 pupils aged 2-6, and ‘Ponto do Livro’, a project aimed at opening local open-air libraries, are also funded by Rio Brilhante.
For the future of Rio Brilhante, Urban looks to further their environmental impact by recovering and reinstating other water springs; similar to the one that provides his farm with life. To do this, Urban plans to involve his employees as well as the local community, from which they will also benefit.