One of the farms in the Cerrad farmers group is Fazenda Boa Vista II. Clezio took me to Boa Vista II today and was able to show me both their production as well as some coffee agronomy basics.
Panoramic View of Boa Vista II
Clezio and Fazenda Boa Vista II
Why Raised Screens?
As explained to me by Clezio temperatures on the patio during harvest season can get up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This elevated temperature is detrimental to the coffee. One technique that is being implemented are raised drying screens, in Portuguese”terreiro suspenso.” The average temperature on the raised screens is 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit). Clezio explained to me that the high temperatures are detrimental for 2 reasons both related to the dehydration of the coffee beans. The first is the loss of flavor in the cup. The other is that high drying temperatures cause the bean to shrivel and curl up and decrease the average screen size (a measure of quality) of the overall lot. Clezio performed a test last harvest, placing half of a lot on the patio and half on the raised screens. The result: Patio dried coffee had 62% above 16+ screen size. Raised screen had 83% 16+ screen size.
The surface area of the screens is calculated to work with appropriate batch sizes for the dryers. The coffee here is turned every 30 minutes and covered at night with breathable material so that the humidity spreads out evenly among the coffee.
Fazenda Boa Vista II still uses the patio for lower grade coffee drying, and any coffee that falls off the screens is then mixed with this coffee. They have developed a vacuum system that puts the beans on the screens and then sucks them up to go to the driers. Also, the screens are covered every night, even when there is no risk of rain. Clezio explained to me that covering the coffee at night allows the humidity to become more uniform throughout the beans.
The Physics Behind the Raised Screens:
Akio explained to me the principle behind the screen drying. The velocity of air below one meter and above one meter is different. Because the velocity of air over 1 meter is greater, there is an upward flow of air. My aerodynamics stop here, but the principle is the same as the wing of an airplane. This upward flow of air decreases the temperature of the coffee (relative to the patio) and slows the rate of cooling.
Undergrowth, the Natural Solution
This is a relatively new development (the past 4-5 years) and an environmentally pleasing one. Instead of using herbicide to eradicate growth between rows, this growth is now encouraged. Clezio informed me that they put 70-80 percent of the fertilizer/compost around the coffee and the remaining 20-30 percent in the rows to stimulate this growth. Why? Because these weeds not only limit erosion, but more importantly increase the number of birds and insects and other natural predators that feed on pests that are harmful to the coffee (such as bixo mineiro – see photo below).
Here is an example of damage caused by the coffee pest “Bicho Mineiro” or “mining pest.” Bicho Mineiro originates from a silvery-white butterfly that deposits its eggs on the upper-side of the coffee plant leaf. Upon hatching, the larvae eat into the inner part of the leaf where they form caves or mines. The extent of damage in this picture is quite minimal (probably thanks to the natural predadors who ate the larvae before they could do damage) and Boa Vista II does not have a problem with Bicho Mineiro. If left unresolved through biological or chemical this pest can cause extensive defoliation. Since leaves are the respiratory vehicle of the plant via photosynthesis, a decrease in foliage means a decrease in plant health and thus production, both in quantity and quality. When you talk to the farmers, they will often talk about energy expenditures. The idea is to have the plant producing as much energy as possible (abundant foliage) and wasting as little as possible (excess branches, “thief branches” that produce neither leaves nor coffee, compensating for a sickness, etc). It is believed that the Bicho Mineiro is of African origin and recorded instances in Brazil date back to 1851.
Boa Vista II meets the standards for both Utz-Kapeh and Cerrado. One thing I particularly liked was their visitors forest, in which they plant a tree for each visitor to their farm. Here is the forest, and me planting my tree.
I see recycling containers on almost nearly every farm. I will have to check to see if this is voluntary or regulated by one of the certifying agencies or even the Brazilian government
Stumping with Lungs
Here is an example of what is called “Recepa com Pulmao,” which translated is “Stumping with Lungs.” Since the leaves, mechanisms of photosynthesis, are the “lungs” of the coffee plant, sometimes several lower branches are left on when stumping to allow the plant to regenerate more quickly. Clezio informed me that they are using Recepa com Pulmao almost exclusively now as opposed to a straight recepa (stumping).
Like most farms, Boa Vista II has some diversification. In this case, it is dairy cattle. The Girolanda is an increasingly popular variety in Brazil. It is a cross of the Gir and Holstein. Gir are a breed of Indian origin (originally from the southern state of Gujerat) and are popular in Brazil due to their resistance to hot temperatures and tropical diseases. The Girolanda cross originated to combine the Gir’s resistance with the production of the Holstein (or Holandesa in Portuguese — thus the name Girolanda). Boa Vista II is developing a variety that is 3/8 Gir and 5/8 Holstein.
There is something odd about seeing this on a farm…
Korean Promotional Banner
Here is a promotional banner from Korean for Boa Vista II Coffees (that is Clezio with the rake in hand).
And they even have a place for homesick colorado fans to watch their team play…