I had the honor of being invited to participate in the 3rd Annual Rainforest Alliance Competition in Campinas Brazil this past Thursday. The Rainforest Competition in Brazil has nearly doubled in size every year in its first three years of existence, and we are proud to be bringing some of these coffees to the US. Here is a little bit about this year’s competition and the Rainforest Alliance Certification.
The Trip and Competition
I arrived in Sao Paulo on Wednesday and made the short bus ride out to Campinas. The competition was hosted by Atelie do Cafe, the roasting arm of Brazil’s first Rainforest Alliance certified farm, Daterra. Luis Noberto Paschoal, an enlightened entrepreneur who formalized his passion for coffee and returned to his family roots by founding Daterra, did a lot this year to ensure that the competition continued its growth in the number of coffees submitted and in the press surrounding the competition. By almost all measures – the number of samples submitted, the quality of those samples, the quality of the jury, the strict adherence to protocol – the event was a great success. The success should also be attributed to Imaflora, the certifying agent for the Rainforest Alliance in Brazil, and Dr. Flavio Borem, a professor in post-harvest coffee at UFLA who roasted each sample and served as head judge for the competition.
On Thursday morning we went to the roasting facility of Atelie do Cafe in Valinhos, a suburb of Campinas, where 12 Certified SCAA Cupping judges from throughout Brazil evaluated 10 samples of naturally processed coffee and then 11 samples of pulped coffee (defined as pulped natural, semi-washed, and fully washed). The top three coffees all received scores above 85 from the mainly Brazilian jury (actual all Brazilian + me). This is high especially considering that: 1. Brazilians tend to give lower scores than cuppers from importing countries since it’s far better to give a coffee the score of say 81 and have the importing client give it an 83 upon arrival than vice-versa. 2. The SCAA Cupping Protocol tends to render scores several points lower than BSCA or Cup of Excellence evaluations. After the cupping I was able to recup some of the coffees to look at them for purchase, and then we headed to the Palms Resort for the awards ceremony and reception. Below is a gallery with some photos from the cupping and the awards ceremony and reception.
1. Queiroz de Morais Cia de Cafe – 85.59
2. Ipanema Agricola – 85.52
3. Fazenda Recanto – 85.5
4. Fazenda Recanto – 84.41
5. Fazenda Pantano – 84.02
6. Fazenda Sao Joaquim – 83.57
6. Ipanema Agricola – 83.57
8. Alto Cafezal – 83.14
9. Fazenda Itaoca – 83.02
10. Fazenda 5 Estrelas – 82.84
What is Rainforest Alliance and how does it relate to coffee?
Currently nearly 100,000 acres of land are Rainforest Alliance Certified in Brazil. So what exactly does that mean, what does it certify, and how does it affect the coffee?
My personal brief summary is that it is a realistic certification that teaches and then pushes farms to be economically successfully while simultaneously adhering to social and environmental standards.
Delving into it a little more, the Rainforest Alliance is the functioning arm (Secretariat) of the Sustainable Agricultural Network, and “Farms that meet the comprehensive criteria of the Sustainable Agriculture Network earn the right to use the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal.” This criteria is the Sustainable Agriculture Standard, and is based on 10 Principles:
1. Social and Environmental Management System
2. Ecosystem Conservation
3. Wildlife Protection
4. Water Conservation
5. Fair Treatment and Good Working Conditions for Workers
6. Occupational Health and Safety
7. Community Relations
8. Integrated Crop Management
9. Soil Management and Conservation
10. Integrated Waste Management
- The farm must have an integrated pest-management program based on ecological principles for the control of harmful pests (insects, plants, animals and microbes). The program must give priority to the use of physical, mechanical, cultural and biological control methods, and the least possible use of agrochemicals.
- All workers that come into contact with agrochemicals, including those who clean or wash clothes or equipment that has been exposed to agrochemicals, must use personal protection equipment
- Workers that carry out activities identified as being dangerous or a health risk in the occupational health and safety program, or those that require special skills such as the handling and application of agrochemicals, carrying heavy loads, harvesting manually or using agricultural machinery or equipment, must receive a medical check-up at least annually to assure their physical and mental capacities for such work
- Minors must not carry large or heavy (no more than 20% of a minor’s body weight) loads
- Minors must not work on pronounced slopes (no more than 50%), near steep cliffs or drop-offs, or on high surface
- The farm must have mechanisms to guarantee access to education for the school-age children that live on the farm
- Workers who will be replaced by the use of machines or for any other reason due to significant changes in farm management activities or organizational structure must be given priority consideration for opportunities to be contracted in other labors on the farm and must be trained for those new tasks
- It is prohibited to directly or indirectly employ full- or part-time workers under the age of 15
- The farm must document the number of hours worked (regular and overtime) per day and the activities carried out for each worker
- All overtime must be voluntary
- Workers must receive pay in legal remuneration greater than or equal to the regional average or the legally established minimum wage, whichever is greater, according to their specific job.
- The farm must offer equal pay, training and promotion opportunities and benefits to all workers for the same type of work
- The farm must not deposit into natural water bodies any organic or inorganic solids, such as domestic or industrial waste, rejected products, construction debris or rubble, soil and stones from excavations, rubbish from cleaning land, or other materials
- The farm must have appropriate treatment systems for all wastewaters it generates.
- Hunting, capturing, extracting and trafficking wild animals must be prohibited on the farm
- The farm must implement a plan to maintain or restore the connectivity of natural ecosystems, within its boundaries, considering the connectivity of habitats at the landscape level; e.g. through elements such as native vegetation on roadsides and along water courses or river banks, shade trees, live fences and live barriers
- The farm must establish and maintain vegetation barriers between the crop and areas of human activity, as well as between production areas and on the edges of public or frequently traveled roads passing through or around the farm.
- The harvesting or other taking of threatened or endangered plant species is not permitted
- All existing natural ecosystems, both aquatic and terrestrial, must be identified, protected and restored through a conservation program.