Fazenda Recreio is a Brazilian coffee farm known for its quality excellence, and they have been our partner for many years. This month, our Fazenda Recreio microlot is a featured coffee at Central Market in Austin, Texas. We asked Diogo Dias, the producer at Fazenda Recreio, five questions about his life and farm, and we’ve translated his answers from the original Portuguese and edited for clarity below. You can learn more about the coffee we source from Fazenda Recreio here.
CASA BRASIL: Fazenda Recreio has been in your family since the 1890’s; however, you were raised in São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world, far from the farm and the rural life. Did you always know you’d come back one day to run the farm?
DIOGO: Fazenda Recreio has been in the family since 1890, with the first coffee harvest in 1893. My grandfather took over the farm in 1944 and managed it until 2006, so for 62 years he was the head of the farm, as well as our family. This always inspired me a lot, but I did not know that one day I would come to take his place at Fazenda Recreio.
Most of my vacation when I lived and studied in São Paulo was spent here at Fazenda Recreio, usually for long periods of one month or more. I was always in touch with my grandfather as a child and on the first day of vacation he would send someone to pick me up in São Paulo and take me to the farm. As I got older, I would come by bus, also on the first day of vacation. Maybe I didn’t notice it at the time, since coming to the farm was always fun for me, but maybe my grandfather had the ulterior motive of getting me ready to come to work with him and take over the farm. We always were deeply connected; we had different points of view, but that was good, to see both sides and to accept some change. He taught me a lot, mainly to respect and always have a lot of humility towards our employees.
CASA BRASIL: Your region, Vale da Grama, always has farms with very high scoring coffees that win many coffee competitions. Nonetheless, the region is not as well known as other regions of Brazil such as Matas de Minas, Mantiqueira de Minas, etc. Why is that? Are there any plans to promote the region in the future?
DIOGO: Vale da Grama became well-known after Fazenda Recreio and Fazenda Rainha won several contests, but in fact the Vale da Grama is a micro-region of the Media Mogiana region, which is within the state of São Paulo. Unfortunately, coffee growing within São Paulo is not very strong in economic and political terms, and thus it is not easy to obtain, for example, the Denomination of Origin, because there are only two farms (Recreio and Rainha) that represent the Vale da Grama region as a whole. But we do have an association of coffee growers that has been working towards obtaining the DO seal, along with the volcanic cafes of Poços de Caldas and the region.
A photo at the Vale da Grama Association from the 2012 Best of Vale da Grama coffee competition, home to many high-scoring coffees.
CASA BRASIL: For those not familiar with your region, how would you describe the Vale da Grama? How is the topography of the region unique, and how is it conducive to the production of quality coffee.
DIOGO: Vale da Grama is a rugged and undulating topography with a good rainfall pattern and mild temperatures – hot during the day and cold at night, which favors the uniform maturation of the coffee fruits. Just as important, we are on the outskirts of what was a volcano in the Poços de Caldas region, with volcanic soils rich in nutrients, greatly favoring quality coffee production.
Photo of the Vale da Grama
CASA BRASIL: Fazenda Recreio is widely recognized as one of the best coffee farms in Brazil in terms of quality. What are some of the things you have done to achieve this distinction?
DIOGO: We always strive to improve coffee drying techniques – researching the newest techniques and always thinking about how to maintain the quality of the coffee that comes from the field.
We also invest heavily in pursuing cultivars with high-quality potential such Yellow Bourbon, which represents 50% of our production. We have a joint-research project together with the IAC (Agronomic Institute of Campinas – one of the world’s most prestigious coffee research institutions) to further develop cultivars with greater quality potential.
CASA BRASIL: Being the fifth generation to produce coffee at Recreio comes with enormous pride, but I imagine that it also comes with a great weight. Each generation of coffee growers faces unique challenges in maintaining the links of the chain. You have already achieved a lot, increasing the reputation of Recreio and winning several quality contests, including the Cup of Excellence. But what are your challenges? What will be the big difference between the farm that you inherited, and the farm that you will pass on to your children?
DIOGO: Being the fifth generation is a source of great pride, but also a great challenge. We are a very mountainous coffee growing in Brazil, a land where competitiveness is usually linked to the ability to fully mechanized coffee production. The biggest challenge we are facing is how to be economically sustainable in a region that depends exclusively on human labor to tend to the coffee. In a region with high quality potential, but ever-increasing production costs due to rising labor costs, the best way to survive is through quality – to add value to our product through quality and developing relationships with like-minded partners, who value our coffee and ensure its quality all the way to the cup.