Carmo de Minas : the Land of Cheese and Coffee

| September 20, 2010

As I approach Carmo de Minas it became apparent that this terrain is far more varied than the arid savannah I’ve left behind in Cerrado.  Rolling hills and streams; palms, sugar cane and banana trees provide a lush warmth.  Situated in the valley of the Rio Verde, and flanked by the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains, Carmo de Minas is a unique region, with rich soil and natural mineral springs ideal for coffee cultivation.

I arrive at Ibraim’s farm just in time for lunch, and I am greeted with a hearty meal of rice, beans, okra, stewed chicken, and fresh passionfruit juce.  Also present at every meal is a round of cheese, made fresh everyday from the rich raw milk of thier cows.

At the highest elevations within the farm remain a week or so of ripe cherries to be harvested and processed.  These cherries are destined for the pulping machine, which sorts the coffee by weight and then extrudes the fruit through a tube which removes the skin and flesh from the cherry leaving only the parchment covered bean, and some slimy mucilage.  These are then spread into a thin layer on the patio, and are raked regularly to ensure prompt and even drying.

Once the coffee has lost most of its moisture, it is transfered to a tulia (storage room) to rest.  After the designate period of resting, the coffee is milled to remove the parchment, and trucked down the the local co-op for sorting, cupping, and grading.  Each lot is kept separate, and the valuable feedback from the co-op provides the farmer with the knowledge necessary to continually improve the quality of harvest.

I have been greatly impressed by the dedication, hard work, and attention to detail shown by all of the farmers I met on my travels through Brazil, and look forward to maintaining our relationship with them upon my return to Seattle – a mere 32 hours of travel away. 
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