There are, literally, thousands of coffee farms in Brazil producing about five billion pounds of coffee per year. Each year, hundreds of these top farms compete for the coveted Cup of Excellence win—a title that honors the farm that produces the very best coffee in all of Brazil for that particular year.
Given those odds, it’s obvious that any Brazilian coffee that takes home that prize is one special coffee.
In fact, to even make it through the National Jury selection and to the International Jury phase is an honor unto itself that very few farms will ever know. Not only must the micro-climate be privileged, but the climatic conditions must be close to perfect that year, and the producer must exercise precise care in managing the harvest. Between knowledge, labor, climate, and luck, all the stars must align perfectly.
Today’s cup is a bit of rarity—one that consistently has everything go right for it year after year after year… And who better to handle such a coffee than a roaster who has recently entered the national spotlight with a big win in the SCAA Brewer’s Cup?
The Carvalho Dias family has been growing coffee in the Vale da Grama region since 1890, when the widow Ignes Bernardinada Silva Dias decided to purchase land and start a coffee farm while visiting the natural springs in nearby Pocos de Caldas. That initial farm has been divided into several farms throughout the years, many of them award-winners in their own right (Santa Alina and Rainha, last year’s Cup of Excellence winner, to name a couple).
Diogo Dias returned to the Vale da Grama after graduating in Agronomy from the Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos in 2000 and continued the push towards quality and has achieved exceptional results.
The intense inclinations of the picturesque terrain in this region have inhibited any attempt to focus on quantity production. Instead the farm’s focus is on maximizing the unique micro-climate’s potential to produce wonderfully sweet and citric coffees.
This is where Fazenda Recreio really shines. In many ways,
it is the Lance Armstrong of Brazilian coffees. (Maybe that’s not such a great example these days…) It is the Roger Federer of Brazilian coffees. Since the first Cup of Excellence in 1999, Fazenda Recreio has won the competition once and placed in the top five coffees on five different occasions.
Some quick math to see how incredible this is…
Estimate of coffee grown annually in Brazil = 5 billion pounds
Pounds of coffee in COE top 5 (average of 40 bags/lot) = 5x40x132.28 = 26,456 pounds
Percentage of coffee grown that places in top 5 at COE = 0.000005%
So in the following years, Recreio was among the top 5 millonths of the coffee produced in Brazil:
2010 – 4th
2009 – 3rd
2008 – 2nd
2004 – 1st
2003 – 4th
Of the five billion pounds of coffee grown in Brazil annually, Fazenda Recreio has scored in the top 0.000005% five times in the last ten years. That sort of success is unheard of.
Dear Reader, we are sitting in the presence of a great coffee.
origin: San Sabastian de Grama, Sao Paulo, Brazil
farm: Fazenda Recreio
elevation: 1100-1200 meters above sea level
cultivars: Yellow Bourbon
process: pulped natural, patio dried
The aroma of this cup is sweet, but a heavy and muted affair. It’s thick. It barrages my nose with its sweet scents of raisin, toffee, and butter and expands in my nostrils, lodging itself in there and taking up permanent residence.
While the aroma is pretty straightforward—nothing very unique about it, we’ve all whiffed those notes before a million times—, the flavor immediately post-brew is already really unique.
In the cup, I’m picking up more of that dried fruit sweetness—fig and raisin predominantly, with just a touch of cranberry (but minus the tartness). There’s also a smooth, creamy salted caramel that flows up from the bottom of the cup.
Again—fig, raisin, cranberry, caramel: not too unique. But, all of a sudden, I’m starting to taste a really interesting virgin olive oil and pine needle flavor. The olive oil taste actually doubles as a mouthfeel too—rather than a creamy or buttery sensation on my palate, this is an oily texture. It’s as though my tongue were a skillet and somebody were sauteing fruits on it—they tumble around and slide all over my palate with each shake and flip the perceived chef gives the pan.
Then the cup heads down to room temperature and the flavor shifts one last time, becomes denser, and returns to its initial sweetness: chocolate cake batter, roasted almonds, shortening bread, ginger, and a lemon juice cut with tangerine acidity.
Full body; oily mouthfeel; lemon acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
This is one heck of a unique cup of coffee. CREMA’s Brazil Fazenda Recreio really lived up to my expectations.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that two or more brewing methods with this coffee yields completely different cups. I recommend using a full immersion technique for it—it was really good in the Aeropress and it was unbelievably good in the Clever. The first couple times, I used a V60 and I noticed a slight papery taste, but that subsided in the Chemex and disappeared altogether by immersion.
This coffee has an awful lot of flavor locked up in the grounds and the only surefire way to get it all out of there is by immersing it completely. Brewing it by letting water pass through the grounds is shortchanging the coffee and your taste buds.
Regardless of brewing methods, though, the most important thing to take away from this review is that this coffee is incredible, and you should definitely experience it for yourself, sooner than later.
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