At a Glance: single origin (Brazil); full body; chocolate, fruity, nutty, spicy; medium acidity; natural; Bourbon, Mundo Novo, Catuai

Hello, hello, hello, all you coffee fans. Welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe. So, this is the third installment of coffee review marathon week; and I think we only have one more to go. Maybe two. I was doing so well at being a bit broader in my scope, in terms of where I was getting coffee from, but I’m afraid that today will be the second review of a Chicago roaster in a row. I mean, this, of course, isn’t really a bad thing – especially when we’ll see just how good today’s coffee is.

Are you ready to sit back and relax while sipping Ipsento Coffee’s Brazil, Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza? Feel free to pull up a chair.

Last week, my friend, Jillian Barthold, interviewed for an internship with a coffee-bag graphic design firm here in Chicago. One of their clients is Ipsento Coffee, so they met over at Ipsento’s cafe on Western Avenue to discuss their work. When I saw her a couple hours later, I was really excited when she told me that her conversation with the graphic designers went well, but I was even more excited when I saw that she was holding a bag of Ipsento Coffee Brazil, Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. I was sitting on the edge of my chair, listening to her recount their chat, and trying my hardest to show that I was much more interested in that bag of coffee in her hands; just waiting for her to say, “Oh, by the way, you can feel free to have some if you’d like.”

“Why yes, Jill. I would like.”

Fazendal Ambiental Fortaleza (or, FAF as it will be referred to from here on) is a farm located in the Mountain Mogiana region of Brazil. FAF is a farm, but more than that they are an umbrella, as it were, for a group of regional farmers. Marcos Croce, the farm owner is very passionate about organic and sustainable farming, and has created quite a movement of organic farming that is slowly gaining momentum throughout the region. The farm most notably grows coffee plants, but is also in the business of growing mango, avocado, banana, papaya, native Atlantic rainforest trees, flowering trees, and other vegetables.


From the FAF website:

FAF has been a coffee plantation since 1850 and has been owned and run by the Barretto family since the early 1900s. Since 2002, Silvia Barretto and her husband, Marcos Croce, have been working on transforming the farm into a model of sustainable organic agriculture, or, demonstrating how agriculture in Brazil can be productive and profitable while providing a happier living environment through the proper use of the land’s natural resources.

This land where the farm is located – close to the border of northeastern São Paulo and southern Minas Gerais – has some of the best natural resources to work with when it comes to growing really high-quality coffees. Plenty of light, rainforest climate, high altitude (1100-1200 meters above sea level), a lot of wildlife, and rich volcanic soil.

When I write these reviews, I try to mention the most information about the farm as I can, and, more often than not, there’s not much information to be found. As you know, I usually just write about the region that the coffee is grown in. But with FAF, I found a ton of information on the Internet because so many coffee companies are buying their beans from them and singing their praises. Every coffee company’s site I visited couldn’t speak highly enough of FAF and their crops. They were even awarded the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) Sustainability Award in 2008.

If you recall from last week’s review of Ritual Coffee Roaster’s Sao Benedito, I mentioned that Brazilian coffee has become a bit of the laughing stock of the coffee industry over the past 15-20 years because the vast, vast majority of the beans that were on the market were of such low quality because of low elevations, low prices, low demand, and, more tragically, low standards. However, over the past decade, Brazilian farms have made a concerted effort to make their coffee more reputable. Now, all of a sudden, we’re seeing specialty coffee providers inundating the market with Brazilian beans. The so-called third wave can’t get enough of Brazil! And Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, by all appearances, is one of the stand out farms that is pioneering the way for Brazil to, once again, be a force to be reckoned with in the coffee industry.

So what’s the rumpus all about?

I brewed the FAF a couple different ways – in my automatic brewer, as a pour-over, and even in my Bialetti. Honestly, I discovered that there was no wrong way to do it. The aroma of this brew is pitch-perfect. Really sweet notes of creamy milk chocolate, hazelnut, and woodsy nuances. There’s also just a touch of an orange peel citrus to it that is just all too pleasing.

The flavor is an even more pleasurable experience. This is a robust, full-bodied cup of coffee that coats the palate and soothes the soul (yeah, I went there – what of it). A really nice, sweet, syrupy molasses, combined with hazelnut, almond, and raisins make this coffee the ultimate complement to trail mix. In addition, the coffee has a really sweet red apple acidity, and a thick, creamy and clean finish. All of this sweetness sits high atop a bed of a gritty earthiness to make the cup really well-rounded and balanced.

The Bottom Line

I cannot get enough of this coffee. It is very truly one of the best Brazilian coffees I’ve ever had, and it gets better and better every time I drink it. One company, 1000 Faces Coffee, got it right on their website: “…nuance is this coffee’s middle name.” For a Brazilian coffee, it was incredibly layered and complex. In my experience, a lot of Brazils are simple and straightforward; but the naturally processed Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza just has so much to offer sip after sip. Layer upon layer of syrupy molasses, chocolate, hazelnut, creaminess, balanced acidity, citrusy zest, and woodsy/earthy tones made this coffee such a wonderful experience from beginning to end.

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