Dério Brioschi of Sítio dos Cedros is an excellent representative of the “New Brazil” we discussed in last month’s blog post. Little City’s Joel Shuler first met Dério while teaching a Q grader class back in 2016, and he has been a close friend and important partner ever since. I recently sat down with Dério to discuss his background in coffee, his experiences working and studying outside Brazil, and his new export company, Farmers Coffee.
LC: Tell us about your family’s history in coffee, and when did you decide that you would dedicate your career to the coffee business?
DB: My family came to Brazil from Italy five generations ago, and beginning with my great grandparents, we have made our living in the coffee business. I was born and raised in Venda Nova do Imigrante, in Espirito Santo, to a traditional coffee producing family and worked on the farm my whole life. In 2016, I began to expand my ambitions by becoming a Q Grader and later became an official classifier for the BSCA (Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association) and a juror for the Cup of Excellence. After graduating from IFES (the Federal Institute of Espirito Santo) with a degree in Food Science and Technology, I decided to combine my experiences in coffee production and academia to pursue another side of the coffee chain: commercialization. This led to the creation of Farmers Coffee in 2019.
LC: You started Farmers Coffee with three other young coffee growers from Espirito Santo. Can you tell us about the company and why you decided that working as a collective would be more beneficial than on your own?
We found Farmers Coffee with a goal to honor the traditions of our families while also embracing new and modern practices. We are all children of coffee producers so we know firsthand the difficulties and pleasures of working in the fields.
Our experiences in education and research is what brought us together and broadened all of our views of the world of specialty coffee. Thanks to the Food Science and Technology course offered by the Federal Institute of Espírito Santo Campus Venda Nova do Imigrante (IFES-VNI) and the support of Prof. Dr Lucas Louzada, the idea of continuing to work with coffee and starting our own business was born.
What started on the patio of Sitio dos Cedros, Farmers Coffee is now headquartered in Venda Nova do Imigrante, where most of the administrative issues are carried out, in addition to cupping and assistance to producers and partners. We also have a warehouse where green coffee is evaluated, sorted, and stored. Every day we receive producers from various cities in the mountains of Espírito Santo who want to improve their techniques and products and rely on our team to help guide them to the best possible path for better quality coffee. In total, we now have more than 300 producer partners!
LC: You spent some time in the U.S. working for Mane Alves at Coffee Lab International in Vermont, one of the world’s top coffee laboratories. What did you learn working at the lab and spending time around the U.S. coffee industry? Did any of these lessons change the way you approached coffee production or the coffee business after you returned to Brazil?
Yes, the opportunity to work with coffees from all over the world at CLI gave me a lot of new experiences to bring back to Brazil. I was able to carry out physical and sensory analyses, participate in courses and training, learn from the customers who went to the coffee shop, and talk to the public about my region and about our coffees. It was a unique experience for me and a great opportunity for me to better understand the needs and habits of North American coffee consumers.
LC: You’ve been a national and international juror for the Cup of Excellence competition in Brazil for several years. Can you talk about how you got involved with the competition and how evaluating the best coffees in the country each year has helped you evolve as a coffee grower?
DB: I’ve been part of the Cup of Excellence jury team for a few years now. I became involved with COE because I have a dream of winning the competition myself someday. Being a juror has helped me to improve as a producer by learning how the coffees are evaluated and seeing which processes and profiles are most valued by the judges and most successful in the competition. With this perspective, I can work towards improving our farm and I can also encourage other producers in my region to participate and compete in this world-renowned event.
LC: Tell us about your region and what makes Espirito Santo coffee so special? What are the characteristics of a great E.S. coffee and how does the climate differ from the rest of Brazil? What are the benefits and the challenges of growing coffee in the region?
There are nine municipalities that make up our region: Afonso Cláudio, Brejetuba, Castelo, Conceição do Castelo, Domingos Martins, Laranja da Terra, Marechal Floriano, and Venda Nova do Imigrante.
The mountains of Espirito Santo are located in the Atlantic Forest biome, a tropical forest that houses unique biodiversity and heterogeneous vegetation because of its extremely fertile soil and varied climate. Rainy summers contribute to the healthy growth of the coffee plantations, while the dry winters and low temperatures help the fruit to ripen slowly. The mountainous terrain hinders mechanization and consequently large-scale production, but it also contributes to the maintenance of family-owned businesses and sustainable agriculture. Plus, handpicking the coffees, when done well, can contribute to the quality of the coffee and highlight the unique flavors of the region that are unlike any other in Brazil.
The best coffees from our region have high sweetness, medium to heavy body with a creamy texture, high acidity, cane sugar and caramel flavors, and a long and balanced finish. They can also have floral notes and yellow fruit notes, mainly jasmine, cajá, and mango.
LC: What coffee varieties do you grow at Sitio Dos Cedros and what post-harvest processes do you employ?
Our varieties are Catucaí 785, Catuaí Açu, Arara, and Catuaí Vermelho (Red Catuaí), and our processes are natural, pulped natural, fully washed, and fermentado (extended fermentation). We dry the coffees on raised and covered African beds.
LC: Finally, can you tell us a little about the microlot that Little City will be offering this year?
The lot we selected for Little City for this year is a Red Catuai, pulped natural. This coffee was one of the best of the crop, as it is from the late harvest. For us, late harvest are the best coffees in our region, as the longer maturation cycle and the particularities of our terroir make these coffees have unique characteristics. This particular coffee, for us, reminds us of yellow fruits, cane sugar, and molasses with a heavy body.