Behind the Beans: Fazenda Cruzeiro from Brazil

Fazenda Cruzeiro is located in the Cerrado Mineiro region and benefits from up to 1800 to 2000mm/year of rainfall, which makes irrigation unnecessary. The rainy season always falls before May, which also guarantees perfect conditions for the natural drying process.
Fazenda Cruzeiro was purchased in 2009 by Cláudio Ottoni, a fifth-generation coffee producer. Since his graduation in Agronomy, Cláudio dedicates his time and labour to obtain the best quality coffee he can produce. Initially starting with 130 hectares planted under coffee, today the coffee plantation has expanded to 200 hectares. The majority of their land is planted under the Red Catuaí 144 variety, which composes some 80% of Fazenda Cruzeiro’s total production; other varieties that are cultivated include Mundo Novo Acaiá (15%) and Rubi (5%).
The Ottoni family always seeks to use the most sustainable growing practices and stewardship of the land, with over 140 hectares of the farm devoted to wildlife preservation. Additionally, the Cruzeiro Farm now works with no water waste and has implemented agro-ecological means of reducing and (in many cases) eliminating the use of herbicides. Some of these methods include planting plant species nearby the coffee trees that will attract and trap bugs and insects before they can infect the cherries. Other beneficial practices include the maintenance of the weeds between coffee rows. Weeds are often removed by hand to keep more moisture in the soil even in dry periods. Furthermore, the discarded coffee pulp produced during the de-pulping of coffee cherries is recycled as compost and applied to the coffee plants. This serves to re-invigorate soil fertility and to help the coffee plant absorb more water and nutrients.
For harvesting, concerned about the quality and how best to manage his plantation, Fazenda Cruzeiro has recently begun using mechanical harvesters. This allows Cláudio to harvest more coffee when it is at its ripest, reducing cherry drop. It is also important to mention that the team at Fazenda Cruzeiro do not collect cherries dropped on the ground. This is to remove the number of over ripes in the final product, as well as positively impacting the farm's processes.
Once picked, the coffee cherry is deposited on asphalt patios, at a density of 5cm. Here, the coffee will remain for 5 day to reduce its moisture; before being taken directly to the drying silos.
The biggest innovation that Cruzeiro has implemented with regards to quality is the use of silo dryers in the processing of their coffee. These silos are commonly used for seeds and other grains and help control and manage the drying process. Their use in drying coffee has produced excellent results in the cup due to the slower drying process under controlled temperature, which increases uniformity and prevents over-fermentation. Furthermore, by using eucalyptus from the farm to fuel the fire for the drying process, Cruzeiro can reduce energy consumption by 60%.
Perhaps even more importantly, the silo drying process does not kill the bean, meaning that the bean can be replanted after being dried. This ensures a longer storage life and promotes profile stability over a longer period. As Cláudio Ottoni has stated, 'It is important to keep the coffee beans alive for a sweeter and cleaner cup.'
The coffees drying process is controlled by a stove which indirectly heats the air to a temperature of 40.c. Inside, the silos have are turning threads that mix and remove the coffee layers from the bottom to the top, allowing for consistent drying. Each silo can dry 500.000 litres of coffee, allowing Fazenda Cruzeiro to produce large scale lots whilst maintaining a pattern on quality and traceability.
As well as his processing techniques, the relationships between Claudio and his employees are also of great importance. According to Claudio, 'the workers are not seen as part of the productive process, but as humans who are essential for the final quality of the coffee beans.' Fazenda Cruzeiro gives preference to employing local workers: Claudio is proud of his farm's low staff rotation.



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