Let's Drink: Groundwork Brazil
Our second selection from Groundwork is a single-origin coffee hailing from South America. More specifically, Brazil. Even more specifically, a coffee farm in southeastern Brazil called Camocim Estate.
Single-origins are appealing for two reasons: In terms of taste, these coffees embody, like wine, a flavor profile that is typical for the region in which it is grown. In order to highlight these nuances in flavor that might scream “Honduras!” or “Kenya!” or “Flores Island!” or, in our current case, “Brazil!” the respective roaster will opt to roast the beans lightly, keeping inside the beans all the gases that hold those flavor compounds. (This is why most single-origin coffees are also light roasts.)
The second appealing thing about single-origins is that your cup of coffee can transport you, beyond a coffee pot and a retail shelf, to a real life place…like a coffee farm resembling paradise in the Espirito Santo region of southeastern Brazil. Camocim Estate is near a municipality called Pedra Azul (Blue Mountain), named for the idyllic mound of rock jutting from its lush garden floor like an image from a fantasy novel. In addition to being certified organic, Camocim Estate is one of the first Brazilian coffee farms to be certified biodynamic, i.e. the coffee trees are integrated with native plants to create a biodiverse and self-sustaining ecosystem. This biodynamic system generates a sturdier, healthier crop, which, in turn, produces higher quality coffee and provides the farmer with fruitful trees he can confidently rest his business on. In the volatile coffee world, the asset of a dependable crop is rare and invaluable to coffee growers.
Despite Brazil’s fame and notoriety for being the industry’s leader in mechanical harvesting and coffee technology (not surprising considering Brazil produces one-third of the world’s coffee), Camocim Estate is a quality coffee respite in the middle of a booming big business. The farm’s valued employees, who are all certified tasters, hand harvest the coffee and “rest” the beans (to mellow bitterness and acidity) for 2-3 months, over three times as long as the average coffee farm. In further contrast to the industry’s conventional standards, Henrique Sloper, of Camocim Estate, and Jeff Chean, of Groundwork, negotiate sales directly, maximizing transparency, accountability, profit, and mutual benefit for both roaster and farm.
Okay. So here we are, some three thousand or so miles later. I regathered my tasters. The Camocim Estate Brazilian aromatics wafted between our cups. Brazilian coffees are known as being distinct for their peanut notes. The unmistakable peanut flavor confirmed this fact. At first, through the heat, it was more of a peanut shell, if you will¾peanut with a dry and bitter edge. But as it cooled slightly, the rich chocolate came out and what I could taste was more akin to peanut butter fudge. This coffee was brighter than the smooth and silky Black Gold, but thanks to Henrique’s extra-long bean-resting method, the bitterness was mellow and the brightness (which housed all that peanut flavor) was a welcomed treat. The nuttiness partnered with flavors like rum raisin and malted milk balls to make a bittersweet, balanced, and pleasant cup. One of my tasters, always taking things to a fancier level, suggested that this cup of peanut fudge would make an excellent shot of espresso. Concentrated and with a splash of steamed milk? Can you say Snickers Bar? Yes, please.