Hand vs. Machine Picking on a Brazilian micro lot
Brazil produces more coffee than any other country in the world. They have achieved this by industrializing their practices for mass production, which has impacted the quality of the coffee they produce.
“When you are doing mass production like that, you are maximizing the production of a certain minimum quality of coffee. Rather than maximizing the quality of a limited amount of coffee,” Jonathan Cox, the Head Roaster at Propeller Coffee Co. told us.
The majority of farms in Brazil employ machine or mechanical pickers to pick the cherries from the tree. Brazil has relatively flat land, making it the ideal environment for machine picking. Though this practice is faster than hand-picking, it does not yield consistent results.
Cox explained to us why this is. “You can’t tell the machine only to pick the ripest cherries. You just have to look at a row of trees and determine when the largest amount of cherries will be ripe. But, if you are hand-picking, you can go up and down the rows a couple of times and only pick out the cherries when they are ripe. No matter what the machine will still pick up over and under-ripe cherries and ripeness make a huge difference in the quality of the coffee.
“While the fruit is maturing around it, the seed of the coffee is also still developing and growing inside that cherry. The chemical compounds that eventually create the flavour in the final roasted bean are still developing right up until peak ripeness.”
Because the terrain in Brazil is ideal for machine pickers, it is rare to come across a farm that hand-picks.
At the Recreio Farm, Diogo Dias has allocated a small portion of his land to be a hand-picked micro-lot. “This area is hilly, so people probably wouldn’t have typically chosen to plant here because they wouldn’t be able to machine pick. Dias chose to plant here because he had a vision, and was willing to put in the work and take on the risk of investing in the quality of this lot,” Cox explained.
The coffee from this lot benefits from a blending together of knowledge and infrastructure. “When a farmer in Brazil chooses to direct their attention to creating something amazing, you can really see the results. With this coffee, you don’t just get that generally good chocolate nutty taste like a traditional Brazilian; this coffee has a brightness that you wouldn’t expect. Someone took the time to isolate this lot of coffee and elevate it and it shows.”
Coffee from the Recreio Farm featured in Issue #11
In the Light & Adventurous Pack
Brazil Recreio by Propeller Coffee Co.
• A natural coffee with tasting notes of blackberry, macadamia nut, and vanilla.