Eldergate member Nina Cirana is now in charge of a school in Iuna, a larger town than Alto Caparao with a population of about 20,000. The area is known for its coffee plantations which cover some 10,000 square miles – for comparison, imagine the whole of Wales covered by coffee plantations, then add another 20%. So pay attention all budding baristas as Nina describes the local coffee industry and its end products.
The coffee bean is the seed of the coffee cherry which is the size of a blueberry. I tasted some on the bush – yuk! But they do give an indication of the flavour because they all vary. They grow in clusters on short shrubby trees; the higher the altitude, the better the quality. The manager of the school in Alto Caparao has a farm where his father grows and exports coffee: it’s called Mariano coffee, his surname.
Every morning by 5.30 am, I can hear the machines picking the coffee cherries on the top of the mountains. These enormous vehicles have moving metal hands which shake the trees, knocking off the cherries with leaves and twigs which are then sieved automatically to separate and funnel the cherries. The cherries are dried for at least 2 months before the seeds can be extracted. The flavour is hugely dependent on when the coffee is harvested and the exact amount of drying time. If they are over dried by even a week, the taste could deteriorate.
There are many types of coffee in Brazil and people drink it from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. So far I have tried the following:
Cafezinho Filtered coffee, pre-sugared and sweet, with no milk.
This is what I drink normally all day. In restaurants, it is generally offered without charge. They bring a huge flask and you help yourself to as many cups as you wish (and I thought Cafezinho was a promising young central defender – Ed)
Café-com-leite Coffee with hot milk
Café-pingado Large portion of coffee with a drop of milk
Café-longo Coffee served in a large cup, more diluted than normal coffee
Café-carioca Served in teeny weeny cups
These two are not popular at all:
Café-soluvel Instant coffee. Who would drink instant coffee when you can have fresh?!
Descafeinado Decaffeinated coffee. In Brazil? No way!