Granja São Francisco is located in the beautiful mountain range of the Mantiqueira de Minas in Minas Gerais. It sits at around 1,300 metres above sea level. This is a fairly high altitude for a Br...
Granja São Francisco is located in the beautiful mountain range of the Mantiqueira de Minas in Minas Gerais. It sits at around 1,300 metres above sea level. This is a fairly high altitude for a Brazilian coffee. The area has ample and frequent rainfall with consistent mild temperatures and is recognised today as one of the best coffee growing areas in Brazil. The surrounding countryside is as lush and picturesque as a Romantic Landscape painting!
Turning Cows into Coffee
Granja São Francisco is a family run farm which was originally acquired by Otaviano’s grandfather. He was a renowned coffee exporter and recognised the potential of the Carmo de Minas as a micro region that would be perfect for growing speciality quality coffee.
The region had previously been known for cattle ranching. Consequently the beautiful loamy soil is fertile and the coffee bushes and their interplanted shade trees have created a much richer biodiverse environment than the overgrazed fields that they have supplanted.
The coffee fields continue to expand and I heard the phrase: "We are turning cows into coffee!" exclaimed on more than one occasion. This can be seen as an antidote to the practice of tree-felling for lumber that is going on in the rainforests of Amazonia. With the trees cleared and their delicate forest eco-systems destroyed the cattle farmers then move in and the cycle of slash and burn and over-grazing begins again
The farm is now run by Otaviano, his wife Maria and their son Luis with a team of 12 full time staff that live on the farm and have access to healthcare and education. When Otaviano took over the farm in the 90’s he began to diversify the range of varieties grown there. They now cultivate Acaia, Mondo Novo, Yellow Catucai and thanks to their high elevation they also cultivate Red Bourbon and Yellow Bourbon which thrive in slightly higher altitudes than most typical Brazilian varieties.
The Bourbon variety is known to have exceptional sweetness and mild acidity, which explains why it's such a house favourite here at Atkinsons. Yellow Bourbon is a spontaneous mutation that ripens to a yellow colour. It requires extra skill from the pickers to differentiate it from under-ripe red bourbon.
When I was on the farm I asked how they pulled off this magic picking trick. They made me hold out my hand and placed a swatch of different coloured cherries on my palm. Pointing to one that had flecks of brown appearing on it, they explained that this was the ripe one. "We call this 'banana' and this is the ripe stage".
I have encountered this fruit theme before when I asked the same question in Colombia: "We know the red cherries are really ripe when they are at the 'grape' stage." We might call it Burgundy but you get the idea! The Yellow Bourbon has similar flavours to the red but often displays increased malic acidity and brightness in the cup.
An Award Winning Family Business
The coffee is hand-picked, mostly by women and the farm is a good source of employment during harvest time in the local town, Carmo de Minas. After picking, the coffee is pulped to remove the skins but leave the sticky mucilage layer in which it is dried. Drying is done first on concrete patios in thin layers (4cm to be exact!) and then in rotating mechanical dryers. Thanks to the ideal terroir of this region and the hard work of the Ceglia family, this coffee has won multiple awards, including coming 5th place in the Cup of Excellence.
Many Brazilian coffees have a low acidity which can make them very popular and approachable coffees. The Sao Francisco Yellow Bourbon too has a low acidity but what stands out to us is the intense sweetness and incredibly clean finish with notes of milk chocolate, hazelnut praline and some fruit notes of melon and apricot.