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- Red Grape
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Brazil is, by some distance, the largest producer of coffee in the world. Despite the loss of an even more commanding market share due to the growth of newer market players such as Vietnam, Brazil’s coffee farms still produce approximately one-third of the world’s annual coffee harvest. But while the Brazilian coffee industry is the most efficient and industrialized in the world, the yield-driven agricultural practices that characterize many of its larger coffee estates have curtailed the quality potential of many Brazilian coffees.
For example, large-scale coffee plantations in Brazil commonly use harvesting machines that shake the coffee trees to quickly remove all the coffee cherries, irrespective of ripeness. Even on farms where the coffee is hand-picked, a “strip-picking” approach, where underripe, ripe, and overripe coffee cherries are all cleared from the branches in a single pass, is commonly employed. But while it is perhaps understandable that Brazil has not always enjoyed a reputation for producing coffees of the highest quality, it is undeniably true that Brazilian coffees can be absolutely delightful. This stellar auction lot from Silvio Leite, a legendary Cup of Excellence winning farmer from the coffee producing region of Bahia, is a case in point.
Located to the north of the Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo regions in Brazil, Bahia is the fourth highest coffee producing area, by volume, in the country. With Brazil’s history of coffee cultivation dating back to the late 18th century, Bahia represents a relatively new coffee growing region by comparison, with larger scale coffee farming only beginning there in the 1970’s. Since then, coffee from Bahia has emerged as some of the most sought after in the country, in part due to numerous top-spot appearances in national coffee competitions and auctions over the past 15 years. Silvio Leite is one such producer who’s coffees continue to build the prestige of this region. After an extensive career working in the nascent specialty coffee movement in Bahia, Silvio acquired his first farm in 2019 in the municipality of Piatã in central Bahia. Due to its proximity to the Chapada Diamantina mountain range, elevations in Piatã can exceed 1300 masl.. This elevation allows for temperatures to reach as low as ~35f during the growing period, slowing down cherry maturation and ultimately increasing complexity and sweetness in the coffee seeds. Along with the benefit of these cooling diurnal temperature swings, Piatã’s proximity to the equator results in a climate that is sufficiently warm to minimize the occurrence of damaging frosts that have a devastating effect on other coffee growing regions in Brazil. Today, coffees from Piatã make up almost 20% of annual Cup of Excellence winners in Brazil, with coffees from Silivo’s farm recognized as Cup of Excellence winning lots in both 2021 and 2022.
- Silvio Leite
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Around a fifth of Silvio’s 30 hectare farm, which he has named Fazenda Cerca de Pedras São Benedito, is dedicated to coffee production, primarily red and yellow catuai varieties, with some gesha, pacamara, and sl28 varieties planted and awaiting their first harvests. This particular harvest of red and yellow catuai was picked at peak ripeness and dried in cherry on african beds under shaded patios before being hulled for export. It ranked second place in a special collection of Silvio’s auction lots last fall. This spectacular coffee is a testament to Silvio Leite's 30+ years of achievement as a specialty coffee pioneer and a fitting reflection of his efforts to make his farm a model of sustainable agriculture in Brazil.