The South American Growers Alliance offers five regional coffees from Brazil that provide an accessible entryway to the diversity of the country.
Every coffee growing region has its own story to tell, and the South American Growers Alliance (SAGA) is sharing the unique coffees and narratives of five areas of Brazil with the Australian community.
“I founded SAGA in 2020 in order to showcase the different terroirs – the flavours and natural beauty – of Brazil while giving the market access to a range of coffee that was traceable, consistent, and of a high quality,” says Founder Marcelo Brussi.
Through green bean trader Minas Hill Coffee, Marcelo has formed close relationships with some of Brazil’s top producers, sourcing their best micro lots and signature crops. With SAGA, Marcelo sees potential to broaden and deepen these partnerships.
The five coffees available through SAGA were developed and selected to be perfect components of a blend, with cupping scores in the early-to-mid 80s, reliable volume for roasters, and affordable price for their quality level.
SAGA has warehouses set up in six Australian cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, and Townsville. Marcelo is excited for roasters to experience the unique elements of different parts of Brazil.
“The terroir is the most important thing in coffee production. It’s what gives it unique flavours. Like in grapes and wines, terroir is why you can recognise a Barossa from a Margaret River wine,” Marcelo says.
“There are more regions where coffee will grow in Brazil than any other country in the world. Each one produces coffee with different flavour profiles and Brazil has some incredible, strong, and recognisable terroirs.”
The coffee SAGA has chosen to represent Cerrado, is the natural processed Cerrado Primero from 2018 Cup of Excellence winner and long-time Minas Hill partner Ismael Andrade.
The soil, climate, planted varieties, and cultivation systems of Cerrado Mineiro give a unique identity and terroir to coffee from the region. It has a perfect definition of the climatic seasons, with hot and humid summer and mild and dry winter.
With an altitude ranging from 800 to 1250 metres, temperature between 18°C and 23°C, and rainfall of 1600 millimetres per year, the region is free from frost, one of the main threats to coffee plantations in other producing regions. Its flat topography favours the mechanisation of crops, whose main differentials are intense flowering and uniform grain maturation, which allows concentrated harvesting.
Intense aromas, with notes ranging from caramel to nuts, the delicately citric acidity, moderate to full-bodied and long-lasting chocolate flavour, are characteristics of the coffee produced in the region.
“However, our Cerrado Primero was designed by Ismael and myself to satisfy the needs of the Australian market. For the last three years, we’ve been working exhaustively on a coffee that suits espresso blends in particular, with a low acidity, full body, very intense sweetness, and chocolate notes,” Marcelo says.
From the Mogiana biome, in the south-east of Brazil, SAGA will offer the aptly named Terroir from producers Gabriel and Flavia Oliveira.
Mogiana’s coffee plantations are at an altitude that varies between 900 and 1000 meters, with a very mild annual average temperature, around 20ºC. These climatic characteristics are ideal for the slow and uniform ripening of the grain, determining the quality and flavour of the drink.
It produces an intense, full-bodied coffee, with medium roast grains and balanced acidity, with a striking, fruity aroma and soft notes of chocolate and caramel with a hint of toasted almonds.
While Marcelo feels a strong attachment to Brazil and all of these coffees, he says Alta Mogiana holds a special place in his heart.
“My grandfather was born in a city near Mogiana called Ribeirão Bonito and he himself worked in a coffee farm there,” he says. “I have a profound attachment to this region.”
Located in the Rio Grande Valley, bordering the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, farmers in this region have produced coffees that exceed 85 points, according to the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association.
Approximately 400 kilometres from the capital of Minas Gerais, the Rio Grande coffee hub is located in the southwestern portion of the state.
It has a privileged terroir due to its average altitude – between 900 and 1300 metres – and the tropical climate, with an average temperature of 20ºC and a hot and humid summer. These factors favourably interfere in the maturation of the fruits and allow the production of Arabica coffee on a large scale.
“The region, its scenery, and its landscapes are beautiful. These coffees are grown in the mountains, not plateaus like Cerrado and Mogiana, so most of the coffee is picked by hand in smaller farms,” Marcelo says.
“Rio Grande is a typical Brazil coffee, with chocolate, nuts, full body, and a medium acidity. We have chosen the cleanest and boldest possible. [It’s] a beautiful example of a regional coffee.”
SUL DE MINAS
Another coffee SAGA sources from a prominent producer is Sul de Minas, from Pedro Gabarra of the same-named region.
Sul de Minas is the largest coffee producing region in the world, with a wide-ranging altitude of 850 to 1400 metres. Marcelo says it was difficult to find one coffee that could represent such a big landscape but did so by “working with the best farmer from Sul de Minas”.
The micro-region of the state closest to São Paulo is the largest coffee producer in Brazil and represents more than 70 per cent of Minas Gerais production. There, the climate and the relief are favourable for the production of Arabica, which has balanced acidity, good body, and floral and citrus notes, in addition to characteristic sweetness.
“Everyone knows Pedro’s coffees are amazing. The characteristics of Sul de Minas are milk chocolate with other complex flavours,” Marcelo says. “The microclimate plays an important role in developing those characteristics, but it all comes down to the process Pedro puts into the coffee.”
He adds that Sul de Minas will be a good option for roasters who consider sustainability a priority. Pedro was awarded the Most Sustainable Coffee Farm in Brazil two years in a row and is in the process of having his farms certified carbon neutral.
“We’re seeing roasteries going neutral and Pedro is at the front of this initiative at origin, installing solar panels and planting [biodiverse] trees,” Marcelo says.
Perhaps the best regarded, and most awarded, producing region of Brazil, Mantiqueira is a mountain range in Minas Gerais, largely represented by smallholder producers.
“Mantiqueira coffee is highly sought after, and coffee roasters have recognised the region for its quality,” Marcelo says.
SAGA works directly with five farmers in the region to create a coffee that could truly showcase Mantiqueira.
“Independently, they couldn’t provide the quantity of coffee needed in Australia, so they worked together to create this special coffee,” Marcelo says.
“This is the most premium coffee available through SAGA. It’s red and yellow Bourbon, with fruity and floral notes. It’s the microclimate of the Mantiqueira region that makes everything so special.”
Mantiqueira de Minas coffees are produced with care and have outstanding citrus, floral and fruity notes, creamy and dense body, intense citric acidity, evident sweetness, and long finish.
Marcelo says even with the quality of the Mantiqueira, or any of the coffees in SAGA’s range, it was important to keep them as accessible to the community as possible.
“I don’t recall coffees like these, showcasing regional single origins, at this price and quality, ever being available in Australia before,” Marcelo says.
“Coffee supply should evolve, and SAGA was born to present the market with options that can be, at the same time, quality driven and affordable. Since we launched SAGA, several roasters who used to use commercial grade coffee are now finding in SAGA’s coffee an interesting option, without compromising their budget.
For more information, visit www.sagacoffee.com.au
This article appears in the February 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.