BRAZIL | SITIO TRES BARRAS RED BOURBON NATURAL
- COUNTRY: BRAZIL
REGION: SANTA RITA DE CALDAS, SOUTH OF MINAS GERAIS
PRODUCER: EDINEI FAMILY
ELEVATION: 1300 m.a.s.l.
VARIETAL: RED BOURBON
IMPORTER: 3 BROTHERS
- MEDIUM ROAST
FOR ESPRESSO AND MILK BASED COFFEE
ABOUT THE PRODUCER, EDINEI FAMILY
Sítio Três Barras is based in southern Minas Gerais, in a town called Santa Rita de Caldas. We arrived at the right time: the second milking of the day. It was the golden hour in the afternoon, with the sun hiding behind huge mountains dressed in brachiaria, woods and coffee that surrounded the house. We were lucky and privileged to drink fresh milk straight to the mug. At Sítio Três Barras all the cows have a name and the one that gave me that sip was Roseira.
Beyond Roseira and her companions, Edinei and his family also reside at Sítio. This closeness to milk has been in Edinei’s life since he was a child, when he would follow his father along his labor and learn from experience. In this place, milk is gold, it is the main source of income for the family.
The house where they have lived for 37 years belonged to Edinei’s father. It is in the very same house where he was born and grew up that he lives today, together with his wife Inês. Edinei says that, as a child, the landscape where his eyes could touch was filled with coffee. However, at that time, about 45 years ago, his father decided to cut everything off and raise cattle. In the 1980s, the coffee industry was facing a crisis and did not provide money for the family. It was recently that Edinei and his eldest son, Eduardo, decided to give coffee a chance again, but now aiming at quality.
Eduardo envisioned a coffee plantation growing again in those lands. The coffee grown there, almost 1300 metres above sea level, has a special smell. It was these aromas that awakened in him the possibility of that grain being differentiated — and with each harvest, this feeling comes true. Coffee harvested ripe, dried on a ground terrace, without peeling, 85 points. In greater quantities, they cultivate Red and Yellow Catuaí and, but they also have a little bit of Mundo Novo and Red Bourbon. We were lucky to buy the entire production in 2020.
Eduardo is the one who manages the crops that total an area of approximately 3 hectares. At harvest time, which usually starts in June, he has the help of his wife, Queila. In management, they seek to use the least amount of pesticides possible. They usually fertilize the crops with manure that is generated right there by the milk cattle. But it is the newly planted seedlings that receive a special treatment. Edinei has the habit of letting the grass grow a lot in between the lines during the first 3, 4 years of cultivation. The idea is that this grass makes a protection barrier against the wind, which hits the mountain hard. Could this be part of the secret that we identify in the quality of Edinei and Eduardo’s coffee? The other part is certainly the sensitivity in connection with nature.
Careful processes are also applied in the terrace. The person responsible for fetching the bags of coffee harvested from the fields by Eduardo and Queila is Edinei, who does it by tractor. He takes it to the ground terrace that was cemented before last year’s harvest (2020) and seeks to spread the coffee in a very uniform way, without piling up, so the drying becomes standard. Every hour, they rotate the coffee and this also helps a lot in the standardization of drying. Around 3 pm, every day, Edinei makes the windrows (heaps the coffee) and covers them up until the sun rises the next day, when he repeats the whole process, which takes 15 to 30 days.
Along with sunshine early in the morning, it is from the oven that one of the aromas that perfumes Sítio Três Barras comes from. As legitimate mineiros — those born in Minas Gerais, pão de queijo — traditional snack from Minas Gerais which has become popular all over Brazil — is the star of the table, baked by Inês every day, sometimes even twice a day. They like having it warm, with coffee and milk. This morning ritual is not limited to the human group at Sítio. Chickens get their food before everyone else. They wait anxiously by the kitchen door until they hear any noise that shows Inês has woken up. The dogs Diana and Meg also take part in breakfast, waiting attentively and politely by the kitchen door for any leftovers.
Inês, who now manages the house while the family works in the fields, worked as a manicurist for more than 20 years, walking kilometers from house to house in the neighborhood, to help the family’s income in difficult times. She never took a course. She learned the technique in practice and used nature as inspiration and color reference for the nails she did. She often enchanted her clients, mixing the colors she saw in flowers, especially in the princess earring flower. There is no Pantone chart more inspiring than this.
In the backyard, there is a real food garden. Through the magical hands of Inês, basically all the food in the house springs up there. Inês considers the garden a therapy to herself. She told us that it was the hoe that healed her from depression and made her realize beauty in the simple things in nature. Everything is grown in the garden and everything is organically fertilized with manure from the barnyard next door. They chose to make the garden there because Ines and Edinei can always be close by, chatting while carrying out the daily tasks of milk and maintaining the garden. The current expectation is for strawberries to ripen, grown in PVC pipes and used pots and bottles. Recycling is an issue for Inês, she also reuses the paper filters of coffee to cover the grapes and prevent birds and other insects from harming the bunches. Her sensitivity is the main power that makes everything she touches grow strong.
During our visit, something very special happened. It had been many years since Inês had been to roça — which in Portuguese means countryside — for the last time, she only came along because I was there. I didn’t even know the new crop of Eduardo, who, when arrived, made a point of taking pictures and sending them to his son. Inês’s deep eyes protect a large and sensitive heart, from someone who has lived different scenarios in the middle of those mountains. “The loneliness of roça sometimes hurts,” she says.
The hard days seem to be over. Perhaps it is the work force that tirelessly brought the family safe and sound here. Perhaps it is the strength and firmness of the rocks of the hills that surround Sítio. Perhaps the sensitivity to understand that all the answers are in nature, in the connections that we are able to read, in the relationships that we are pleased to create along the way. As we said goodbye and hit the road to the next producer, a notification on the phone showed an audio from Inês. She appreciates our visit, appreciates the fact that we “brought them joy”.
We are the ones who are grateful.
Field Notes and Photos