As a special treat for the London Coffee Festival, we worked with Juliana Ganan of Tocaya to share each other’s roasts of producer Helisson Afonso’s coffee simultaneously in London and São Paolo. Juliana is the author of Por Trás da Sua Xícara, which details the seed-to-cup journey from her perspective as a multi-hyphenate coffee professional in Brazil. Juliana has translated this passage from her book into English, detailing some of Helisson’s techniques.
Por Trás da Sua Xícara
Helisson Afonso is a producer in Mantiqueira de Minas, son of producer Sebastião Afonso. The family owns Sítio Baixadão, a famous farm which was awarded record-high scores in the naturals category of Cup of Excellence Brazil in 2014. Helisson says that right after harvest, the first thing they do is to spread the leaves that were left behind underneath the coffee trees and in between coffee tree rows. According to him, this is part of the mulching process and it helps to protect the soil from direct sun and to hold its humidity. After that, a soil sample from each crop is sent to the soil laboratory that supports the farm, so they know what needs to be done in terms of fertilising. When the lab results come back, they know how to dose the nutrients according to the needs of each plot.
Helisson then goes on with the pre-flowering foliar fertilisation – for the first time, this step was carried out using a drone this last crop season (2022). Helisson explains that Baixadão focuses on naturals, although they do work with all processes (natural, pulped natural and washed). The decision of when to start harvesting each plot is based on the degree of ripeness – which never exceeds 20% of unripe cherries – though the ideal, according to him, is never to exceed 15%. Harvesting is done 100% manually, without any type of mechanisation or “derriçadeira’, a little mechanical hand-like tool that many farmers use to harvest manually. After being harvested, the coffee goes to the drying patios on the same day, staying there for as many days as possible until it goes to the mechanised dryer where drying is finished. There is no space on the patio for all the coffees on the property to dry at the same time when it’s harvest season. The coffees that go on the raised beds to dry are those from selective harvesting, microlots from plots that already know that cup better (based on previous years). Following that, the lots are sent to the local cooperative, Cocarive, where the dried cherries are completely processed into exportable green coffee
You can read more of Juliana’s work in English on Sprudge.