Nestled in the southeastern region of Brazil lies a unique and remarkable coffee-growing region known as Chapada de Minas. Pronounced "sha-PAH-da de MEE-nas," this area is located in the Minas Gerais state and boasts an altitude range of 900 to 1,200 meters above sea level. One intriguing fact about Chapada de Minas is that it is part of the largest coffee-producing state in Brazil, which contributes to more than 50% of the country's coffee production.
Coffee cultivation in the Chapada de Minas region dates back to the early 18th century, when the Portuguese and Italian settlers began arriving in the area. The fertile soils, moderate climate, and abundant rainfall made this region an ideal location for growing coffee. Over the years, the coffee plantations in Chapada de Minas have expanded, and the region has become well-known for producing high-quality beans that have gained international recognition.
The coffee farms in Chapada de Minas are primarily small to medium-sized, family-owned farms, where traditional farming practices are still prevalent. Most farms in this region practice selective handpicking of the coffee cherries, ensuring that only the ripest and best-quality cherries are harvested.
While there may be some variation in processing methods across different farms in Chapada de Minas, the most common method used in Brazil is the natural (or dry) processing method. This involves laying out the freshly harvested coffee cherries on patios or raised beds to dry under the sun. The cherries are then regularly turned to ensure even drying, a process that can take up to several weeks. Once the cherries have reached the desired moisture level, they are hulled to remove the dried fruit and parchment layer, revealing the green coffee beans inside. This method is known to impart a distinct sweetness and fruitiness to the coffee.
Some farms in the region also utilize the pulped natural or honey processing method, which involves removing the skin and some of the fruit before drying the beans in their remaining mucilage. This method can result in a coffee with a more balanced and complex flavor profile.
Coffees from Chapada de Minas are celebrated for their unique and vibrant flavors. Typical tasting notes for these coffees include fruity and berry-like flavors, such as red currant, cherry, and plum, as well as citrusy undertones. These coffees also often exhibit a floral aroma, with hints of jasmine or honeysuckle.
In addition to their fruity and floral characteristics, Chapada de Minas coffees are known for their medium to full body, balanced acidity, and a pleasant, lingering aftertaste. Some of the finest examples of these coffees may also exhibit nuances of chocolate and caramel, adding to their overall complexity and making them a favorite among specialty coffee enthusiasts.
As the specialty coffee scene continues to grow and evolve, the Chapada de Minas region remains an important and noteworthy contributor to the world of coffee. Its rich history, traditional farming practices, and unique flavor profiles make it a must-try for anyone seeking to expand their coffee palate.