Bom Jesus and Commonfolk

Last night we had the great privilege of hosting Gabriel and Flavia, the dynamic duo behind one of our favorite Brazilian coffees this year from Bom Jesus.

Gabriel Alfonso’s family has been growing coffee at Bom Jesus since the early 1800’s.

Bom Jesus is located in the region of Alta Mogiana, north of Sao Paulo. At the time, Bom Jesus was a stopping point for pioneers on their way to the northern goldfields. Gabriel’s great,great,great,great,great grandparents grew and sold coffee to travelers as they explored far north Brazil. Business boomed when the railway was built, linking Bom Jesus to the port of Sao Paulo.

Gabriel’s sons will be the 7th generation of Alfonso to tend the 200 hectare plantation.

Today, Flavia Alfonso, Gabriel’s wife, (who is 4th generation coffee producer, from a different region) oversees the processing of their cherries after harvesting.
We had the opportunity to cup one of her currant experiments. Flavia explains that Yellow Bourbon is a hard coffee to grow. The yields change dramatically from year to year, making production hard to predict. The flavor however is dynamic and complex. She is currently experimenting with this years yellow bourbon by drying it on raised beds, ensuring plenty of airflow around the coffee. To minimize damage from the harsh sun, this coffee is being dried under cover, in the shade. This drying method is slow and takes up a lot more space than patio drying, but I tasted the coffee, and it is unlike anything I have ever had from Brazil.

Gabriel plans the harvests around the sun. Different parts of the plantation are in shade at different times of the day and harvesting is arranged accordingly. Much of the plantation needs to be mechanically harvested (can you imagine hand picking 200 hectares?) This coffee is then sorted. Each varietal is kept separate during processing before being stored in silos to allow the moisture content to equalize.  Almost all of the coffee produced by Bom Jesus is processed naturally, however some specific lots are kept aside for pulped natural drying (honey process).

It was interesting to learn that weather is the hardest part of producing coffee, especially during drying. Gabriel explains that if a lot is rained on during it’s drying stage, it is ruined. That coffee will be too moist and will begin to grow mould and rot.

Each year the family hosts a competition in the local communities bringing environmental awareness to the younger generation and encouraging sustainable agricultural practices. Gabriel explains that ‘children will make up the world for tomorrow’. This year the focus of the competition was saving water, because like Australia, Brazil has a problem with droughts. Bom Jesus donated 120 bicycles to the winners of the competition.

There was talk of Sam or myself visiting Bom Jesus next year to see our coffee in harvest.
We are honored to meet Gabriel and Flavia and hear their story. We are working hard to do their coffee justice, something that Gabriel was especially touched by.

We hope you enjoy their hard work!