Years ago, I was always guarded about relationships with coffee farms and mills. This might sound peculiar, but in the down years what would we do? It turns out that working with small farms like Maranhao is actually working with a family that has a coffee farm. We like to think, like JGC, they are small but very good!
This last season, Jacob and I visited Maranhao and it was an eye-opening experience. The warmth and generosity of the family and the sheer energy and enthusiasm of Claiton and Jose are infectious. Two father and son teams. If you can imagine stopping your whole harvest for a day, due to our visit? That’s huge. Then imagine working 14 hours a day for 4 months back to back in hope of a good crop. It literally is a labour of love and trust. Although this coffee is excellent, it is also at the cost of a very low volume harvest. 80% down.
Now my job. To introduce this complex and delicious single farm coffee to you, that I am completely involved and biased about!
Farm: Sítio Maranhão
Farmer/family: Jose & Claiton Delgado,
Region: Caldas, Minas Gerais, South Minas
Process: Pulped Natural
Varietals: Red Catucai and Yellow Catucia
Roast: Light Filter. Not the lightest ever.
Altitude: 1100-1200 Meters above sealevel.
Depending on how you are brewing Maranhao, it can be a little like a Tanzanian coffee, with brown sugars and juicy red currants, cranberry a touch of stonefruit and white fruit sugars and nut. Whatever does happen, it is seductively sweet, with a creamy, buttery texture and a cocoa finish that just gets better and better. It is coffees like Maranhao that should stop us thinking of everything coming out of Brazil is like chocolate, peanut butter. 60g of coffee per litre is a great place to start.
Maranhao works so well, with this light roast in espresso. We often find that coffees with some acidity work so much better as a light roast, for sweetness and also for holding up in milk up to 10oz. There is this point where the espresso goes from sweet to “aggressively strong acidity” to roast and most of us would prefer the sweeter end of the spectrum for espresso and milk-based drinks. In espresso, we get bags more acidity than the filter, due to how espresso works. Sweet red fruits and the potential of stonefruit, turn to cranberry, grapefruit, nut, and cocoa. In milk-based drinks the bigger drinks are malty and caramelised, smaller drinks are cocoa and dry fruity elements of the fruit shining through. 16-17g in 34-36g out 25/28 seconds is a good place to start and more liquid for espresso…if you are me.
Sitio Maranhao is a small farm, not far from the entrance to Pocos de Caldas, in Minas Gerais. The move to specialty coffee has been over recent years and is painstaking work. The coffee harvest is only part of the years’ work. As soon as the harvest is complete there is a whole host of other things to attend to, but at least the workload reduces a little. Between Claiton and Jose, they are ingenious and very resourceful, making systems where they re-use motors for different parts of the coffee processing.
All of the pickings are selective, meaning that every bean that you buy has been picked by a member of the Delgado family. There can be 4 or 5 passes (pickings) across the harvest, none of the automated machine scale here. On top of this, I doubt a harvester could even make it up the steep, steep slopes.