This week we officially launch our new espresso blend “Rogue”. Gestation started back in June 09 when Andrew Tolly at Taylor St Baristas came to us with his desire to create an espresso that would continuously challenge his baristas so they could hone their skills discovering new and different flavours in the espresso blend they use in their shops every day.

With Andrew, Jeremy and Vic, we started with our palette of single origin coffees. We needed to understand the flavours each produces in espresso shots and then with the influence of steamed milk and make adaptations in the roasts to define and refine the nuances. Over the coming months, stealing time where we could, we began putting the coffees together.

In some sessions, after extensive espresso tastings our brains were scrambled and couldn’t speak in complete sentences from the effects of caffeine—it’s a wonderful feeling.

Then through the week, texting and emailing our tasting notes … “I’m getting lots of cocoa, big body, a hint of wineyness…..- works very well in milk: is smooth, rich and chocolatey.”

By November we felt we we’re getting close so we sent out “No Name” to get feedback from friends.

“I was dialled in on the grinder from the word go, and every single shot has been coming through beautifully rich. I’ve only tried it as a flat white so far (my staple diet), and it pushes all the right buttons -lots of body and sweetness, pleasing fruity high notes……. So I think my machine must be well-matched temperature-wise
My tasting headline – ‘Apricot and cinnamon crumble’.

After a few more tweaks—”can there be too much blueberry?” We introduced “No Name” into Taylor Street Baristas shops for a soft outing. We got some great comments and we’ve worked to get more familiar with the roast style over the last few weeks. As roasters, our philosophy is to introduce some of our personality into the coffee; those roast notes of caramel, chocolate & cocoa: it’s what defines us and contributes more to the intrinsic and complex fruited & floral notes from the bean.

So now we can introduce Rogue: by name and by nature.

An espresso blend designed to change. We believe that Rogue takes an original approach as it is not a traditional ‘seasonal’ espresso, nor do we intend it to be conventional in concept either.

It is a little bit roguish.  It doesn’t aim to mute flavours so that we can maintain a consistent flavour profile.  It is designed to change in order to highlight and promote coffees that are in their prime and to showcase the diversity of coffee.   

The coffees we use to create Rogue will centre on those exclusive to Union.  These coffees are special, unique, and exceptional and a direct result of a trading model that is focussed on quality, but benefits everyone in the supply chain.

Experienced Baristas like the ideas of seasonality, new flavours, knowing about the farmers and about the coffee processing techniques. It has to be real and it’s a natural evolution for anyone who is becoming more interested in coffee.

This is part of the concept behind Rogue espresso. It is a little unconventional in that it is not just a blend focused around 3-4 flavours and designed to be constant throughout the year. It is a blend that has a distinctive character now, layered and complex but perhaps dominated by the new crop Gashonga that is really outstanding at the moment.  This is going to change in a month or so as new-crop Lambari from Brazil and tge latest organic Sumatra Gajah arrive. If they work well in the blend or are particularly exciting we’ll adjust the blend, if not, we’ll add something new and explore a different flavor route.  The blend will change as the new crop coffee harvests move from the northern to southern hemispheres, and not according to our Autumn Winter Spring & Summer.

Rogue is currently composed of four origin coffees, two different processes from Lambari farm, Brazil, our Harar, Gashonga from Rwanda and Gajah Organic Mountain from Sumatra. These have been selected, not just for their flawless quality, but also to reflect quite different and individual flavour notes that also harmonise. We have spent the last 8 years working directly with small farmers and this work is showing dividends in the form of outstanding and vibrant coffees. 

But, even the best coffees in the world—on a journey from origin to the cup—can be ruined at the hands of a poorly trained barista.  Extracting the best flavours by manipulating coffee and water volumes, pressure, temperature and time is a treacherous craft that only skilled and knowledgeable hands can consistently do well.  A skilled barista needs to identify the desired flavours and manipulate all these variables to bring these out. This metaphorical ‘graphic equalizer’ of flavour will not be set to the accepted equilibrium—muting the flavour notes as they change over time. In the shops, it will be enhanced by the Taylor St Baristas,  who can create different flavours by adjusting shots to allow each of the coffee origins to sing its arrival. The collaboration with Taylor St developing this blend has benefited from their passion and dedication to getting the most from our coffees. 

Does coffee have a gender? We want Rogue to change ‘her voice’ over time, yet still keep her soul; it will take a skillful barista to get to know her personality and then the delight as her character changes. I hope you like her.

Flavour notes: Intense almond and fruited aroma, fragrant with winey floral notes, the espresso shot gives an overlaying of marzipan, plum with a cocoa finish and lingering creamy body

Rogue is roasted every Friday, sleeps through the weekend gaining vigour, and dance into the new week.

…a new coffee is born.

We have been beavering away here in the Roastery with our coffee roasters Steven, Matt and Ben over the last few weeks at what we do best – crafting great tasting coffees roasted in small batches to develop their natural flavours to the full.

We decided to set them a challenge: create a tantalising, rich, great tasting coffee for winter.

We said it has to be deep and dark in style, be able to keep the frost at bay, and evoke dreams of roaring log fires, and the taste of traditional Christmas fare.

And definitely no nasty artificial flavours – it’s just not what we do!

This Winter Blend is all the rich colours and spiced scents of winter in a cup. Dark, seductive and very full bodied.

Indeed it’s many layers of flavours nod to Christmas cake and figgy pudding.

The taste leads with sweetness resembling candied fruit peel, followed by gentle notes of all spice and nutmeg.
Creamy butterscotch and dried fig follow up to finish with a wonderful aroma of marzipan.
Visit the shop today to purchase wholebean or freshly ground Winter Blend or a limited edition seasonal Gift Box.

Enjoy the festivities,

Jeremy Torz, Steven Macatonia. Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, UK.

The story of Rwanda’s coffee

Locked away at the heart of East Africa, Rwanda is a tiny country about the size of Wales with a rural, subsistence-agricultural economy. With a population of 9.3 million people, land is divided into small family plots with no or very little large-scale commercial agriculture. In recent years, the country’s coffee sector has undergone a remarkable transformation unlike any other coffee producer. It has seen the establishment of a now-vibrant grower and export community dedicated to working with the speciality sector.

Although Rwanda had been producing commercial coffee since the early 1900’s, the majority production was purchased by the state-owned RWANDEX and exported as Rwanda Ordinaire. This product was usually below C market due to the general perceived lack of fine cup quality and consistency. This situation was exacerbated after the 1994 civil war, when the entire country’s social and economic infrastructure broke down, displacing the population and condemning even greater numbers of people to poverty and subsistence. Our own journey through this country, its coffee and in reality its reformation to producer of premium speciality really began just a few years later. In 2001, a fledgling development programme brought us together with the first newly constituted Co-operative, Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa to form a relationship that has lasted to this day.

The Co-operative started life as an association of small farmers in 1999 in the Maraba district (now called Huye). It’s purpose was to present a single voice to RWANDEX and sell coffee at a collectively agreed price in excess of the low prices often paid by rural collectors. Around this time, the USAID funded development programme, Project to Enhance Agriculture through Linkages (PEARL) was also active in this area. PEARL—directed by Dr Tim Schilling—was putting a remit into action to produce smallholder, fully-washed coffee optimised for quality, not volume. With this support from USAID as well as OCIRCafé (the coffee department of the government industrial development agency), a new model was created for coffee farming and specifically the centralised post-harvest processing into exportable beans under an economically sustainable model.

To bring the project to life, Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa (based near the small town of Butare and close to the National University of Rwanda campus) was selected for the pilot project which could be developed as a model cooperative to mentor other communities. Agronomy Extension workers focused on creating, training and developing farmers’ understanding of better crop care to improve quality. In 2001, the critical turning point in developing cup quality was the construction of the first coffee washing station (CWS) in recent years.

Previously, all coffee cherries were processed to parchment by hand —pounding with stones, using home made wooden pulpers in front of the home or through the use of manual pulpers provided by OCIR Café located around the countryside.

Because washing water had to be collected from streams up to an hour or more walk away, washing and cleaning was a haphazard activity. The crop further suffered from an inherent regional potato taste defect: a starchy, astringent and pungent flavour that seemed to appear randomly throughout the crop.

The centralised CWS thus took the task of processing the cherries out of the hands of the individual farmers, who previously sold parchment coffee at low prices to intermediaries. Instead, farmers would now sell perfect, ripe cherries to the CWS at a premium with the lesser quality crop sold through traditional commodity channel.

Quality was further increased as the project agronomists trained workers to understand the post-harvest production techniques. Through this training and implementation of controlled separation and grading, a notably and dramatic reduction in potato taste became apparent.

During the time the first CWS was constructed, we become aware of the PEARL Project in Rwanda. We also heard that the country had retained cultivation of the traditional Red Bourbon varietal, and that it might be interesting to look at the coffee from this previously non-speciality producer. After making contact with Dr Schilling we received carefully-graded and prepared samples from smallholder households. Our cupping determined that although variable, there was a flavour profile that was exciting and distinct from the other East African origins in the better lots. The coffee was outstandingly sweet, with an underlying milk chocolate component, and vibrant, but controlled citric acidity, possibly softer and more rounded than other coffees of the region.

In 2002 we visited Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa to meet the leaders to understand how we could work to support their efforts. We began to receive crop samples direct from the new CWS and cupped daily lots to select grades achieving speciality status. A contract was agreed for the resulting green coffee from the first managed production of Fully Washed Rwanda Arabica, the world’s first to market as Rwanda Bourbon single origin, under it’s new, speciality philosophy.

Between 2002-2004, we began to change the focus from volume production to a strategy of developing capacity to produce quality coffee. We launched a marketing programme to attract buyers to this fledgling specialty origin. Those bold enough to take up the challenge worked closely with their chosen washing stations to select lots of a consistently high standard. If Rwanda coffee exports were to be a commercial success, this lot selection needed to be undertaken in-country. In November 2003, Coffee Corps (USA) sent the first cupping trainers to construct and deliver a formal Cupper Training Programme to develop this expertise. Previously, all technical training had been solely concerned with raising “overall quality”; but a successful future for Rwanda coffee depended upon its being able to exploit its regional microclimates.

Over the following 3 years, significant progress was made in coffee quality and technical skills. With over 100 CWS in operation, the strategy was to bring the Cup of Excellence to Rwanda and to use this spotlight to facilitate additional buyer relationships.

Before this could be agreed, a pre-cursor competition—the 2007 Golden Cup—facilitated by the SPREAD programme and Rwandan coffee industry, was held to trial the logistics of selecting traceable lots and working to an international protocol. Coffee farmers worked to produce exemplary coffees for this internal competition. 24 diverse and exceptional coffees were selected to represent Rwanda’s top coffee production zones.

The head judge for CoE Rwanda, Paul Songer of Songer Associates, said: “The primary idea of the Golden Cup (and CoE) was not to sell coffee but to develop the market—and the way to do this is through a more thorough evaluation of what the flavours are in a particular coffee (and where they are coming from) then extend this idea further to determine what conditions were responsible for creating these unique flavours.”

Access to the competition samples provided Paul Songer and Tim Schilling with a research opportunity to take an original approach asking two key questions:

  1. Do these exemplary coffees from different regions within Rwanda offer a sufficiently diverse spectrum of flavours to offer points of difference?
  2. Can these flavours be correlated to particular geographic variables and be further used to direct farmer activities?

The coffee selected from Golden Cup and CoE were used as the analytical samples in an extensive sensory analysis conducted by Songer Associates and volunteers from CoE jury panels. Samples from each of 8 different geographical regions were repeatedly cupped for consistently identifiable flavour characteristics. If these were not present in multiple samples from the region, the attribute was discounted. Through this protocol a list of attributes and identifiers was compiled that would ultimately represent three consistent “appellations”.

With the SPREAD Project’s links to the National University of Rwanda, a collaboration was established with research by Dr. Michele Schilling (Director of Geographic Information Systems Research Centre) on soil types and geographical profiling to create a link between appellation territory and the observed flavour attributes.

Rwanda in the Cup

Since the first Fully Washed coffees were developed in Rwanda, there has been consensus amongst specialty buyers that there is indeed a distinct flavour profile present within Rwanda coffee. This has most often been noted as the presence of soft citrus, slightly floral, with pleasant milk chocolate mid palette notes. It’s balanced and sweet, making it extremely versatile for filter (drip) and espresso with the appropriate roast.

Paul Songer further notes one distinctive finding, that there were often unique “mouth-feel” aspects to Rwanda coffee which some described as “soft” or “silky”. This is important to note as an especially original attribute, when compared to the other fine quality East African coffees.


Much of this taste profile may be attributed to the Red Bourbon varietal which exclusively dominated cultivation until 1999 with the first releases of Catuai and Caturra varietal by OCIR Café and ISAR (Institute for Science in Agricultural Research). Of the two, Caturra was found to be more popular but is estimated to be less than 2% of Rwanda production. Unverified anecdotal evidence is that the Rwanda Caturra originated from Kenya, with similar characteristics to a population derived from a Jamaica Blue Mountain varietal that produces a Bourbon-like plant type.

It is believed that some Bourbon derivatives such as Jackson from the 1940’s or 50’s may have been present but these have low productivity and are very rust susceptible. They have since been replaced over time with newer Bourbon strains, with higher productivity and improved disease resistance. According to Tim Schilling, “before the PEARL project, Rwanda producers were unaware of the specialness and desire of roasters to seek the Bourbon varietal they were producing, it was just coffee. We have been able to put Bourbon’s name on a pedestal and relate it to Rwanda, it’s a very positive thing for the country to hold onto”.

Between 2003-2005, Rwanda started to release Pop & Harrar as two new varieties with seeds supplied through OCIR Café. It is up to the farmer to select which variety they choose to grow, and are not currently selecting specific varieties according to region. The cupping analysis that follows was performed to identify attributes by region and not varietal.

Exploring Appellation

The analytical cupping work is refining the flavour map of Rwanda coffee and has identified candidate samples that displayed consistent and unique flavour profiles for appellation designation; Northern Region, Central Kivu and North Huye Region.

Norgh RegionThe North region sample was the winner of the Golden Cup Competition and was one of the most complex samples analysed, with 33 flavour attributes found. Beside aromatics that included nuts, spices, fruits and flowers, the sweetness and phosphoric acid components were amongst the highest intensities of any in the set of samples. It also had several descriptors applied to the mouthfeel and the cleanest, sweetest and longest finishes of the set of samples.
Central Kivu The Central Kivu sample was also noted for its floral and fruit characteristics, including lime and a small amount of violet fragrance. The mouthfeel of the sample produced several descriptors, indicating that it was an important aspect of the sample. The finish was clean, fruit-like and of medium length.
North Huye samples have some unique flavour and aromatic qualities, most notably including black fruit (blackcurrant fragrance and flavour, blackberry flavour, black cherry flavour) a unique mouthfeel described as “mouth-coating” and “syrupy”, and a medium long sweet finish.

At this current stage of work, the other regions studied did not provide the panellists with a strong consensus of around 5 or 6 attributes, usually required to define a coffee’s character.

“With Rwanda we’ve been hard pushed to keep it to that level, usually its 12 or so”, commented Paul Songer. The attributes were not sufficiently consistent or unique in their cup profiles when compared region to region to apply appellation designation.

North Region cup profile was characterized by floral aromatics, heavy black fruit (blackcurrant, prunes) and phosphoric acid.

Central Kivu cup profile demonstrated more red fruit (red apple, cherry) and dominated by malic acid (apple-type acidity). The coffees also consistently showed attributes of lemon/lime flavour and apricot.

North Huye Region has floral aromatics, with flavour attributes of red cherry, with less heavy black fruit notes, black cherry, blackcurrant and citric notes of grapefruit and orange.


Rwanda’s coffee industry has made a spectacular journey since 2001 possibly more than any other producing country in developing and understanding what added-value (speciality) buyers are seeking.

The project is at the early stages of developing an appellation designation which is the capacity to reproduce defined flavour profiles, unique to a region, with reasonable consistency. Once this has been achieved the next stage will be to uphold and safeguard the standards of the appellation.

To achieve this requires good process control (picking, fermentation, drying, and milling) provided by good technical assistance and extension services to farmers. Variation at this level can amount to such capriciousness that could overwhelm regional differences in many cases. So the first stage has to be solid post-harvest control and then with appellation development achieving a basic level of consistency and it is encouraging to note that the level of achievement to date is significant with a professional national cuppers employed by most CWS and co-operatives.

Out of this work, the impact will be in the development, marketing and eventually consumer awareness of regional flavour characteristics – leading to the creation and protection of geographic appellations. This can make a huge difference in the economic development of a coffee producing country as well as bring more excitement and curiosity to the marketplace.


With grateful thanks to Paul V. Songer (Songer Associates Inc, Boulder Colorado. USA.) and Dr Timothy Schilling, Director for Enterprise Development and Partnerships, The Borlaug Institute, Texas, USA, for interviews and published materials.

One of the defining characteristics we talk about in fine quality coffee is sweetness. In the case of Brazil, a country often accused of exporting the largest quantities of basic neutral commodity coffee, we have been lucky enough to work for the last eight years with one of the sweetest producers I have known. Raymond Rebetez, owner of the Fazenda Lambari is genuinely one of the nicest people I have come across in the coffee industry, and his coffee matches his personality in its integrity and manner completely.

Although we have met at conferences and coffee trade exhibitions many times over the last few years, I last visited Raymond in June 2003 whilst touring the region looking at the various methods of coffee production that have been pioneered in Brazil. Spending a day with him at Lambari, a farm that at that time we had already been sourcing from for two years, he took me to the nearby Fazenda Irarema; a place that he said was truly special. The farm had been under the same family since its inception in the late 1890’s and the farm house, a beautiful villa is on this visit my base for he week as Raymond finally agreed to purchase the farm when the elderly couple retired and wanted to move to the city.

On this visit I was joined by Mariusz Mistewicz who last year started a company called Fair Coffee in Poland and who are distributing Union Hand Roasted to a new and growing café sector out there. Along with Mariusz and his wife Hannah, we are accompanied by Radoslaw Darnowski a talented Barista from the Coffee Heaven chain who is the current Polish WBC latte Art Champion, and winning competitor in our first Polish Barista Championships. Visiting origins and seeing producers at first hand is an excellent opportunity for a Barista to really get to understand what makes some of the rich flavour tones in a great espresso blend; for this style of coffee Brazil really has some tricks up its sleeve.

In just about every aspect of its coffee, Brazil is truly unique. The amount of land under coffee cultivation produces the worlds largest single country crop, and it’s this aspect that has generated the very best as well as the worst for the country’s reputation. Most of the country’s farms average around 10 hectares with the coffee being picked and sold on to commoditised exporters that bulk the coffee without regard for regionality and sell it as Brazil Santos, a generic trade name for standard Arabica coffee (Santos is the name of the port out of which the coffee is shipped). A very small percentage operate larger concerns, and Lambari with its sister Fazenda Irarema are examples at the mid-size range each with around 250 hectares under coffee. Talking this week with people at the higher quality end of the industry, I understand that there are around 300,000 growers in Brazil, but possibly only around as small a number as 200 are producing the sort of quality that Union is interested in.

So what is it that distinguishes this outstanding cup from the millions of others produced? As I have seen this week, it often comes down to true passion and commitment. First of all, you have to have good land in the right place. Compared to the mountainous Central American countries with high growing areas of around 1,200-1,650M (4,000 – 5,500ft) altitude, Brazil is a relatively low lying country, and even with its traditional Bourbon derived style of low acidity and smooth chocolate in the cup, the coffees grown at 600m (2000ft) are flat and uninspiring in the cup.

Fazenda Lambari sits in the cooler climes at around 1,100M ((3,600ft) so the trees produce smaller yields of slower maturing cherries with depth, clarity of flavours and a delicate balancing acidity that is drawn out and complemented by outstanding natural sweetness.

The real ‘trick’ that brings out this sweet character is the unique approach to harvesting and the subsequent sorting and processing methods developed by Brazil producers known as Natural, and Pulped Natural preparations. These methods have arisen both in response to optimising the character of the coffees in the cup, but also as a strategy for managing the large volumes of cherries that can arrive at the milling stations daily during the three months of the harvest season.

Whereas in most countries, we work with farmers to religiously only pick the perfect ripe red cherries, in Brazil, the trees when ready for harvest appear as if they have been forgotten or abandoned with red – ripe and over ripe black shrivelled cherries still hanging from the branches.

Normal wisdom would suggest that the crop would be ruined, but when picked and sorted using controlled water flows through the mill equipment, two streams of well separated fruit emerges –the perfect ripe coffee which sink in the flows and are collected for pulping, and a channel that is skimmed from the floating over-ripe fruit that is then taken direct to the drying patios where the whole fruit is dried around the bean.

This latter group is referred to as the natural process, and the act of drying whole concentrates the sugars and develops the body in the coffee making it an excellent base for certain Espresso blends but these coffees have to be handled carefully as when fresh from the farm are very wild in flavour – gamey, woody, earthy notes can all predominate yet after resting for up to three months, all of these weird characters seem to meld into a smooth chocolate like base and the gentle acidity and soft nutty flavours really start to show in an elegant yet rich style.

The carefully separated ripe cherries, after pulping then also go to the patios where the still attached mucilage (which in central American coffees is fermented and removed) is allowed to dry around the bean yielding a lighter cup than the Naturals, still having wonderfully sweet tones but ones that are balanced with more developed acidity that characterises the Brazilian Pulped Natural style. This lighter but smooth and flavourful coffee always reminds me of Californian Chardonnay wines – slightly nutty Oaky nuances but with a seductive note of clarified butter that really caresses the palate making it seem fresh but indulgent all at the same time. Its an elegant coffee that we roast unblended as our Fazenda Lambari Estate coffee whilst the Lambari Naturals provide a rich complement to our Bright Note Espresso Blend.

Having also tasted on my visit a number of commercial coffees from the region I urge anyone exploring coffees of Brazil to try Union’s Roasting of Raymond’s Fazenda Lambari – it genuinely is different – just as I used the wine analogy above, Fazenda Lambari would be a prince amongst Chateaux and not your average party wine. The happy fact is that we don’t charge fine wine prices for it – so try it and enjoy along with your favourite weekend breakfast, its fantastic with croissants and pastries – the more butter the better! Enjoy.

Farm notes July 2009


This farm, about four hours drive from Sao Paolo is where I am staying on my visit. Its located on the slopes of a valley called Vale Da Grama in the Serra Da Mantiqueira mountain range, reputed to be the oldest range in the Americas – formed from volcanic action, the nearby spa town and regional holiday resort, Pocos de Caldos is nestled within the bowl of one of these.

The mountains name means ‘the mountain that cries’, and is the old Brazilian Tupi Indian name, the most prominent indigenous group.

Varietals grown: Red and Yelllow Bourbon and Mundo Nouvo.

Irarema is one of the oldest farms in the region, the valley first being settled for farming by the Carvhalos Dias Family, a forebear of whom after being widowed, moved to the valley for the health benefits of the spring waters in 1850. The first farm, Fazenda Recreio, was established with coffee trees in 1890, and it is this farm that according to Brazilian custom was progressively divided amongst subsequent generations giving rise to the small group of eight that exist in the valley today. Fazenda Irarema, established two years later in 1892 along with neighbours Sao Manoel Dos Brejoes and Santa Alina are stunningly beautiful farms each around 250 hectares of well tended trees arranged in elegant rows on the sunny North facing slopes (southern hemisphere remember!) of the valley.

During my visit this time, a surprise discovery was that on the Santa Alina farm, a small area of around 2 hectares of original planting from the 1890’s still exists. These 120 year old trees amazingly are still producing coffee, although a very small amount per tree. The present owners were about to tear these out and replant, but thanks to Raymond’s persistence (owner of Irarema and Lambari farms), they have retained these and are tending them carefully as a special project. After some extensive research, it seems that nowhere in the coffee producing world can trees of this age be found, and they are exactly what was planted back in the pioneering days of the brazil coffee ‘industry’.

The trees we see are very tightly packed masses of wild branches and stems – apparently in the old days, in case trees did not take, the farmers would plant 4 seeds in a hole wheras today, seedlings are brought on in nurseries and then are planted out in to the fields in separated pairs. On inspection it was apparent that in this highly fertile area, all the seeds in a hole not only survived germination but have thrived for the last 100 years!

I’ve managed to get the owners to give me a sample of this coffee and Steven and I will sample-roast and cup the coffee back in London next week – if its as good as I’m told, we have a handshake agreement that Union will buy about five 60Kg sacks of this (they give all the rest to special friends) so keep an eye on our blog and website for the cupping results.

The Bourbon varietal grown in this valley is now a scarcely found in Brazil, as the original plantations are refreshed with modern cultivars that grow more successfully in the lower latitudes. Bourbon was first brought to Brazil in the 1880’s from Asencion Island as a red cherry variety which locally mutated into a yellow that is often seen on the trees today. Also commonly found are red and yellow catuai, the latter being a very sweet fruit and excitingly this forms a part of the wonderful Lambari crop that we have been working with since 2001.

Aside from the great tasting varietals here in the valley the other aspect that is responsible for the elegant yet gentle acidity in the coffee is the altitude. Good arabicas do need the cooler slower maturation afforded by the higher elevations yet Brazil’s cultivation is mainly at lower levels compared to the great Central American regions. Our happy family of farms here in the Mantiqueira’s peak out at between 1,100 and 1,300M however; the highest to be found in the country. This exceptional location along with the care and attention given to the trees and harvest processing is why our Brazil selections are so much clearer, sweeter and more elegant when compared to the majority of Brazil coffee to be found on the shelves. If it was not for Raymond and his passion and dedication, I don’t think Union Coffee would be offering Brazi coffees today.


Varietals grown: Acaia and Catuai plus small amount of Mondo Nuovo.

The first Brazil farm that Union sourced coffee from in 2001; before this our feelings were that the generally recognised ‘mild brazils’ did not have enough character to develop in our demanding roast style. My experience here year after year has proved that a few producers in this vast country are deserving of our attention. OK the coffees do not show the ‘high drama’ of our Santa Ana La Huerta Guatemala or the lighthouse beacon of a vibrant Rianjagi Kenya, but the elegant, comforting sweetness of the pulped natural coffees; the velvet smooth full bodied natural processed provide a sublime pleasure in easy all day drinking in filter or cafetiere brews and a rich base for lighter espresso styles.

Lambari today has around 270 Hectares of coffee cultivation with another 120 hectares dedicated to preservation of natural forest and wildlife habitat. Since 1995, Raymond has retained naturalist and agronomist Lina de Souza to survey and maintain the biodiversity on the farm.

Around 30,000 trees have been planted around the farm area where pockets of natural forest are maintained so as to provide continuous corridors of non farmed land for animals to pass through the area whilst remaining within their natural habitats. Recent surveys have documented around 160 species of birdlife and this in an area where the coffee is not grown under a shade canopy. In fact in Minas Gerais, where our farms are located, no coffee is shade grown as the latitude does not give strong enough sun to require this and the experiments with such growing have only produced spindly trees with low yields of cherries that do not ripen sufficiently. Not all coffee growing suits this methodology as some of the ‘environmentalists’ would suggest.

In past years, Fazenda Lambari has processed its own coffee in a mill and on drying patios right on the farm itself. This year however, as we are in a low harvest year (Brazil crop volumes alternate between full output and a ‘recovery’ year when the trees yield is naturally lower) the crop is being processed at Irarema where the larger and more modern mill unit, handles Lambari’s cherries still in separate batches for complete traceability. This partnership between the two farms allows cost to be managed and the best technical resources to be focussed on really optimising quality in the crop. Next year as volumes will be double this, each farm will manage its own coffee so neither is overwhelmed with quantity over quality.

Walking around the patios and mill area at Lambari with Raymond, we both notice how it does seem strange for the mill here not to be running at the harvest time, and indeed many of the farm workers were very dubious about sending the coffee over to their neighbour for processing – they are rightly proud of what they produce, but when it was explained that with a low volume crop, Raymond could not afford to run two mills with each only operating at about 30% of their capacity. and that this partnership with Irarema would mean long term stability and a future for both farms their support and understanding was assured.


Originally, planting was done by placing coffee seeds (beans) in small holes in the fields as opposed to the modern practice of germinating and bringing on in nursery beds before planting out into the fields.

Four seeds per hole were commonly planted (in case some didn’t make it) and in the old planting area we found at Santa Alina, four stems can clearly be seen at the bases.

Each ‘tree’ (sometimes with up to 4 stems) were planted out at about 1M intervals and rows spaced at 2M. Traditional planting such as this produced around 1200 – 1500 trees per hectare, whereas today 2 seedlings are planted together at 60-90cm spacing which generates 5000 trees per hectare.

Coffee is shipped from Brazil in 60Kg Jute sacks

Each sack contains 500,000 beans

Due to loss of weight from pulping, washing and final milling of the parchment skin from the final coffee bean, it takes 450Kg of harvested cherries to produce one 60Kg sack of exportable coffee.

The region receives around 2500mm rain per year so good ground cover pants are essential to bind the light mountain soils and prevent erosion

Terracing also used to reduce water flow down the valleys and retain nutrients in the soils around the plants.

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