Fazenda São Judas Tadeu lies outside the small town of Piatã in Bahia’s Chapada Diamantina region, at an altitude of 1,300 to 1,380 metres above sea level. Chapada Diamantina translates to ”Diamond Plateau” in Portuguese, and for 100 years this area was mined for the gemstones embedded in its cliffs. Today the region is famous for its specialty coffee.
Piatã is a very unique and privileged coffee growing region in Brazil. The area has high altitudes up to 1,400 meters above sea level, which is very high for Brazil. In winter, the temperature ranges from 2°C to 18°C, and these factors, combined with the area’s rich soil and growing conditions, present favourable conditions for the production of high-quality coffee. The coffees from this region are very different to other Brazilians, and tend to be very bright, transparent, floral and distinctive. This region has only recently started to become recognised internationally for its high quality since the 2009 Cup of Excellence, where five of the top 10 spots came from Piatã. The region’s dominance in the awards has continued every year since and incredibly, in the 2016 Cup of Excellence Pulped Natural competition, an astounding 19 of the 24 winning lots came from Piatã!
One producer that has done exceptionally well in the Cup of Excellence and been in the top ten countless times is Antônio Rigno. Antônio owns Fazenda São Judas Tadeu along with his wife Terezinha and has been farming coffee in the region for more than 40 years. Antonio owns a number of farms in Piatã and is very well respected in the community, with many farmers in the area looking to him for advice and mentorship as well as processing their coffee at his wet mill located at São Judas Tadeu.
Antonio’s coffees have placed in Bahia’s state-sponsored Coffee Quality Competition countless times, including winning 1st place in the first 3 consecutive years the competition was ever run (2004 – 2007). He also has many Cup of Excellence awards including 2nd place in 2014 (with a score of 93.65 points) and first place 2015, (with a score of 91.22)
Fazenda São Judas extends over 35 hectares, of which 15 are under coffee. The farm is mainly planted out with Catuaí varietal trees, although Antônio is also trialling some Bourbon trees and will continue planting these if his trial is a success.
Antônio tries to farm in the most sustainable way as possible, keeping his use of chemical pesticides to a minimum and recycling coffee pulp to use as fertiliser. Large shade trees protect the coffee from the sun and prevent erosion throughout the coffee plantation, and the rest of the farm is covered by natural forest, which Antônio both protects and extends by regularly planting trees.
HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED
Great care is required in order to produce coffee of the quality that São Judas Tadeu consistently produces, from preparing the land appropriately, growing and planting seedlings, all the way through to processing. Antônio ensures that his processes are reviewed and guided annually by technicians from AGRIPEC, an agricultural support community, and is highly attentive to new technologies or methods that will improve quality.
Antônio has invested in modern processing facilities, including a wet mill and both conventional and covered patios. He ensures cherries are picked by hand only when fully ripe, with two passes a day during the peak of the harvest. This job is mainly conducted by women (called ”panhadeiras de cafe”), who are extremely disciplined and ensure only the very best cherries are selected. The cherries are then taken by tractors to the wet mill (located right on the farm). A dedicated team of ten processes the coffee at the mill with great care. “We treat every single lot like it has the potential to be a 90+ coffee” he explained.
This coffee was naturally processed. Antônio typically processes all of his coffee using the pulped natural method, however, he did a small trial run of a natural lot in 2019, and again in 2020. After washing the ripe cherries were carefully laid out on patios and dried in the sun.
Last year we purchased the Sao Judas pulped natural and almost every time it was sampled, tasted or discussed with fellow coffee lovers, the reaction was “I can’t believe this is a Brazilian coffee!”. When we came across this sample of the natural process coffee in a blind cupping session, we had exactly the same reaction. In the cup it is complex and fruit-forward and floral, and it goes against the grain of typical Brazilian coffees