Jose Augusto Peixoto. The man behind the coffee
Mr Peixoto was in town this past week and as a coffee drinker, and someone who is very passionate about coffee, I often connect with the baristas, coffee shop owners, and the roasters who all play an important part of our passion for coffee, without these people our favorite drink would still be in the hands of big chain coffee producers. Making connections with different coffee professionals is fun and exciting; giving me insight into the coffee world that the average coffee drinker does not often get. Recently though, I had the honor, and privilege of meeting a gentleman who, without his passion and dedication, would mean one less, outstanding coffee in the world today.
Crop to Cup is at term often used to describe the connections linking the farmer, the roaster, shop owner, and the consumer, but this time around, it is the consumer who went through shop owner and roaster to meet the farmer, the road is now a two way street or it is now full circle, what ever metaphor you want to use, I was lucky enough to meet Jose Augusto Peixoto, and have a sit down interview with him. Jose Peixoto is a wonderful, well educated, charming man, and quite humble. Here is my interview with Mr. Peixoto, on December 23, 2015.
CoffeeKen: How long have you been a coffee farmer and what was it like growing up as a child on a coffee farm?
Mr. Peixoto: I have been a coffee farmer for over 40 years; I started when I was 6 years old, it was a happy life, when I was a child it used to take us all day to go to market, we would go by mule or on a wagon with our coffee, we would often see cattle and ranchers on the road as well. Now with the roads being there, it only takes a short time, and you don’t see that any more. I later went to school and then on to University, to become a doctor of medicine. I spent 4-5 years practicing medicine in the city, and then I went back to my hometown to be a doctor, and a coffee farmer. Being a doctor kept me in the money so I could raise my family, and grow coffee as well. I worked 5 days a week as a doctor, and only two days as a farmer when I first started. Now I am a doctor 3 days a week, and a farmer 4 days, and I am quite happy with that schedule.
CK: How long has your family been in the coffee trade as farmers?
Mr. Peixoto: My grandmother had her first born under a coffee tree, over a 100 years ago, and we have been coffee farmers ever since.
CK: How many acres is your farm, and is it all in coffee? What is the soil like?
Mr. Peixoto: Yes it is in all coffee, I have just about 500 acres, it ranges 4000 feet to 5000 feet above sea level. The soil is very rich, red volcanic soil that is perfect for coffee.
CK: What are the varietals of coffee that, you grow?
Mr. Peixoto: I have many types that are grown at Fazenda Sao Jose da Boa Vista in the Alta Mogiana region of Brazil, all Arabica of which is heirloom variety. I have Mundo Novo, Bourbon, Catuai (yellow and red) and Catucai (yellow and red). We harvest, and create bean lots based on the plots of land where they are grown. We make separate lots for each variety. Peixoto Coffee received 1 lot of Catuai in 2015 and is now receiving two lots, one Catuai and one Catucai Amarelo. ”
CK: What is the typical harvest season and how long does a coffee tree last?
Mr. Peixoto: The harvest season starts in June, and goes through to August. The coffee cherries ripen independently, so one branch of the tree would be ready while the next one is still green and may not be ready until later, so you have to go out and hand pick the cherries when they are ready, and wait on the others to be ripe before you can pick them. The coffee tree can live to be as old as 80 years, and it starts producing coffee cherries when it is 4 years old, and can be very productive for 30 to 40 years. What makes the coffee tree unique is that it is a bi annual plant; it only gives you coffee cherries every other year. One year you feed and clothe the plant, and the next year it feeds you, and clothes you. That is what my mother told me, and it is very true.
CK: After harvest how is the coffee processed?
Mr. Peixoto: The coffee cherries are sun dried on large concrete patios for 15 days, then they are raked, and turned at least 6 times per day, then they are sold as green coffee as commodity grade coffee. Only 30 percent of that coffee can be sold as specialty coffee grade, but the average in reality is only 10 percent given that you can lose up to 50 percent of your crop, and harvest due to heavy rains or drought. It is a very risky business to be in.
CK: Has your coffee won any awards? What type of awards, and what does that mean to you, and the customer?
Mr. Peixoto: Yes, my coffee has won several awards over the past few years.
- 1990: 2 of my lots were awarded by Illy Coffee for excellence
- 2012: 3rd place in co-op in the Alta Mogiana region competition
- 2013: 1st place in the same co-op completion
- 2015: 1st place in the local cup of excellence in the Alta Mogiana competition, focusing on more of the specialty coffee.
- 2015: Cup of Excellence for international auction. Two of my lots won, out of 32 competitors, usually only one is awarded per farm.
Winning these awards has exposed me better ideas on how improve the drying process, and to protect the coffee from the weather, I will now make the improvements to increase my yield.
CK: Who buys your green coffee?
Mr. Peixoto: Mostly buyers from Japan, Korea and Australia. They like my coffee very much and now some are in the United States. So now more, and more people are drinking quality coffee from Brazil.
CK: Lastly, are you surprised to see how well received your coffee is here in the United States?
Mr. Peixoto: I am very surprised. I never imagined how many people here love my coffee, and I am flattered by it. I am happy to see my daughter, and son in-law do so well with their coffee shop, and coffee roasting. If I were told how well this would be I would have never believed it, I am amazed by all the people that come here who love my coffee.