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Winning Estates at Minas Gerais
By Harry Jones

The 16th edition of the Illycaffe Espresso Coffee Quality Awards confirmed Minas Gerais as the leading quality producing state in Brazil.

Once again the State of Minas Gerais was the overwhelming leading winner in the yearly Illycaffe Brazil Quality Award Contest for Espresso Coffee. The 16th annual edition of the was held in Sao Paulo where 49 of the 50 selected finalists were all growers from Minas Gerais, except for a farmer from Sao Paulo.

Another remarkable result was that seven of the top 10 finalists awarded the main cash prizes were producers from the Zona da Mata area of Minas Gerais, a region in former years considered as producing only inferior drinking qualities known as “Rio taste.” The annual Illycaffe contest distributes over $100,000 in prizes and the top winner of this year was coffee grower Edio Anacleto Miranda who was awarded $30,000 to his farm located in the municipality of Araponga in the Zona da Mata zone of Minas. The other top 10 finalists received cash awards scaled according to their ratings in the contest. The remaining finalists also received a symbolic cash award. Contest rules give Illycaffe the right to buy all 50 of the final lots at an agreed premium over current market prices, an additional incentive for growers to participate.

This year 843 samples were submitted from all the principal growing areas, which was 20% more than last year and with 12% from new participants. A positive indication that the main objective of the Illycaffee quality awards program to stimulate grower’s interest in improving the quality of Brazil coffees is being achieved.

Currently, only fine coffees of the Arabica type are accepted for registration in the contest. The coffees can be processed by natural, washed or peeled-cherry (semi-washed) methods and must grade Type 3 or better with screen size 16 or above. Selection of the 50 finalists and the top 10 winners follows a series of tests including infrared ray, ultraviolet, special classification criteria and blind cuppings performed by Brazilian and Internationally qualified trade experts. It should be noted that the peeled-cherry (semi-washed) method introduced for coffee processing a few years ago and along with more careful picking and preparation techniques has greatly improved the drink and aspect of coffees from normally inferior quality regions. This probably accounts for the majority approval and selection by the experts for coffees from the Zona da Mata zone of Minas.

After dinner the distribution of prizes was announced with the Master of Ceremonies building suspense for each winner followed by high-spirited applause from family and friends as they were called to the stage. The top winner received the most enthusiastic ovation and received is prize from CEO Andrea Illy with the compliments of the other members of the Illy family and Illycaffe executives.

After the awarding of prizes, Andrea Illy gave a discussion in Portuguese outlining the various activities of Illycaffe during the past year and news of future plans. He noted their successful program that maintaining quality leadership involves preparation, service and adequate ambiance to appreciate a cup of special espresso coffee. He believes the Italian concept of coffee drinking is like a cult, the cup, the preparation, the place where you take the coffee and the quality of the coffee are all necessary elements for appreciation of the experience. This concept is the basis of their launching in various countries a typical Italian style Cafeteria called “Espressamente Illy” (Expressly Illy) with one unit to be opened in Sao Paulo this year and more on the drawing board.

Andrea was pleased to note that in spite of adverse weather conditions in some areas, this year there was a continued increase in quantity and quality in the coffees submitted for their selection. This resulted in the record purchase of 185 thousand bags in 2006 compared to 160 thousand in the previous year.

Another innovation during the year was the structuring of an association between Illycaffe and the Escritorio Carvalhaes family in the export firm Porto de Santos which handles all Illycaffe`s Brazilian exports. Anna Belci and Massimo Capoleva will be Illycaffe`s representatives in this new partnership.

Andrea also announced that UNILLY, the 1st Brazil Coffee University founded by Illycaffe in 2000 in association with the University of Sao Paulo (USP) would change its name in March to the Brazilian University of Coffee. The objective of the Coffee University is to train and teach producers and all persons connected with the coffee producing chain including consumers to improve the quality and commercial growth of coffee always in accordance with environmental standards. The Brazilian Coffee University will be responsible to promote and disseminate their knowledge to other producing countries in Central and South America and will be integrated in the international network of Coffee University activities planned by Illyvaffe for 2007 and 2008.

Andrea is president for a 2nd term of ASIC (Association for Science and Information on Coffee) and was pleased to advise that the 22nd International Conference on Coffee Science will be held in the City of Campinas, Brazil during the days of September 14-19, 2008. The ASIC Conference is held every two years alternately in a producing and consuming country and is considered one of the most important events in the world coffee production chain. Preparations for the event are being organized by Dr. Aldir Alves Teixeira, Scientific Consultor for Illycaffe in Brazil and it is expected that over 400 participants and representatives from 35 countries will be present. One of the principal themes of the conference will be “Coffee and Health,” a vital subject in coffee trade today. Andrea said that he was proud that the 22nd Conference will be held in Brazil, which emphasizes Brazils’ position as the worlds largest coffee producer and exporter and 2nd largest consumer.

Andrea closed his discussion by saying the objective of Illycaffe is to serve a perfect cup of coffee and in this goal the participation of the growers are fundamental since they represent the basic beginning of the whole agribusiness of coffee.

Following the presentations and speeches, guests were entertained by a show performed by a professional group called “Only Broadway” with choreographic and song renditions of various famous Broadway musicals. Afterwards music and dancing continued until the early hours.

By all accounts, the IllycaffeeCoffee Quality Award event was a wonderful night and party for the participants and an encouragement for the growers to return to their farms and work to try to be selected as a prize winner next year and enjoy again the friendly reunion with the Illycaffee family and their other Brazil suppliers.

Tea & Coffee - September, 2007

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