Best ideas often come unexpected. And that is what happened in late 2012 to HRNS do Brasil Technical Director, Max Ochoa, during a meeting with the exporter Stockler Comercial e Exportadora Ltda. “We discussed about challenges of family farmers access to the market and the need to improve the link of farmer organization into to the commercial chain”, Max remembers. Stockler offered offered its commercial knowledge and marketing gateway to trade coffees that are produced by farmers assisted by HRNS do Brasil. That was the starting point for the idea to organize a Specialty Coffee Championship to incentive coffee quality improvement.

At that time Stockler  and it was the starting point that brought the idea to organize together a specialty coffee competititon promoting the best coffees of these farmers and to connect them to the export market.

The Força Café Coffee Championship has become an international event that is recognised by coffee importers and roasters from all over the world. Companies from Canada, USA, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland, Sweden, and Russia attended the competition in previous editions.

Linking family farmers to the coffee export market is an important element of the HRNS do Brazil program “Força Café”. And that is also the basic idea of the Força Café Coffee Championship. Since 2014 under advisory and support of Stockler the Força Café Coffee Championship is organized in Lavras. The 5th Edition takes place October 21 – 27, 2018.

During the Força Café Coffee Championship, farmers from Minas Gerais send their samples from several years for evaluation. This result is a parameter to know how the quality is improving. During one week a worldwide selected group of coffee experts are invited to come to Brazil to be part of the cuppers jury team, choosing the best specialty coffees produced by the assisted farmers. Participating farmers need to come from the regions in which HRNS do Brasil is active. “The event connects people from the whole coffee business, as farmers, exporters, importers, roasters and consumers. They meet and understand the activities, challenges and wishes in their respective areas”, says Ochoa. One of them is Uli Marsau, a roaster from Hamburg in Germany. He is part of the jury: “We had 4 cupping days for a total of 50 coffees x 5 cups in at least 3 different temperatures so briefly and good about 600-700 times a day slurp to first determine the best 10 of a region and then on the last day, the 3 best coffees each to find.”

Rafael Bastos da Silva (left), Winner Força Café Coffee Championship 2017 with family

Looking for the best coffee for him is not the most important thing about the competition: “It was clearly felt how important it is for the farmers to receive an appreciation for their work and that they can compete against each other does not seem to be entirely unimportant.”

The best 2017 washed coffee with 84,43 points came from the farmer family Bastos da Silva, from Santa Margarida, in Matas de Minas region.  The winner, Rafael said: “I am proud to be the winner. The Força Café Coffee Championship encourages me in produce a better coffee and invest in the quality. With the prime, I improved increase the yard and the greenhouse to dry the coffee. Also, I bought a pulper. The neighbors admire our progress this year more farmers from community of São Felix will send their samples. I hope to have HRNS and the competitions for more years!”

Even after the competition, Stockler plays an important role in the promotion of the best coffees. “Stockler is not only helping to organize the competition, inviting clients and promoting the coffees worldwide but also preparing the coffees accordingly to clients’ qualities standard and shipping it to roaster´s doors”, elaborates Alexandre Ferraz from Stockler. The clients interested organize cupping sessions with their clients, being a way to promote the coffee produced by family farmers in Minas Gerais around the world.

The last phase of the competition is an electronic auction of the the top 12 natural coffees and 12 best washed coffees. Farmers receive the entire prime for their coffee. In 2017 winning lots could market their coffee up to 80% above the common market prices. In the fields most of this additional income has been reinvested into the farm to improve the infrastructure for coffee processing. A further improvement of the Brazilian family farm specialty coffees.

Also jury member Marsau bought coffee and sells it in his micro roastery and supermarkets – which to him is only part of the game: “Of course it is also about money but this day was about more, it was about that in some families even the grandchildren will speak of the Grandpa has won this award, it is about appreciation to respect and to meet at eye level. That’s what the smallholder coffee farmers in South and Central America need.”

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The Power of Youth in Coffee: An Inspiring Story from Huehuetenango

About the Author Michaela Tomchek has worked within the specialty coffee industry for over six years – spending time in the Coffee Belt, researching how to promote sustainable development amongst the communities responsible for coffee production. She currently works...