BeanScene speaks to Minas Hill Founder Marcelo Brussi about his passion to exclusively support Brazilian specialty coffee.
Celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2022, Minas Hill is as passionate about supporting its Brazilian farming partners and their communities as the day it started.
Minas Hill Founder Marcelo Brussi says this commitment is due to his understanding of and appreciation for the dedication of farm owners and their workers who make coffee production possible.
Partners in passion
“We want to celebrate the joy of partnering with producers who value innovation, sustainability and quality, while building long-lasting relationships and drinking great coffee,” Marcelo says.
“If there’s anything we want to present to the market at the beginning of 2022, it’s our producers and their incredible micro lots.”
One such producer who has worked with Minas Hill since the beginning is producer Jean Vilhena of Eldorado Farm in Ibiraci. Located on the border of Minas Gerais and São Paulo at 1200 metres above sea level, this farm has more than 100 years of family history in coffee growing.
“Jean will deliver more than 10 micro lots this year from his farm of 10,000 square metres,” says Marcelo.
Gabriel Oliveira, another valued Minas Hill producer, is a sixth-generation coffee producer who will deliver three award-winning micro lots this year, each named after the fruit that resembles its flavour profile.
Farmer Pedro Gabarra will deliver three micro lots, including a natural processed Geisha, produced at Fazenda Pinhal. And Ismael Andrade will also deliver three “super batches” featuring different fermentation processes. This will include cryo-fermentation, in which cherries are fermented at low temperatures.
Marcelo says these producers will create award-winning coffees that will redefine the concept of Brazilian coffee.
“We don’t just want to present coffees coming from a crop. It’s important for us that our customers create a strong connection with our producers.”
Marcelo says it’s for this reason that Minas Hill has encouraged producers to invest in quality since the beginning of 2021. Marcelo says delivering a quality product is key to helping Minas Hill’s customers expand their customer base, which is crucial at a time when retaining customers is challenging.
“We want to bring joy to the market by bringing more quality in the cup to Australian coffee lovers,” he says.
Continuing the legacy
Marcelo’s admiration for coffee stems from his relationship with his grandfather Francisco Brussi who was born on a coffee farm in São Paulo.
“My grandfather was born into a coffee farm when his family immigrated from northern Italy to Brazil, and he worked in the coffee industry for 35 years until his retirement,” says Marcelo. “So, I have coffee running through my veins.”
Marcelo’s promise to uphold his grandfather’s farming legacy is why he’s determined to help resolve the issues Brazilian producers face, such as costly equipment, technology and irregular weather patterns.
Marcelo says it is important the industry continues to value and support small farmers and their families in these micro-regions of Brazil.
“Minas Hill can’t [ignore] the issues coffee farmers face on a daily basis, or the people who work in the coffee industry in Brazil,” he says.
“Therefore, being socially and environmentally conscious and passing [these notions] onto the market has been excellent for our company, shareholders, customers, and suppliers.”
As such, the Brazilian specialty coffee importer hopes to raise the awareness of the need for Australian coffee roasters to buy specialty coffee from small-scale Brazilian producers.
Over the years, Marcelo’s relationship with dedicated producers has become so strong that Minas Hill supports a number of social and environmental projects through its farmers. This includes the Intermunicipal Games for the Environment (GIMA), created by farmers Gabriel and Flavia Oliveira and supported by the Minas Hill Foundation, which has been operating for 13 years at the Bom Jesus farm in the Alta Mogiana region.
GIMA is a project created to promote social responsibility and environmental awareness for young generations.
According to Marcelo, GIMA is the number one project that captures the attention of his customers.
“Five years ago, I [urged] Australian roasters to come forward and donate money, and that money was used to donate pushbikes to the winners of GIMA and to those children in need in Brazil, to help avoid school dropouts,” he says.
However, due to the global pandemic, GIMA 2020 was cancelled, and its Australian supporters were unable to travel to Brazil.
Many of the GIMA children were also unable to attend school classes due to Brazil’s pandemic lockdown and lacked access to internet access and technology devices. Instead of donating bicycles to participating children, over 2002 and 2021 Minas Hill donated nearly 200 smartphones with pre-paid internet thanks to the donations of Australian roasters to help students continue their home schooling.
Marcelo is confident GIMA will return to the strength it was before the pandemic.
“We’ve faced a lot of difficulties in the past, but we will bring GIMA back to what it was two years ago,” he says.
Flowers in Action is another community project Minas Hill has been involved in since 2019, helping to empower female farmers through recognition of their work and commitment to producing specialty coffee.
Together with the Alto da Serra Producers’ Association (APAS), Minas Hill helps create better opportunities for female members, valuing their activities, and encouraging them to produce their own coffee.
“We had a meeting in 2018 with all of the female members of APAS, and I said ‘let’s create a new opportunity for the female farmers that allows them to farm independently from the men’,” Marcelo says.
The farmers allocated micro lots to the women, which enabled them the freedom to produce and harvest as they pleased.
“In other words, lets create something that at the very end, gives women the recognition they deserve,” Marcelo says.
He adds that the lack of women in coffee cooperative boards displays a misguided impression that women do not play an important role in the coffee industry.
“As we know, coffee is a gender imbalanced industry, where men have dictated the rules for a long time,” he says.
“I knew women were running the farm, while men were taking the glory.”
Since it began, Flowers in Action has doubled the amount of coffee purchased and distributed to the Australian market, helping to deliver a better income for female members of APAS.
“This year we will have six amazing women presenting their coffees and their hard work in the field,” says Marcelo.
Minas Hill’s philanthropic efforts have improved the transparency and professionalism through which these projects operate, and Marcelo remains committed to their growth in the years ahead.
“The reputation Minas Hill has built in the past 10 years comes from honesty, commitment to the Australian market, and good quality coffee brought into the country,” he says.
Marcelo says customers can trust that Minas Hill coffee respects people and nature and will continue to support and work closely with farmers in Brazil.
“Partnering with Minas Hill means partnering with coffee that goes beyond coffee,” he says.
It means supporting the same producers who have worked with Minas Hill since the company started, with a continued philosophy to share the finest Brazilian coffee.
“We have created a new perception in the market that Brazil is capable of producing specialty coffee,” Marcelo says.
For more information, visit www.minashill.com.au.
This article appears in the February 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.