Just as I put “vacation” on my to-do list in August, I received an announcement from the Specialty Coffee Association of America about a trip to the Brazilian coffee growing region of Minas, just north of Sao Paulo.

My first thought was that Brazil is the largest coffee growing region in the world and as such, would the growers be behemoths rather than eco-friendly small producers who would qualify as Slow Food?

I called my buddy, Chris at Java Dawg here in Sarasota and got some insight on South American coffees, the various regions and his experience traveling with other coffee hounds. So far so good!

Next I reached out to the SCAA and got a call from Tracy Ging, the very articulate Deputy Director. Tracy helped me understand the itinerary and feel comfortable with who my travel mates would be as well as how well we would be treated.

From there everything just fell into place and the trip was a delight….we visited farms, learned about growing methods, processing, sustainable farming, cupping and varietals. I even got interviewed by the federal university during our visit there when they found out I am a Sommelier!

What I’d like to pass on to you is this: many of the growers in Brazil are committed to providing the very best coffee they can to the world….they keep the worst for themselves! Most of the families are 3 or 4 generations and it’s the 30-40 year-olds who are exploring Terroir and isolating lots that are “Cup of Excellence” winners. So when you see these specialty coffees in your favorite coffee shop, buy a pound and enjoy it brewed at home….they are much sweeter, with tea-like components if you can get them roasted on the light side.

This was an incredible trip in so many ways….traveling with a fun, knowledge group, being treated like royalty by the host companies and the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association, learning how to cup (taste for quality and defects), and learning the culture, food and drink of the region. It was an outstanding experience! To see the pictures, go to… Coach Maz on Facebook! And I am now a member of the SCAA!