15 answers to 15 questions

Daterra Coffee Team

"Our principles are present in every coffee bean we produce."

Daterra Coffee team from the coffee origin Brazil

The Daterra Coffee Team

Daterra is formed by a great team of people in love with coffee.
Luis Norberto Pascoal is the founder and president of Daterra. He is an entrepreneur who runs several businesses in Brazil and who found in coffee the perfect combination between producing outstanding quality and developing a truly sustainable product. Luis has a team of more than 400 people, who dedicate their time and talent to produce coffees that stand out not only for their flavor, but also for the values and principles that they carry within them.

Why are you involved in coffee growing?

Daterra was born as a regenerative agriculture project. An agricultural business model that could really balance the equation of giving back to the planet and the environment, developing people and the community at the same time, while being an economically viable activity.
We tried many different products in our early años researching agricultural businesses. We produced pine trees, cattle, various fruits, milk… We finally tasted the coffee and it was then that we found the ideal product to pursue this dream project.
Coffee is a perennial plant and for its correct cultivation, taking care of the surrounding environment is the key to success. When we started with the project, specialty coffee was something very new, but it was just starting to be talked about in the market, so we saw the idea of toproduce specialty coffee as a way to differentiate ourselves and produce a quality product that would be worth more than just producing a basic product, allowing us to not depend so much on the volatility of the market.
The more we study and research coffee, the more we fall in love with it. We stopped with the production of  all other agricultural products, fruits, cattle, etc. and we continued making coffee, so that we could be specialists in that.
Well, the rest of the story speaks for itself.

How long have you been working in coffee production?

Thirty-five años ago, that’s when the whole project started.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

There are many satisfying moments in our work, coffee is an exciting industry and the connections it allows us to make are very special.
Coffee is a product that allows us to think not only about the product, but also about the future, the world and people. It is an industry that challenges us and makes us think in a fair and conscious way. It is a privilege and a great responsibility to be in this industry and it always excites us.

Plantation of the Daterra farm in the coffee origin Brazil

What are the most critical moments in the production process of your coffees?

When producing high quality coffees, every moment is critical. Study, research and planning are fundamental to map all the critical moments to ensure that every piece is in place, ahead of time, to guarantee the best quality and sustainable practices.

What stage in the harvest do you consider the most important?

Again, there are many important pieces about coffee harvesting.
One of the main differentials we have in Daterra is that we taste the coffee before harvesting it.
When the different areas of the farm start to ripen, instead of just going there and picking the cherries, we send specialists to the field and they collect small samples of the ripe cherries. These samples are taken to our quality laboratory. There we process them and dry them in a small sample dryer, then we toast them and taste the samples, it is a very fast process that takes 2 days.
Right after tasting the coffee, our quality team decides if the cherries from that area are ready to be picked, or if they need more time to develop their flavors and sweetness.
If our quality team defines that you are still not happy with the taste, we will wait and collect new samples next week. This process is repeated until the coffee has a clean, mature and complex flavor.
That is when we send the harvesting machines or pickers to collect the coffee.
This means that we NEVER pick coffee because it looks ripe. Sometimes the cherry looks ripe, but the berries inside are not yet fully developed. We decided to harvest based on the taste of the beans.

What is the most delicate stage in the coffee production process?

There are many delicate processes, but probably one of the most interesting and precise isour ability to separate different maturations to create our menu.
Daterra has developed a system that is able to separate cherries into 8 different ripeness levels, from under-ripe to over-ripe.
Each of these cherries has slightly different flavors, even if they come from the same trees. Light red cherries, for example, tend to have a brighter acidity, with notes of yellow fruits, while darker red cherries tend to show a more citrusy and sweet flavor. Dark red/purple cherries will have more stone fruit notes and a lot of sweetness…and so on.
By separating all our harvested areas and all those different levels of ripeness, imagine the complexity of flavors we have coming from the field, so that we can choose to mix and match those “ingredients” to create the various coffees on our menu. That really helps our consistency as well.

Worker of the Daterra farm in the coffee origin Brazil

What quality controls do you apply to your coffees in the production chain?

At the farm we apply different quality controls in the different stages, which are detailed here. Quality controls related to cup quality:

  • Development of maturation: When the different areas of the farm begin to ripen, we send specialists to the field to check the quality and uniformity of the ripening. Samples are collected from different points of each mini-farm, in different parts of each coffee tree – upper, middle and lower part of the trees – and these samples are taken to the laboratory, and we count how many cherries there are at different maturities and their percentage.
  • Ripening tasting: as explained above, when the area looks ready to be harvested, it is time to taste the coffee and verify if it is really ready according to its flavor. Instead of just going out there and picking the cherries, we send specialists to the field and they collect small samples of the ripe cherries. Those samples are taken to our quality laboratory, we process them and dry them in a small sample dryer, then we toast them and taste the sample, it is a very fast process that takes 2 days. Right after tasting the coffee, our quality team decides if the cherries from that area are ready to be picked, or if they need more time to develop their flavors and sweetness.If our quality team defines that they are still not happy with the taste, we wait and pick new samples the following week. This process is repeated until the coffee has a clean, mature and complex flavor. That is when we send the picking machines or pickers to pick the coffee. This means that we NEVER harvest coffee because it looks ripe. Sometimes the cherry looks ripe, but the berries inside are not yet fully developed. We decided to harvest based on the taste of the beans.
  • Drying: After harvesting and processing, the moisture level is repeatedly checked to ensure that it is correct.
  • After drying: All lots are tasted, this is when we start to get a clearer idea of the quality and flavor profile of each lot. Descriptors and scores are assigned, so that the menu can then be designed.
  • After resting: Once the coffee lots have rested in the silos for at least 40 days, the coffee is cupped again. It is then when the coffee best represents its characteristics, even if it is not processed.
  • Dry milling: The coffee goes to the dry mill, where it will be selected to eliminate physical defects. Each time the batch of coffee passes through all the machinery -sieve sorting, density sorting, electronic sorters, etc.-, the coffee goes to our quality laboratory for analysis. If the defect count is not correct for that specific coffee, it is returned to the sorting machines and new samples are collected for analysis.
    This process is repeated many times, until the coffee is in accordance with the standards of defects.
  • Lots: When coffee lots that are found to be at the correct defect standard, they are cupped for final assignment to the menu.
  • Samples: If the coffee is correct in taste, and according to our menu, our production team sends a sample of this lot to our Quality Laboratory. “Atelie do Café“, there they will sort and check the defect count and taste to see if it matches our menu.

If the coffee is good, the coffee is ready to be packed.

When the time comes to sell or deliver coffee, new quality control points occur:

  • Every time If a customer requests standard samples or pre-shipment samples, our Quality Lab “Atelie do Café ” team receives samples of the same coffee from our production team. They evaluate the coffee to verify if it has the right quality level, before sending our sample to the customer.
  • When the coffee is about to leave the farm, we again take a sample of the lot that is about to leave the farm and send it to our Quality Laboratory “Atelie do Café“, to make sure that the coffee leaves according to the standard.

It is a very complex control process to ensure that everything is in accordance with the specifications and thus represents the highest quality of our coffees.

Trabajadores de la finca Oldonyo del origen cafetalero Kenia

How many members of your team are involved in the production process of your coffees?

In the production process of our coffees, including all the steps and stages, from the nursery, planting, fertilization, harvesting, wet processing, dry processing… Some 400 peoplework.

What is the coffee culture of your region like?

Cerrado Mineiro is a very large and relevantcoffee producing area in Brazil.
Coffee is also very important for our economy, around 80% of the GDP of the region where we are located is related to coffee.
The coffee culture in Cerrado Mineiro is very innovative and progressive. It is probably the only region in the world withthe greatest amount of technology applied to coffee production.
We grow coffee on plateaus, so the plantations tend to be on flat surfaces, which allows us to mechanize much of the production as well as increase the scale.
Cerrado has been known for its high production and efficiency, although in the past most of the time this production was not related to quality, but this has changed.
Cerrado Mineiroproducers are really investing a LOT in quality, improving their structures and making outstanding quality. In fact, the region has gained a lot of attention worldwide in recent años.
We have always believed in Cerrado Mineiro and its ability to produce amazing mugs.
We are glad to see that the new generation of coffee growers coming up also has that vision!

What does sustainability mean to you?

This is a really complex question, there are many things that together will make a sustainable coffee production.
Let’s try to focus on a few points here:
The world coffee industry has come a long way towards developing better coffee.
We have achieved high quality standards both at the farm level and in the consuming countries, we have learned to create the flavors we love, to detect the ones we don’t like and know how to control them, although there is still much to learn.but there is still a lot to learn.
From a sustainability perspective, the coffee industry has made great efforts to become fair. It would be difficult to find in other industries as much concern for environmental practices and the wellbeing of people as is manifested in coffee.
StillSome data are worrying because they show that we have a worrying situation, just talking about the agricultural sector, here are some of them:
About 25% of the planet’s soil has already been degraded; 12 million hectares of productive soil are lost every year due to desertification. The UN-FAO estimates that we have only about 60 años of harvests left. The same organization also states that about 70% of all water consumed in the world is for agriculture, and almost half is wasted. If farmers were to reduce use by just 10%, that would be enough to supply the planet twice over.
Agriculture is also responsible for 13% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the energy sector – power generation and transportation – according to the World Resources Institute. Livestock fertilizers and the addition of natural and synthetic fertilizers represent the largest sources of these emissions.
Returning to coffee, the World Coffee Research Institute estimates that land suitable for coffee production will be reduced by half by 2050 due to climate change.
If we add to this equation other challenges that farmers around the world face on a daily basis, such as lower yields, droughts, increased input costs, unfair payment, increased pests and diseases, rural exodus, etc., we can add to this equation. All of that endangers not only this drink we all love, but all the food we eat.
By now, we expect that most companies in the coffee industry have understood and implemented sustainable practices along the entire chain. Still, simply being sustainable is no longer sufficient to address the challenges that lie ahead in our near future.

At Daterra, we have chosen to take the next stepWe chose to be Bio-Smart

  • BIOmeans everything that is alive (animals, employees, community, forests, microorganisms, etc.) and everything related to nature so that they can live a healthy and balanced life: water courses, atmosphere, soil, etc.
  • SMART: It is to study, develop and apply new creative solutions to do things better than before.

How to be Bio-Smart ? How to take something from the earth without damaging it? It’s simple, we borrow it and then we give it back better!
agriculture meansredefining success in business and agriculture by using the same energy dedicated to making them profitable, also to solve social and environmental problems.
Here are some of the changes and points we take into account to become Bio-Smart:

  • It’snot just about preserving forests, it’s about regenerating Biomes: Having regeneration targets, preserving more than the legal requirements, wildlife corridors, reforestation of native species.
  • It’s not just about saving water, it’s about using water wisely: Conscious irrigation, water recycling and reuse, rainwater storage, wastewater treatment, protection of springs and watercourses.
  • It isnot only about avoiding banned chemicals, it is about a balanced use that respects the “Bio” that respects life: plant barriers, biological pest control, integrated pest management, natural weed management, organic fertilizer.
  • It isnot only about managing the needs of the soil but also about regenerating and improving it. Therefore, we chose to delve deeper into soil microbiology and study natural and intelligent ways to increase soil biodiversity and soil activity as applied to coffee production. At Daterra, we chose to do so because our most powerful tool to combat climate change and the many environmental challenges we face is right under our feet: the soil. A healthy, lively soil can retain water, prevent plant diseases, recycle nutrients, help fix nitrogen and can sequester carbon.
  • A Bio-Smart agriculture is not only about avoiding carbon emissions but, cultivating carbon, understanding that the problem can also be the solution, it is just a matter of balance. Carbon is the building block of life and the way we grow our food. We can find it both in the atmosphere and in the soil and these are the small changes we can make: not tilling the soil, adding organic matter, planting trees, cover crops and intercropping. Lgriculture is responsible for 13% of greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the energy sector -energy generation and transportation. Gases produced by animals in livestock and released by chemical fertilizers in agriculture are the main sources of these emissions. As far as coffee is concerned, research indicates that the land suitable for coffee production will be reduced by half by 2050, due to climate change.
Coffee trees of the Daterra green coffee farm

True sustainability, however, is based on the principle of understanding that although we are part of the problem, as humanity, we can also be part of the solution. Agriculture can be one of the most powerful allies in the process of cooling the planet, and that includes coffee cultivation.
Plants are very special organisms, capable of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and synthesizing it in the form of roots, trunks, leaves, fructose, etc. If loose carbon in the atmosphere is a problem, we are saying that plants have the ability to sequester this carbon from the air and return it to the soil, where carbon means life.
It is necessary to plan agriculture to have a low carbon agriculture through less burning of fossil fuels, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, using clean energy sources and avoiding the burning of old crops during renovation processes, prioritizing methods that reincorporate old plants as organic matter in the soil. Once the emission sources and emission reduction opportunities have been identified for each source, the next step relates to increasing the sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The coffee plant itself is already capable of doing some of the work, but more can be done: the planting of cover crops between rows, or the use of intercropping systems with other crops, help to achieve greater carbon sequestration in the same plantation. The use of otherwise discarded or burned bark and parchment as compost also returns important nutrients and organic matter to the soil and the plantation.
And not least, planting trees. Perhaps the most obvious solution – but also the most underestimated – planting trees is by far the best way to reverse the climate crisis.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) announced that the world must plant 1 trillion trees by 2030 to mitigate the effects of climate change.
In the coffee industry, producers may choose to plant more native trees on their properties. This cools and improves the microclimate of your farms, improves the quality of your soil, attracts greater biodiversity to your land and may even attract more rainfall and water availability. If there is any downside to planting trees, planet Earth does not know about it.
Roasters, buyers and coffee lovers can also take responsibility for the solution, by verifying that coffee comes from these sustainable farms, while seeking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions at their stage in the chain.
Agriculture should be an instrument for building society, without potentially damaging the land.. It must give dignifying opportunities to people in the countryside, so that it can attract new talented generations who believe in ethical economic activities, aligned to its purposes.
At Daterra Coffee, more than “producing the best coffee in the world, we want to produce coffee for a better world”. We need regenerative agriculture – so we need Bio-Smart agriculture, too, we also believe that research and scientific knowledge are sustainability.
Sustainable production is a permanent and perennial commitment, as is the definition of sustainability itself.
The development of knowledge and new technologies is what will keep us drinking our cup of coffee. The existing challenges are great and new ones arise every day.
We need to think about how to produce coffee in increasingly challenging climatic conditions in the future. Several research institutes around the world dedicate their studies to developing new coffee genetics and varieties that are better able to withstand high temperatures, longer periods of drought, pests and diseases that can become more recurrent in these climates.
It is also necessary to develop new techniques and technologies to produce more coffee, but in a more natural way and less dependent on chemical products. With the knowledge we have today, if we totally renounce these products, the market will collapse and we will not have coffee available for everyone.
There are opportunities to develop a range of technologies, automation, digital sensors and robotics applied to coffee farming, so that we can produce more coffee, using less water, less energy, less chemicals and fewer natural resources. Agriculture can be more connected and bio-regenerative.
Daterra invests a LOT in research every year, we say we are a research lab that in the end produces coffee (laughs). And really, that’s what will keep us producing coffee in the future.
Just like the world, coffee is in constant movement, whether on farms, in roasteries or in coffee shops around the world, human beings are always thinking of new ways to create coffee.

DaterraFarm of Brazilian coffee origin

What do you think the future will be like for coffee farms?

We believe and hope, that in the future, farmers will have more and more knowledge about coffee production and farm management. This will help them to better manage their business, to be able to better price their coffee and to replicate desirable quality results more consistently, so that they can can really take a leading role in the coffee industry and also in their own lives.
We believe that more and more technology will be available in the field and this will allow more accurate decisions to be made, which will enable farmers to be more efficient in correcting crop problems.
Drones, sensors and different equipment will be able to provide just-in-time information, precision agriculture will be a reality and that will allow lower production costs, better control of pests, diseases… which will reduce the use of chemicals and finally, improve quality.
We believe that, unfortunately, climate change will be a major challenge. That will require farmers to invest in genetic varieties of coffee that are more resistant to high temperatures, drought, etc.
Research institutes will have to concentrate on developing these varieties without sacrificing quality. This is already happening right now and we don’t see it receding anytime soon.
We believe that there will be less and less labor available in the field. People will prioritize working in less manual or rough jobs; working in coffee farms is not easy. Mechanization and technology will be increasingly vital for the continuity of coffee production.

What information would you like to receive from roasters about your coffees?

We are always delighted to see the different interpretations of our coffee beans from different roasters around the world.
It’s great to taste our coffees roasted by them and see how wide and diverse the coffee possibilities are!
Each roaster that works with our beans, marks his own style and character to our coffee, it is then when our work and our passion merges with theirs, tasting our coffees roasted by the roasters is always magical.

What is the social aspect that most concerns you in the sector?

Volatility in coffee prices always represents a great challenge in this industry. Sometimes the price of coffee is so low that small producers cannot afford to invest in their businesses or, in some cases, barely makea living.
At other times, coffee prices are so high that roasters, coffee retailers, coffee shops and everyone in the consuming world struggle to pass those increases on to end customers.
The industry has come a long way and we believe it is time to devise better pricing systems for coffee that do not depend on the model of this fragile and volatile product.
Trabajador de la finca Daterra del origen cafetalero Brasil

How is your farm different from others in the same region?

I guess we have already touched on this topic in many of our previous answers, but in general we could say:

  • Daterra is not sustainable because the market demands it, or because it looks good to say so, we were born to be sustainable, we think about the best and most sustainable way to do our work all the time. Sustainability comes first for us.
  • Daterra is a large farm, but we design every part of our production process to make the highest quality. Scale has never been a challenge for us in terms of disrupting our quality, because we researched, studied and planned how those two things could exist and we have invested a lot of resources to do that. So yes, we are a large farm, with flat plantations, in a highly mechanized region, but we chose to work with technology to our advantage to make quality in a way you would not think possible.

What is your coffee dream?

We dream that coffee will continue to grow in a fair and sustainable manner throughout the world, that it will allow conditions for farmers to have access to education and a good life.
We dream that coffee will be an example for other industries that it is possible to develop economically viable activities while being totally sustainable, regenerating the environment and creating conditions for human development.

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