Uchi, Uchiko, Lenoir, and Torchy’s Tacos have something in common (other than being wildly successful eateries in Austin): they all source their coffee from Casa Brasil.
Austin coffee roaster Casa Brasil has evolved into an organization committed to finding, roasting and selling high quality coffees from Brazil. But with so many similar outfits in town, why should you pay attention to this particular one? Why should those who just want a regular cup of joe take interest in coffee that’s bought directly from growers? I sat down with Casa Brasil’s owner Joel Shuler to get some answers.
Passion with Knowledge
Within 10 minutes of speaking to Joel, his passion for coffee was evident. He was effusive about his endeavor, but sincere. For the past year, he has split his time between Austin and Lavras, Brazil, in pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering at the Universidade Federal de Lavras.
But why pursue a Master’s Degree in Brazil? “It’s one thing to have passion for something. But to create a better product, that passion has to be matched with knowledge. That’s what leads to a better product,” says Shuler. Specifically, that knowledge includes research on processing and storing coffees at an institution known for coffee research. So, how much does a Master’s actually matter in the grand scheme of things? The answer, as it turns out, is quite a lot. And the proof is in the cup.
Science, Data and Tables
Much like beer and wine, coffee quality is not only tasted, but seen and understood at the micro level. From the way the coffee is processed to how it’s roasted, Casa Brasil understands the science behind each step.
The software program Joel showed me illustrates data from the roasting process in a graph. That graph is then compared to tasting notes, to ensure consistent quality and determine how roasting time and temperature affects the flavors.
What that means for coffee drinkers is that every bag of Casa Brasil coffee will be the best damn bag of coffee available. It helps that their coffees are all roasted to order, which means you get a fresh bag every time.
Something less fancy than a software program is the use of Innovation Bags: fancy plastic bags to store coffee while in transit. The burlap sacks we associate with coffee beans are not ideal for keeping coffee fresh. How coffee beans are stored can make a difference between your coffee tasting incredible or tasting like hot cardboard. The level of care for the product and depth of knowledge that both Joel and his colleagues employ is impressive. But it’s only one of the reasons for their success.
Sabor e Progreso
Nowadays many companies use terms like “Fair Trade” and “Fair Use” to say something about how they conduct business. But what does the jargon mean? Casa Brasil acquires their coffee through “Direct Trade,” so I asked Joel to define the term. “It means dealing with growers directly and continuing those relationships. Our job is to help growers find markets. We like transparency and people should know where their products come from” Shuler responded.
Casa Brasil works directly with growers first, by visiting their farms and tasting their coffees, and then works with an exporter to get the coffee to Austin. The benefit of this process is that the growers are able to get a better price for their crop and Casa Brasil is able to directly source beans that meet their high standards.
Sabor e Progreso is Casa Brasil’s slogan. In English, the idea is “flavorful coffee and progressive social initiatives.” Your flavorful cup of coffee is a direct result of Casa Brasil working directly with growers. Through this method, the company can consistently roast high quality coffees by knowing where their product comes from rather than relying strictly on exporters.
What’s in Store for 2015?
Joel was eager to share with me what’s in store for 2015. He will be in the second year of his Master’s Program and Casa Brasil will continue finding, roasting and selling coffees in Austin. Here’s what to look out for this year:
- Up and Down Tours – Casa Brasil and South Austin Brewery collaborate to bring Austinites an educational tour of their work and facilities. The tours fill up fast and include coffee samples, beer samples and a locally catered lunch.
- Little City Coffee – This once popular brand is being revived by Casa Brasil. Enjoy a cup of great coffee that’s roasted in town and is made from high quality beans.
- APAS Coffees – In summer 2014, Casa Brasil ordered coffee from APAS (Associcao dos Produtores do Alto da Serra) Co-op in the southwest region of Brazil. This sweet and smooth coffee was a hit and Casa Brasil ordered more of it for 2015. Coffee enthusiasts shouldn’t miss this one! Follow their Facebook page for more information on availability.
Taste for Yourself
For some, coffee is a sensory experience like wine tasting. For others, coffee is a means to an end in order to stay awake. What Casa Brasil is hoping to do is appeal to both types of drinkers.
With customers like Uchiko and Lenoir, Casa Brasil has created coffees that are high end and flavorful. With their Little City brand, they hope to make their way to the office or your home coffee mug. Both options are made possible by sourcing coffees directly from growers.
The common thread between Casa Brasil’s many successful endeavors is a commitment to quality and sincere passion for what they do. It’s what drives Casa Brasil to push themselves to make the best cup of coffee for Austinites. The quality is definitely top notch and impressive given the process Casa Brasil goes through to acquire those caffeinated beans.
But don’t take my word for it, go and taste for yourself.
Casa Brasil coffees can be found at Wheatsville Co-Op and Central Market. Visit their website for more information on Up and Down Tours.
@edwinxavierocho wants to know:
Have you tried Casa Brasil’s coffee?