Compiled from the notes of Felipe Croce of Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza
Obatã is a varietal developed at the IAC (Instituto de Agronomia de Campinas) in the city of Campinas, state of São Paulo. This institute has been the premier genetic studies in the country of Brazil for the past couple of centuries.
The Obatã varietal is a hybrid, it consists of:
Arabica Mundo Novo crossed with Sarchimor
*Sarchimor is the Hybrid of Timor crossed with Vila Sarchi
This result was crossed several times over with Mundo Novo until a result was found called Tupi.
The Tupi is a varietal planted in our region which is resistant to disease and has an elevated acidity, a big body and a very unique taste often remembering bell peppers.
The Tupi was then crossed with Red Catuai to become the varietal Red Obatã. This plant we predict is about 95% Arabica origin with 5% robusta. It is very well adapted to the São Paulo and South of Minas climate, resistant to disease with a cup profile of elevated acidity, big body and high sweetness with a distinct floral characteristic in comparison to other varietals on a similar plot.
In 2010 while I was only in my third year on the farm I had a prejudice against anything not 100% arabica. This came from articles I found online or at institutes as well as comments I had heard from international roasters and coffee buyers. One day at one of our partner farmer João Hamilton's house, he commented how he was so happy with his Obatã lot because it had all ripened perfectly and he had picked them at the peak of ripeness.
Now, besides my prejudice, I was big into measuring the BRIX readings on the mucilage of each lot as they came in. The full Arabica strains at peak ripeness would come in at 26-35% where Obatã and Tupi and some of the other Hybrids like Icatu would be around 18-22 at the same visual state of maturation.
Thus, much to his chagrin, I told João Hamilton that it was great that he had done such a pristine job on the picking but that he should not prioritize this lot as it was a hybrid and probably would not cup that well.
And João Hamilton did just as I said. As coffees came in and the patios became full he pushed the ripe Obatã lot thick into one end of the raised bed and left it untouched. Much different to our drying process at the time which was rail thin and raking as many times a day as possible.
I had vivid memories of pulling up to his patios along the following few weeks, as this coffee took over 30 days to dry, and smelling a strong ferment flavor.
Back at our cupping lab at FAF we were busy cupping through the harvest lots as they came in and Australian roaster and good friend Justin Miles was spending a month at FAF. Justin was at the time buying for Melbourne coffee roaster Seven Seeds and later went on to join Kris Schackman at Five Elephant. One day as we were blazing through our common 5 table a day 14 coffee lot tables we ground a coffee that sent off an explosion of floral aromas into the room. Already coffee high and cupping many similar coffees we got very excited and I had to break our blind cupping code and look up what lot this was. Upon finding out this lot was the Obatã, I asked my assistant Simone to check and recheck her notes and even call João Hamilton to make sure there had not been a mix up; however, in fact her notes were right and this coffee went on to get the highest score of any coffee at FAF up until today - 94 points.
This coffee happened to be a small lot as João Hamilton had turned his focus to carefully picking other lots. In the end we had 3.5 bags which we had two spread between 4 coffee buyers in Sweden, Norway, US and São Paulo who all fought tooth and nail for a piece.
Regrouping at Sitio Canaã we tried to understand what had happened. Not only did we decide to relook at the Obatã varietal but we decided to change our drying process - which we remain tweaking to this day. We retraced our steps and I found this lot was actually one of João's neighbor's farm whom had moved to the city and abandoned his coffee. João was taking care of this guy's farm as he was old and had no sons and no intention to move back and tend to the plants.
My father, Marcos, became enchanted with the property and asked if João Hamilton wanted to partner on the land. Thus, Sitio Novo Canaã was born as FAF rented the land and João Hamilton and his brother tended to the plants.
The land had been degraded and the plants poorly tended to and after three years of heavy fertilization and pruning the trees started to come back to life.
Kris from Five Elephant began coming to the farm every year at the end of harvest and meticulously cupping through our lots and became enchanted with the Obatã varietal and the lots from Sitio Novo Canaã. During the 2016 harvest he sent one of his barista, Bara Ernygrova, to the farm for six months to help us throughout harvest. Thus, the project with Five Elephant, FAF and Sitio Novo Canaã was born as we separated a section of this farm for Kris. in 2016 we completely cut all agro-toxic chemicals and began to implement green fertilization techniques in between the rows as well as planting fruit trees such as oranges and avacados for shade. The mission here is to bring back fertilization and life into the soil so that we can fully transition this plot to organic.