Minas Coffee is a farmer-owned producer that imports, exports, roasts, and retails quality coffee at accessible prices. As a finalist for the 2023 Circular Economy Grant, co-founder Heitor Hilberto explains how the brand is honouring its cultural heritage by giving back to the farmers who help shape its success.
In the rolling hills of Minas Gerais, Brazil, a cup of coffee is more than a morning ritual. It’s a cherished tradition known as “café da manhã” or morning coffee, often transcending the boundaries of mere breakfast. As a brand, Minas Coffee is rooted in the traditions of this vibrant region and is committed to creating a brighter future for it.
Heitor, who is Chief Coffee Officer at Minas Coffee explains that the brand owns and runs six farms in Brazil and imports its beans directly to Australia.
Minas Coffee was born in 2018 and pays homage to its origin state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The farm is named after the Matas de Minas region of Minas Gerais, where the Hilberto, Silva, and Fontoura families have been cultivating coffee since the 1940s.
Owners and employees have always collaborated closely, taking a hands-on approach to every aspect of the company, including the labour-intensive tasks involved in the critical harvesting stages. The incredible partnership between the owners and the team is evident across all areas of the business.
Committed to supporting coffee farmers and brand employees
To ensure its employees and partners feel valued and secure, Minas Coffee has what it calls a ‘10 and 10 programme’. This is where 10% of the brand’s gross revenue goes directly to its farms in Brazil. The funds help to facilitate investments in enhanced farming methods and infrastructure to promote sustainable production.
An additional 10% is distributed as revenue share among the brand’s valued employees. “We work alongside our employees, taking a hands-on approach to each and every job at hand,” Heitor explains.
“From hoeing, pruning, and slashing. Even though he is nearing 50 this October, Marlon, also affectionately known as ‘Dad’ is always there with his crew of 4. At Minas Coffee, whatever we expect our employees to do, we also happily do ourselves.”
Central to this programme is the brand’s comprehensive evaluation of its coffee farms, which focuses on areas where enhancements can make a substantial impact. These improvements encompass sustainability measures, ethical labour practices, and community well-being.
Minas Coffee’s motivation for initiating this programme is rooted in the conviction that the coffee industry should transcend transactional relationships. Additionally, it believes the coffee industry should evolve into a symbiotic partnership between coffee producers and consumers.
Reinvesting in coffee farms empowers farmers, elevates the quality of their coffee beans, and contributes to the long-term sustainability of the coffee supply chain.
“We live in a world of finite resources that are split between people and the planet,” Heitor explains. “We must continue to support farmers in finding more sustainable ways of producing coffee. How can we do this if we do not treat our employees and suppliers with empathy?”
The 10 and 10 programme embodies an unwavering dedication to ethical and sustainable practices. It underscores the brand’s commitment to the employees who are indispensable in delivering the Minas Coffee experience to its customers.
“The allocation of a portion of our revenue to our employees serves as both a recognition of their hard work and a catalyst for fostering a sense of ownership and motivation within our team,” Heitor adds. “In essence, the 10 and 10 programme extends the benefits of our success far beyond our brand, leaving a positive and enduring impact on the coffee industry.”
Planting a tree for every coffee customer
Coffee, a truly unique and organic product, possesses an inherent variability that evolves with each harvest. Its distinct flavour profile reflects the farmer’s meticulous care, the method employed in its processing, and even the artistry of the roasting process.
Yet, amid this nuanced world of coffee, there is a broader question: How do ethical and sustainable choices shape the very essence of every cup?
For Minas Coffee, the answer lies in a commitment to fostering honest and sustainable practices. These are designed to enhance the richness of the coffee and empower the dedicated farmers who pour their expertise and passion into every bean.
As a forward-looking brand, Minas Coffee has embarked on a distinctive mission to plant a tree for every coffee customer. “One tree is planted per customer each year,” Heitor says. “Which means we were able to plant around 160 seedlings in 2022 alone.”
The initiative echoes the spirit of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: a blueprint adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 to guide a path “for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”
Beyond this, Minas Coffee’s primary emphasis has been meticulous soil and land management, and a staunch commitment to preservation. Notably, their Ouro Estate and Caparao Estate boast pristine native Atlantic forests, which remain more than 50% untouched.
Additionally, as part of their eco-conscious practices, they have eliminated the use of glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide and crop desiccant.
Expanding sustainability in coffee packaging
Minas Coffee perceives a significant divide between the coffee industry and the producers, highlighting an apparent deficiency in education regarding post-farmgate processes. Their vision for the industry revolves around fostering greater transparency and creating opportunities for small-scale farmers to showcase their products and narratives.
The brand has also taken a minimalist approach to its packaging by using sustainable kraft paper. Additionally, it minimises the accumulation of unused, colourful bags that often find their way to the bin once a coffee season concludes. Their strategy includes incorporating standard front stickers and labels printed on thermal paper. This helps ensure that Minas Coffee produces just the correct quantity for each batch, thereby eliminating surplus waste.
Get to know the finalists of the MTPak Coffee Circular Economy Grant. Read our exclusive interview Robyn Morley, director at Blind Owl Coffee in Bristol about how she reduced the carbon footprint of her business by delivering coffee by bicycle.
Images from Minas Coffee.