Local Vendor Spotlight: Casa Brasil
Joel Shuler has been roasting coffee in Austin since 2007. He was happy to share some facts and philosophy about the coffee business.
Why did you decide to directly import coffee?
With the standard business model of grower to broker to exporter to importer to roaster, a lot of quality is lost and growers often do not receive the true value they deserve for their product. Since I lived in Brazil as a kid and knew the culture and language, I decided that I would bypass the middlemen and buy directly from the growers. Over the years we have developed a partnership with some of the best growers in Brazil where we pay set prices for their best coffees and offer fully transparency. In exchange Casa Brasil gets right of first refusal on their best coffees. I love coffee and I love Brazil. It was bound to happen!
What is your favorite coffee that you produce?
I love our Bossa Blend and I love exploring the different estate “microlot” coffees. The Bossa is old faithful, smooth and milk chocolate. The microlot estate coffees allow me to have fun by tasting different regions, coffee varieties, and processing methods.
Is there anything new in the works for Casa Brasil coffee?
We have developed a great relationship with Associação dos Produtores do Alto da Serra (APAS), a small Fair Trade association in the hills of southern Minas Gerais. They are a group of around 50 families that are dedicated to producing incredible coffees, and they are located in one of the best regions in Brazil for quality coffee product. Great people producing great coffee that we are proud to bring to Wheatsville. I am headed there this Friday to make our final lot selections from this harvest.
What is different about your coffee from other coffees?
I think what makes us unique is that we buy coffee directly from growers. We taste hundreds of coffee each harvest and pick out the best lots to bring to Austin. Coffee is traditionally based on commodity pricing, which has little to do with a grower’s cost of production or the price that the coffee is price of sale here in the US. Rather than be subject to commodity market oscillations, we pay set prices based on quality that are far above commodity and fair trade prices. This is a win-win for both growers and coffee lovers. The growers are rewarded for producing high quality coffee, and they know year in and year out the price they will receive. Generally this means they are more likely to take extended quality measures since they know they will receive more. From the consumer side, in offering them these prices as well as complete transparency throughout the supply chain, we gain right of first refusal on their coffees. That means that Casa Brasil has first pick on some of the best coffees from Brazil every harvest.
Here in Austin we roast fresh-to-order in small batches, tasting every single batch of coffee we roast. We are constantly tweaking our roast curves, chasing the perfect roast for each coffee. Coffee is a seed - an embryo and endosperm - and like any living thing it is constantly reacting to the environment around it. To do coffee well, it takes a lot of attention to detail at all points along the chain.
What are your favorite things about Wheatsville Co-op?
The Frito Pie, definitely, and the huge selection of local products and refills on my Dr. Bronner’s. But most of all the atmosphere. I have been a member for almost 10 years now and the constant has been friendly people that care. When we decided to start our direct trade coffee model, Wheatsville was the very first place that took on our coffee and has supported us ever since. You don’t forget that kind of support.