Seven years later, they clinched for a second consecutive
year Brazil's most prestigious coffee award, beating hundreds of
established producers in a country that has exported coffee for
more than 200 years.
"I would never imagine we could reach this status in such a
short period," Siqueira told Reuters on Friday after the couple
received the annual award from Italian roaster Illy.
"I used to say that we don't have a story on coffee, but only
some chapters so far," said Armelin.
The couple met during college, graduating in engineering from
Brazil's top ranked university, USP. They spent some years
together in the United States getting Master of Business
Administration degrees at the University of Chicago before
starting careers in Sao Paulo.
Armelin is a former Mckinsey & Company consultant, while
Siqueira held positions as a fund manager at Credit Suisse and
boutique investment firm Vector Investimentos.
They ended up in the coffee business due to Armelin's father,
who decided to start producing the beans.
"I helped him in the research and started to like the idea. We
already had thoughts at running something together," Armelin
After studying the possibility, they bought a 210-hectare (518
acres) farm in the municipality of Ibiá in a coffee producing
region known as the Cerrado Mineiro, in Minas Gerais state.
"It was an old cattle ranch, only pasture," Siqueira recalled.
They planted the first trees in 2011, collected the first beans
two years later and had their first full harvest in 2015. Within
a year, they received the first award.
The couple's farm is a state-of-the-art facility. The fields are
100 percent irrigated, with a fully mechanized harvest. The
washed arabicas are put to dry in raised beds to avoid contact
with the soil, which could affect the flavor.
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"We studied a lot, talked to a lot of people who knew how to produce
high quality coffee and we did everything they said we should," said
Armelin. "Some people used to say that we were nerds that went to
coffee production. And we used to say, 'yes, we are'".
The Terra Alta farm was chosen for aspects like the plentiful
availability of water and its flat terrain to allow for
The couple used as much government-backed credit as they could to
buy all the equipment. "We have debt for the rest of our lives,"
said Armelin, smiling.
The farm today exports 80 percent of its production, which varies
from 10,000 to 13,000 60-kg bags per year. Many deals are done
directly with gourmet coffee sellers in the United States.
Siquiera said the coffee community in the Cerrado region has always
been very receptive, despite their unusual background.
But the couple stops short of recommending their experience to
"Even if you have the money, it really is not easy. Growing coffee
requires extreme dedication," Armelin said, adding that she takes
care of the financial details while her husband likes to be out in
But they have no regrets. "We like this a lot. We will probably be
coffee growers for the rest of our lives," she said.
(Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Toni Reinhold)
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