The Farm Story
The farm story and the coffee plantations started in our family in the 19th century.
Thanks to the great effort of our collaborators it was possible to plant and expand the coffee plantations. Before the abolition of slavery, our ancestors had already freed the slaves, who continued to work on the farm with wages.
The need for a more qualified and stimulated labor force would have motivated our ancestors to progressively replace their native employees by European immigrants, who came to work in the fields. The farms had a great boost.
With the profits from this crop, that was intense since the 1830s and 1840s allowed the farm to finance for example:
The construction of railroads, the advance of urbanisation, and the entry of imported machinery to modernize the coffee processing.
1st Generation – Jose de Camargo Penteado (born in 1772). On this date the family farms were dedicated to agriculture, specially with the cultivation of sugar cane as their main activity.
- With the profits obtained from the cultivation of coffee in other regions our ancestors began to exchange sugarcane fields for coffee seedlings.
In this year began the passion for coffee plantations.
2nd Generation – Joaquim de Camargo Penteado (son of Jose de Camargo Penteado), takes over the farm and intensifies coffee production with the acquisition of new land.
- The farms went through a long period of wealth, especially during the Empire.
Emperor Dom Pedro ll visited regularly the farm, which the house was built with all the refinement to house important meetings of the Brazilian Empire.
1852 – The coffee was at the peak of its production and was totally exported. At this time, the coffee transport to the port of Santos was made by animals.
3rd Generation – José Braulio de Camargo takes over his father’s farm. Our family together with other coffee producers, founded the Mogiana railway to transport the coffee. Stations were built near each farm.
4th Generation – Jonas Alves Lima de Camargo inherit his father’s farm. He continues the production of coffee with great dedication, and despite crises he manages to maintain the production well.
With the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929 the coffee farms went through very difficult times and many went bankrupt. But our farms overcame the crisis and continued producing coffee.
5th Generation – New land is acquired on the Southern Mountains of the State of Minas Gerais, which had altitude and favourable climatic conditions for the cultivation of our organic coffee, preserving old traditions.
6th Generation – Takes over the production of organic coffee for export. Until now, the coffee production is totally sold in raw green beans to the international market.
7th Generation – The heirs took control of the farms, with the mission to expand the cultivation of coffee, and begin the commercialization of coffee in Switzerland with the brand Café Santa Helena.
How was Café Santa Helena produced in the 19th century?
The first step was to demarcate and deforest the land that would be used for planting the seedlings. The future coffee trees took 4 years to produce their fruit. When the fruits were ripe (red color) they were manually harvested and the beans placed to dry in the large terraces on the sun.
Once dry, the coffee was processed, removing the materials that coated the grain through monjolos, primitive wooden machines formed by punching pestles powered by water.
After this process, the coffee was transported on the backs of mules to the port of Santos, from where it was exported. In 1836 coffee production was the main export product of the Empire.
And how is the farm story of Café Santa Helena today?
The farm story today is almost the same. The coffee grows in the Southern Mountains of the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil, at an altitude of 1200 meters. We use the same production method as in the past. The land is organic, the fertilisers are natural, such as chicken manure. All is done in a natural and artisanal way, as in the 19th century.
The coffee grows naturally within the shade of lush forests, providing a home for wild animals and plants. Consequently, sustaining soil fertility and an alive ecosystem.
The grains, after manually harvesting, are spread on the farm’s large terraces to dry on the sun. After drying, the beans are peeled and washed. After that they go to our cooperative, where they will be processed. This means that they are separated in sieves, and classified. The next step the green beans are placed in 60 kg jute bags and stored to be marketed and exported.
The green beans come from Brazil to the Engadin in Switzerland where we roast the beans in a wood-burning roaster preserving the flavour of the old tradition.
It is Organic certified by AAO (Association of Organic Agriculture), International Organic Certification USDA, Fairtrade and BIO INSPECTA in Switzerland.