Since arriving in Greenville in 2001 from Brazil, Ricardo Pereira has become a driving force in an emerging specialty coffee movement within Greenville and the Upstate. From grower to barista, Pereira is on a journey to bring excellence to everyone who is impacted by coffee.
You picture two people at a small table and what is between them? A cup of coffee. How many friendships or businesses have been started because of a cup of coffee?
“That is the beauty of coffee,” said Ricardo Pereira. “It is a connector.”
Born in Brazil, in a region known for sugar cane and coffee, Pereira has always had a close connection with the coffee bean.
He came to the U.S. in 2001 to attend Bob Jones University, graduating in 2006 with a degree in youth ministry and minor in Spanish—adding another language to his native Portuguese and English.
With such unique background and language palate, Pereira soon after started his own importing business—BRASC Coffee Importers. He wanted to bring something to the area that wasn’t very common at the time—specialty coffee, especially coffee from Brazil.
“I wanted to showcase some of the best coffees from my home country,” Pereira says. Fortunately, he had a close mentor to lean on. “My dad was an entrepreneur in Brazil and I learned a few things about business from him. ”
For Pereira, quality was key. Coffee is rated on a number scale with the from 1 to 100, with higher numbers equating finer coffee. In his own business, Pereira refuses to deal in anything below an 80, and in fact, rarely goes below an 85.
But knowing the source of what you are providing is vital to maintaining that quality (“You want to know who grows your food,” he says), so Pereira’s plan was to work as close to growers as possible, giving them the benefits of their hard work instead of middle men.
“You want to know who grows your food,” he says.
Then, after four years of successfully running BRASC, he was approached by Ally Coffee, a larger importer, who offered to buy BRASC and turn it into their specialty coffee division—which Pereira would head up. Ally purchased most of his assets, but with what remained, he started Due South Coffee as a way to showcase his specialty coffee to a community that was ready for a finer brew.
Located in the revitalized Taylors Mill, Due South offers specialty coffee that is roasted on site, among other types of drinks like hot chocolate made with homemade chocolate and in-house brewed ginger beer. It has become not only a popular hangout, but a destination bringing more and more to the Mill community.
Receiving some of the highest certifications, and being a part of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, Pereira has also discovered a passion for teaching and equipping others in the coffee industry. He has traveled to China and Latin America, as well as teaching others right here in the Upstate. As part of that love for education and teaching, Pereira is opening the first SCAA-certified teaching lab in the area—a first for South Carolina and this region. The lab features a fully functional coffee bar, work areas and classrooms to be used to train not only baristas, but anybody in the coffee industry wanting to go deeper.
“I really love the educational part of it,” says Pereira. “We are very happy to be one of the first offering educational training in coffee.”
At the “academy,” students to not only learn to make the best coffee, but to also know where that coffee came from, how it was grown and how to roast it to perfection. Growers will also join in the educational process—to not only teach, but learn to brew and prepare the coffees that they painstakingly grow.
“The idea is to cover from seed to cup,” he says. “Those kinds of things make our culture more legit.”
For Pereira, the budding coffee community in Greenville has the potential to make a deep and lasting impact on a local palate that already contains fine food and fine beer.
“Our community should be just like the craft beer community,” says Pereira, “Greenville is just scratching the surface in terms of specialty coffee.”