There is almost no subject that Ana Laura Guimarães cannot talk about when it comes to cachaça. She is a passionate advocate, creator of the first cachaça app, and promoter of quality cachaça. Whether discussing different types of wood used to age the Brazilian spirit or promoting women’s involvement in the field, Ana Laura is pushing consumers to better understand the culture and the people involved in cachaça creation.
I got a chance to ask her about her experiences, her current projects, and what she thinks gringos should know about cachaça. You can find more about her work on Instagram @cachacie or on her website.
1. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from and what is your background?
I was born in Belo Horizonte, but I always say that I am from the country, since my mother only went to the capital for my birth, because there were more medical resources. Soon after, we returned and I lived in the interior of Minas until I was 15 years old.
My father had a farm and every weekend I became a “country girl”, and I loved it. He walked in cachalo, harvesting fruit in the orchard, followed the management of the coffee crop; planted corn, beans, and sugarcane to feed livestock. He cared for the animals, made curd and sweets on the wood stove. I remember the walks on the road on full moon nights, and on new moon nights, the cozy fires, where we roasted corn and sweet potatoes.
Just remembering it, I taste it. Good times. The days on the farm taught me to watch time go by calmly. This gave me the opportunity to perceive the aromas, the tastes, the colors, the textures in a very special and definitive way. The need to continue with my studies forced me to move to Belo Horizonte. I graduated in Public Relations, and I specialized in marketing. I worked in many companies of various sizes. Five years ago I decided to undertake, Cachaciê.
2. When did you get to know cachaça? Was it part of your family life?
I lived my childhood in the countryside, in a city called Joaíma, in the Jequitinhonha Valley, a region in which cachaceira culture is very ingrained. In my house, cachaça has always been well regarded, and was usually offered at family gatherings and parties. My father always appreciated cachaça and insisted on buying good cachaça, quality cachaça. So my familiarity with our national distillate comes from my youth. The aroma of a “drip with honey” is very strong in my memory. I remember my father having some daily to whet his appetite.
3. When did you know that you would like to work in the cachaça area? It happened by chance.
Despite having sympathy for the drink and admiration for its importance as a Brazilian cultural artifact, I only became an appreciator of cachaça a little over 10 years ago. And 5 years ago, with the creation of Cachaciê, I became a cachaça scholar, following a trajectory in search of information. I visited distilleries, exchanged experiences with producers, took many courses, participated in events, had direct contact with the links in the cachaça production chain, studied to enhance my sensory repertoire (with many tastings of products from various parts of the country (always in moderation and elegance), and by carefully observing consumers of cachaça and especially potential consumers; the behavior of the market as a whole.
4. Among other things, you created the first Cachaça App! Can you tell me a little bit about how the idea came about and how the app works?
The creation of the Cachaciê App came from an idea to provide a digital tool that would place cachaça closer to the consumer, in the palm of their hands. We found that there were many digital tools for wine consumers, and none for cachaça. So we created the first Cachaça app in the world, with the encouragement of SEBRAE Minas.
We made a basic product, to understand the market. As it was something new, the consultants advised us to adopt the maxim of StartUps: “make mistakes quickly and make mistakes”. Today we have an immensely greater knowledge about consumers and their needs, including latent ones.
We are now working to raise funds to make improvements to the tool and thereby expand our user base. Technology becomes obsolete very quickly. Updates need to be permanent. But they are very expensive. We know more clearly how to attract and entertain users. We research what attracts them the most and what is the most efficient language, to talk about cachaça with them.
We continue to believe that cachaça needs to go where the consumer is, to be part of their lives, of their realities. The current version of the Cachaciê App has about 1200 registered labels and allows the user to evaluate the cachaça, from a scanned reading of the label and assign a score from 1 to 5.
It is possible to comment, share opinions with friends, include the purchase price of the product, follow other users and be followed. It's collaborative. If a product is not registered, the consumer can register it, among other features. We hope to soon bring a new version to consumers and expand our user base.
5. Will there be an English version of the appl?
Not yet, but we are working on an improvement project, and in this new version, there will be an English version.
6. On your site, you have an enormous amount of information about individual cachaças. How did you start collecting this information?
It is a challenging task, as there are not many sources of information. We have about 1,200 registered cachaças on the site, and information about their respective producers. The complete reports that exist are those of MAPA (Ministry of Agriculture), however they cannot be accessed with the freedom that we would like. We started collecting information before the launch of Cachaciê and we continued to work on it, with consistency. We have many partners, in different projects, however the composition of our base is still a lonely task.
7. How many distilleries do you have information on your website? Do you know how many more there are that you have not registered?
We have a relevant number of distilleries already registered, but we still have a lot of work to do. According to the Yearbook of Cachaça 2020, released on July 21, by MAPA, and freely accessible - Brazil currently has 4,003 registered brands, and about 1,086 producers of cachaça and cane spirit.
8. You also have information about many individual cachaças. How many cachaças have you registered on your website?
Our focus is on registered cachaça. We only present, promote and sell cachaça registered with MAPA (Ministry of Agriculture), the so-called legalized products, as we understand that only these products, made within the strictness of the legislation and through the adoption of the best productive practices, will bring consumers the best experiences.
Today, one of the major problems in the sector is the approximately 40 thousand informal producers, who flood the market with products, most of the time, of very poor quality. This makes the work of showing the cultural, economic and social value of cachaça more arduous. We try to expand the understanding of its importance, its value, its quality in the consumer market. When the consumer tastes a quality cachaça, whether made in a pot still or column, he perceives the difference, the sensory richness and the quality.
9. And what has been your objective with this project?
Cachaciê exists to guarantee consumers good experiences with our national distillate—whether through its consumption straight, in cocktails, as an ingredient in cuisine, or in harmonizations or as a cultural value of Brazil.
I like Brazil. I usually say in the events that we do at Cachaciê. Nobody is forced to drink what they don't want to,. In the cachaceiro vocabulary the word "must" does not exist. Your cachaça your rules, that's what counts.
However, we must understand, respect and value the cultural relevance of cachaça. We cannot deny this cachaça. The aim of Cachaciê is to be a bridge between consumers and good cachaças, their producers, their stories. Each cachaça matters and the most delicious thing is to help consumers discover this new world. Despite being so old, cachaça still needs to be "discovered", both by Brazilians and then the world.
10. One of the things I saw that you have been working on for the last month, which was the international month of women, is to recognize the women who work in the cachaça industry. Can you tell me why this was such an important project for you? Is it difficult to be a woman working in this industry?
Women have unquestionably been gaining more space in all sectors of society, and the world of cachaça is no different. And yes, women need to prove their worth every day. I remember that when I arrived to work with cachaça, the female presence wasn’t significant.
However, the participation and perception of women, as consumers, has evolved. We took advantage of the month of March to celebrate all these achievements. We brought daily interviews with admirable women, producers, salespeople, promoters, researchers, teachers, distillers, boilers, coopers, bartenders, specialists, inspectors, and of course, consumers.
It was an intense and rewarding job. Every day more women know and value cachaça. These new consumers, in my view, are more attentive to the rich details that permeate cachaça, are very open to know, appreciate and transform themselves into a voice in defense of cachaça and also its moderate consumption.
I am a cachaceira woman, I am an appreciator and I like to show other women that they can make a difference in the universe of Cachaça, or in other parallel universes and that by coincidence drink cachaça.
11. Can you talk about the themes of the articles and videos posted on Cachaciê channels?
If the subject is relevant, it is attractive, curious, informative, educational, creative, aromatic, tasty and colorful, we put it. We like to value other players who work seriously to promote cachaça.
12. What other projects are you working on and would you like to mention?
We always want to be where consumers are, and speak their language and use the channels they use. We want to put cachaça on their radar, in their minds, in a positive way. This is a challenge, but we try to do it with boldness. We have many projects in progress, but I prefer to talk about them only when they’re ready to go. I just stress that our focus, as I said, is to be a bridge, to promote partnerships and make a movement in the universe of cachaça, to conquer new consumers.
13. What style of cachaça are you a fan of today?
I like quality cachaça. Good, well-made cachaça, cachaça that has personality, which carries the DNA of those who produce it. That delivers in its color, aromas and flavor information about its history. This is the charm of cachaça.
14. What do you think gringos need to know about cachaça?
Everything. They need to know that cachaça exists and that it is breathtaking, an explosion of aromas and flavors. It is a drink that represents this great and beautiful Brazil. Which is a drink for men, for women, for all ages over 18 [editor’s note: not in the US], which is a very versatile and sensory rich drink.
Like the stars, none is the same as another. Each cachaça is unique, that to taste a good cachaça is to taste a little bit of Brazil, a breathtaking and unforgettable experience.
Last year I started a project through a series of Instagram lives entitled “Cachaça around the World”, another step towards understanding the perception of cachaça outside of Brazil. Soon we will sequence these lives.
Jobs like what you do are essential. We need many voices, many communication channels bringing correct and reliable information to the consumer. We also need producers to place their products in this international market and promote them. It is work that needs to be done together, that takes time, is difficult and expensive, but necessary. A great challenge, and we at Cachaciê work hard to be part of this movement in the cachaça sector.
15. Is there anything else you would like to say to my English speaking audience?
We never talk about cachaça without mentioning the need for moderate consumption. Cachaça is to be enjoyed sparingly, responsibly and, if possible, with elegance, like any other alcoholic beverage. The act of tasting cachaça should be done in small doses, accompanied by a glass of water, for the permanent hydration of the connoisseur, respecting individual limits and the good coexistence with the other. Cachaça should be the complement in a party, the accessory in a meeting between friends, not the purpose itself. And remember, cachaça is an alcoholic beverage, and as such it can only be consumed by people over 18 [21 in the US]. Also, if that consumer is going to drive, he will not be able to drink, and vice versa.