Blending his love of Brazil and his coffee-roasting chops, Shuler injects sabor e progresso (flavor and progress) in to Austinites’ morning joe.
By Andy East
“I grew up playing soccer in Iowa and my coach was Brazilian,” says Joel Shuler, owner of Casa Brasil Coffees. “My coach sent me to Brazil to play when I was 14. At 18, I dropped out of college to go pro in Brazil but hurt my knee.”
Shuler played defensive midfielder for Brazilian professional club Grêmio in the Southern city of Porto Alegre.
“I came back too early [from the injury]and ended up hurting the other knee,” he says. “After returning [to the U.S.], I bounced around, graduated from college in Georgia and moved to Austin to go to law school at UT.”
Originally lured to Austin by the School of Law and Brazilian studies programs offered at the University of Texas at Austin, Shuler worked with immigration lawyers who had Portuguese-speaking clients, and prepared aspiring law students for the LSAT exam. Although Shuler never pursued a law degree, in 2005, he founded Casa Brasil as a Brazilian cultural center that provided music lessons and Portuguese classes, and sold Brazilian products. However, as a coffee enthusiast, one day Shuler embarked on a quest to find the coffee he had once enjoyed in Brazil. It ended up changing the direction of his professional and personal life.
“I went to a local roaster and asked for the best Brazilian coffee and they told me there was no such thing as good Brazilian coffee,” Shuler says.
“Over the course of three years from 2006 to 2009, I spent six months in Brazil doing internships with co-ops and cuppers who everyone said were the best,” Shuler says.
During this time, Shuler established relationships with growers he wanted to partner with and became certified by the Coffee Quality Institute as a Q -grader and obtained the Port of Santos Cupping and Classification certification. In 2009, he brought in his first container of coffee. One container contains approximately 320 60-kilogram bags of coffee. Four years later, Casa Brasil Coffees now imports three to four containers a year. By working directly with coffee growers in Brazil, Shuler has cut out the middleman. He is actively involved in every production phase, from growing to roasting, and loves every minute of it.
“Coffee is chemically and culturally fascinating,” Shuler reflects. “There are so many layers to coffee. It’s so complex. You’re always learning more.”
Casa Brasil Coffees
Founded in 2005, Casa Brasil Coffees is an Austin-based coffee importer and roaster that specializes in premium coffee from Brazilian growers. Coffee is roasted to order, and Shuler oversees the production process from start to finish, ensuring its quality.
“We do a light roast, which takes its flavor more from the farm and less from the roast,” Shuler says. “A good roast is like a good referee. With a good ref, you notice the game and not the ref. He controls the game but not the outcome.”
In addition to selling coffee, Shuler teams up with the South Austin Brewing Company for monthly installments of the Up and Down Tour to give Austinites an insider peek at the art of coffee production by looking at processing techniques, tasting defects and much more. For more information, visit casabrasilcoffees.com.