British tycoon Bernie Ecclestone and his young Brazilian wife Fabiana Flosi Ecclestone have transformed coffee along the Formula One circuit. For a long time, Ecclestone has been a strong force behind this popular sport. His new coffee brand, Celebrity Coffee, is produced at a farm he owns with his wife in the municipality of Amparo, about 90 miles from São Paulo city, in southeast Brazil. Their coffees are currently being served around the world on the Grand Prix’s backstage. It's a meaningful move for Brazil, which has long had a strong Formula One culture and has turned out legendary drivers such as three-time champions Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.
I have allowed myself to accept Ecclestone as an honorary citizen, in the end, after his long years of friendship with our champions and a marriage with a Brazilian girl. To seal the deal, the Ecclestones bought a coffee farm in São Paulo in 2012. “I’ve been in Brazil along 45 years and I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve had really happy times around here,” says big boss Ecclestone, who guaranteed me he is a heavy coffee drinker despite having been born in an English generation that far preferred tea. Even as a beginner in this business, the Ecclestones have drawn attention to the Amparo region, famous for producing coffee since the end of the 19th century in the São Paulo state. The farm was an old and abandoned plantation, and the two hired experts to help them recuperate the arable land.
Recently, more producers from the Amparo region have gained visibility in São Paulo's high-end roaster and coffee shop scene, which means that some of them are striving for reaching the specialty level. Besides coffee, Amparo is famous for artisanal cachaças and perhaps most of all for being a world-renowned noble horse breeding hub. After going through a couple of tough decades, Amparo is living up to its coffee calling, with more than 1,000 producers and a new focus on quality. Fabiana Ecclestone says their coffee will not only be available on the F1 circuit but also beyond.
“We wish to have our Celebrity Coffee used in the best hotels and restaurants worldwide and also available for sales in prestige outlets,” she said. “We are in search of high quality, not quantity for now.” Despite a name evoking a high-class life appeal, Fabiana Ecclestone says her coffee is for everyone: “The difference is our care during all the steps of a labor-intense production pays off; our coffee won the title of best quality coffee in the Amparo production area two times in three years. We are very proud of our coffee,” she says.
Formula 1 is not the only racing circuit being invaded by coffee brands. The Formula E, a class of auto racing organized by FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) which allows only electric-powered cars counts La Marzocco among its sponsors. The Italian espresso machine manufacturer affirms sharing the same values with Formula E such as sustainability, innovation, and engagement. Both are moved by the inspiration of fostering and spreading the concepts of awareness, high-end technology, and community life in an entertaining way.
Finally, we must ask if the drivers, the stars of the circus who have adrenaline flowing through their veins, might just operate on great coffee themselves? Connection with prestige brands of food, alcohol, and now coffee, is sure to provide these racers with just that extra bit of magic fuel for the home stretch.
Paulo Pedroso is a regular contributor to Brazilian newspapers Folha de São Paulo and Valor Econômico, as well as Revista Espresso, a Brazilian specialty coffee magazine. Read more Paulo Pedroso on Sprudge.
Photographs courtesy of Bernie and Fabiana Ecclestone, with photos by Steve D. / SDF1.