While most know Brazil for its beautiful women, amazing soccer players, and pristine rain forests; Brazil is the eight hundred pound gorilla of the coffee world. Before the Second World War, Brazil accounted for over half the world’s coffee production. Today, Brazil’s share of the world market is much lower due to the increased competition, and popularity of coffee as a crash crop in the developing world. With just over 30% of the world production, Brazil has more influence in affecting the price of coffee in the world’s market than any other country. Large coffee buyers such as Starbucks and commodity traders watch Brazilian weather and coffee crop diligently because frost, drought, and other bad weather can cause world coffee prices to skyrocket. Inversely, a bountiful crop with yields above norms can cause world coffee prices to crash.
Coffee was first introduced to Brazil in 1720 from French Guyana. There is no native “Brazilian” variety of coffee. Brazilian coffee is called “Brazils” more as a marketing terminology to distinguish itself from “Milds.” Both “Milds” and “Brazils” are types of arabica beans. Due to Brazil’s size and various growing regions, huge numbers of different varieties of coffee are available to world consumers. In fact, most major blends of coffee have some type of coffee bean grown in Brazil.
The distinguishing characteristic of Brazilian coffee is not the uniqueness of the bean, but the curing method. Brazilian coffee is mostly unwashed and sun dried. Due to its geography, five of the Brazil’s twenty-one states produce the majority of its coffee. When purchasing Brazilian coffee you will find the beans are classified in the states where they are grown. While all states have coffee producing regions, the five states that produce the most coffee and the one’s you will see the most are Bahania, Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Parana, and Sao Paulo. In addition to being labeled by the producing region, Brazilian coffee is also assigned a grade based on the shipping location, with “Santos” being the most commonly used. Santos simply means the beans were shipped in a port near Sao Paolo.
Knowing the region in which the beans you buy are important as geography and climate affect the quality of the bean as well as the taste. For example, some of the best and most acclaimed coffee in Brazil and grown in the states of Alfenas, Ipanema and Vista Allegre. Regions in the Northern Brazil close to the ocean are known to grow coffee with a flavor reminiscent to the sea. This “sea” flavor is described by many as tasting “iodized.” Coffee from this region is shipped to regions near the Mediterranean such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa as consumers there have developed a taste for this flavor. If you enjoy Middle Eastern and North African coffees, you definitely should try coffee grown in the Brazil’s northern seaboard. The Southern region of Brazil is the historic and traditional growing areas for coffee. Many specialty coffee trader’s have close relations to the best coffee plantations in this region. Other notable areas in Brazil are Espirito Santo and states near it grow large quantities of robusta beans. These brazilian robusta are commonly found as “filler” in average quality blends and instant coffee.
Historically Brazilian coffee was used in blends and most espresso is derived from Brazilian beans. However, with its large and diverse geography, you’ll find many specialty beans as well. For those who seek organic and fair trade coffee two notable types are Belu de Brasil and Poco Fundo.
FLAVOR: varies as Brazil grows many variations. Majority of the coffee grown is generally mild with low acidity
ROASTS: Any type and style will work as Brazil grows many varieties of bean.