This week our coffee origins in focus series takes us to Brazil which is not only the largest country in South America, but it’s also the largest coffee producer in the world. It is renowned for its huge fincas, and consistently delicious coffee grown all year round. Let’s learn more about it together!
It’s the world’s fifth largest country in terms of geographical size and the foremost front-runner in coffee terms. Brazil accounts for around 40% of the all of the coffee produced in the entire world. Brazil’s coffee farms coffee some 27,000 km2 of land, with the largest farms covering spaces as big as entire cooperatives or provinces in other countries, producing between 40-60 million bags of coffee each year.
We’re sure you know that Brazil houses the lungs of the Earth in the Amazon Rainforest, which is also one of the last remaining swathes of land that remain unexplored by humans. The Portuguese speaking country just celebrated its national independence day at the time of writing (September 7th). It’s the 9th largest economy in the world, with an estimated US$21.8 trillion worth of natural resources which includes vast amounts of gold, uranium, iron, and timber. Coffee accounts for 2.5% of its total exports, which is where our interest comes into play.
When you consider the sheer scale of Brazil’s coffee production operations, it’s amazing to think that coffee farming only began here around 150 years ago when the plant was first introduced. Despite that, the country rose to become the world’s top coffee producer very quickly and established dominance by the early 1900’s.
Brazilian farmers mainly grow Coffea Arabica varietals but, as we previously said, the plants are not native to the country. When coffee cultivation was first discovered in Eastern Africa in the 18th century, many European explorers brought with them the coffee plants to grow in their own countries. Unsurprisingly, most attempts were unsuccessful, especially in Europe, but Equatorial lands seemed to have the ingredients they the plants needed to thrive. Brazil has proven itself to be the most fertile for coffee production.
Coffee production in Brazil
Owing to its fertile land, the country supports probably the widest range of coffee varietals in the world, the most popular are Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, Catuai and Acaia. There are around 360,000 coffee farmers in Brazil with some farms covering areas as large as 2,000+ hectares. These farms can look a lot different to what you might have seen in any other coffee growing region, due to the vast sizes of their fields and less treacherous terrain, they can be managed a lot more like a traditional crop farm. This allows them to use heavy machinery for cultivation and harvesting, enabling the sort of efficiencies required to manage Brazil’s huge output. Many of the largest farms also have their own processing and washing stations, but this hasn’t always been the case. Before such efficiencies became easily available, Brazilian coffee was mostly natural-processed.
The growing consumption of specialty coffee has driven farmers to develop their infrastructure and use different processing methods to highlight the quality of their coffees. This growing market, with pricing based on quality, helps to support the abundance of micro-lots and small batch farms that can cover as little as 10 hectares! These smaller farms are responsible for producing some of the country’s most truly unique specialty examples.
A lot of production takes place high up (1,000+ masl) in the eastern region of Mina Gerais which is just north of Sao Paulo and covers around 1.22 million hectares, it’s one of our favourite sourcing regions. The other major coffee estates are found in Esperito Santo and Sao Paulo. Coffee producers can be found dotted all over the country though, with robusta farmers working nearer the coast and at lower altitudes.
The first important thing to remember is that Brazil covers a huge landmass. It stretches just north of the Equator at one end, and way below the Tropic Of Capricorn to the south. With this in mind the climatic systems can shift dramatically depending on where you are.
Most specialty coffee cultivation takes place in the central-eastern region right between the Equator and the Tropic Of Capricorn, high up in the hills. Despite Brazil being considered a tropical country, most of the coffee growing regions are protected by altitude. So, both the temperature and sunlight hours remain steady throughout the year. Mina Gerais in particular is one of the coldest regions but still enjoys average temperatures of around 29℃.
As you may expect, there is an awful lot of rainfall in Brazil thanks to the Amazon. The most intense deluges occur close within the rainforest’s proximity but some heavy spells occur elsewhere especially throughout their summer, which is our winter. During December, the region of Mina Gerais can experience around 16 days of rain. With all of that considered, it is always pretty humid with relative humidity rarely dipping below 75%.
What does this mean for coffee growing in the region? Well, evidently coffea arabica plants thrive here! 80% of Brazil’s coffee cultivation comes from these plants.
Brazilian Coffee In The Cup
There’s a reason why Brazilian coffee is so popular among coffee lovers. You’re almost always guaranteed great levels of chocolate sweetness and body with a good quality crop from here. This makes it perfect as both a single origin filter or espresso, and for blending with other coffees. It’s probably the most coffee-y tasting coffee you can buy.
Depending on the process method you can also find notes of other flavours too, such as honey, caramel, orange zest and red apples. Pretty much anything sweet, rich and delicious!
Check out our wide range of seasonal and delicious speciality coffees on our online store. We roast the best seasonal coffees from the world’s finest coffee growing origins, including Brazil.
Famous Regions: Mina Gerais
Common Varietals: Typica Bourbon, Acqaia, Catui
Common Processing Methods: Usually natural, but look out for pulped-naturals
Growing Altitude: 1000+ masl
Flavour Notes: Rich chocolaty sweetness with a fuller mouthfeel