Brazilian Coffee: From Pure Quantity to Great QualityCLICK HERE to subscribe to our weekly emails on finding and brewing amazing coffee!
Not all of us have had the opportunity to be world travelers. However, our palates can be! With all the different origins available for coffee, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what exactly you’re getting from each one.
Consider us your coffee tour guides! Here, we’ll be delving into Brazilian coffee, explaining its history, present and outlook, plus why it seems to be in every blend out there. So lean your seat back, appreciate that it’s probably more comfortable than an airplane, and read on.
A Brief History
As coffee is not native to the Americas, it was intentionally brought there. The first Brazilian coffee plant was put to soil by Francisco de Melo Palheta in 1727. The story goes that the Portuguese wanted in on the coffee market, but French Guiana’s governor was being uncooperative in trading the seeds. After being sent on a diplomatic mission, Palheta supposedly wooed the governor’s wife, who presented him with a bouquet with the coveted seeds hidden in it.
Those seeds were then smuggled into Brazil, and the coffee industry there was born. Following the Haitian Revolution, the burning of many of coffee plantations there allowed Brazil to step in to accommodate the global demand for coffee. (Before then, Haiti produced about half of the world coffee). By the 1840s, Brazil’s coffee dominated 40% of its exports and an equal share the world production market. Brazil was now the largest coffee producer barely a century after entering the business.
Furthermore, the second coffee boom was such a prominent part of Brazilian economy, culture, and politics that the political period is now referred to as café com leite (“coffee with milk”) as these were the nation’s two dominating industries.
By the 1920s, Brazil had nearly monopolized the international coffee market, controlling 80% of the world production of it. However, it has since declined. Still, despite even government intervention to encourage diversification, 60% of Brazil’s exports were coffee into the second half of the 20th century. They are still the largest coffee producer today.
Brazil has a checkered past regarding the flavor and quality of its coffee beans. Brazilian officials pushed against attempts to amend export quotas during the 1980s. These attempted to promote the production of milder, higher-quality coffee beans. Because of Brazil’s dissent, proposed agreement. fell apart in 1989.
However, as a result of this, the controlling force in Brazil’s coffee market, the Brazilian Coffee Institute, as dissolved, leaving room for free markets to flourish. Coffee quality then significantly increased, leading to the production of the types of beans we see today.
Because of their history of favoring stronger beans, many still rely on Brazil for espresso blends alone. However, there are other, high-quality, single-origin coffees that are worth your time. These coffees tend to have notes of caramel and chocolate, which create an intensely pleasant sweetness. Additionally, they tend to be rich bodied and only mildly acidic.
When talking about Brazilian coffee, it’s impossible to deny the sheer amount of variation present in the nation. They have 14 major coffee-producing regions! They are dispersed between 7 different states as follows (sub-regions in parenthesis; states bolded): Minas Gerais (Sul de Minas, Cerrado Mineiro, Chapada de Minas, Matas de Minas), São Paulo (Mogiana, Centro-Oeste), Espírito Santo (Montanhas do Espírito Santo, Conilon Capixaba), Bahia (Planalto da Bahia, Cerrado da Bahia, and Atlantico Baiano), Paraná (Norte Pionerio do Paraná), Rondonia, and Rio de Janeiro.
Minas Gerais’s subregions account for about 50% of the total coffee production; however 60% of that is produced by small farms. The Port of Santos is located in São Paulo and the Cerrado region is in Bahia. Additionally, Espírito Santo produces the second highest volume of beans, but they are primarily Robusta, which is why you won’t see much mention of it here.
At this point, we’re sure you can imagine the incredible diversity within this country. So there are options ranging from very traditional, strong espresso-like coffee, to new, experimental coffees with intricate profiles.
Best Brazilian Coffee
Santana Estate Brazilian Peaberry Coffee by Volcanica
This medium roast Peaberry Coffee is an example of the higher-qualities that Brazilian beans are capable of reaching. With a primarily hazlenutty flavor and notes of raspberry, this coffee meets the expectations for smoothness and complexity of Santana estate coffee. The aroma is intense and the body is rich. Also, the medium roast means you’re getting a balanced cup.
Volcanica is one of our more trusted brands. You can order from the amazon link above or directly form their website. Either way, you can count on excellent, fresh coffee.
Delta Roasted Brazilian Coffee
This medium roast coffee is a blend of a variety of several different regions in Brazil. The blend is higher in acidity than other options and offers an overall sweet taste with a medium body and fruity aroma. It is best served as an espresso, brewed either in a machine or Moka pot.
The brand itself is well-loved. in Portugal and stands as a market leader there. Their catchline is that they are a brand with a “human face.”
Brazil Santos Arabica Coffee by Buffalo Buck’s
This is a 100% Arabica medium roast from the Cerrado region (read about “growing environment” in the FAQ section to see why that’s important). Keep an eye out for coffee’s labeled as Brazil Santos, as this label is generally a good indicator of higher-quality.
This is a pricier Brazilian option, but the wonderfully smooth feel and pleasant fruit-to-chocolate flavor and aroma make it worth the splurge. It has a medium body and consistent brew thanks to the micro-roasting practices.
Brazilian Santos by Coffee Bean Direct
Here is another Brazilian Santos option, this time from Coffee Bean Direct, which purchases beans directly from Brazilian companies. Santos is a Bourbon blend, a variety of the Arabica beans. This option is a light roast that is very smooth with a low body, cinnamon nuance, and low acidity.
The 5 lb bag might be a bit much if you’re going it alone, so we’ve included the link to the 3 pack of 16 oz bags. That way you can either keep them sealed a bit longer yourself or gift the extras to friends. However, if you’e in a full house of coffee-drinkers, the 5 lb might be more pragmatic.
Tradicional by Café Pilao
If you are on the hunt for something with the traditional Brazilian profile, this is the one for you. Coming from the number one coffee brand in Brazil, this full bodied brew has a classically Brazilian vibe. It makes a pretty humble and subtle brew with notes of fermented fruit.
Alternatively, you can try Cafe Caboclo brand for a similar feel. This brand is also favored by natives as a day-to-day go-to coffee.
Classico by Santa Clara
Another Brazilian brand, Santa Clara, offers a slightly stepped-up version of the traditional Brazilian coffee. Santa Clara beans are roasted by leading coffee producer Cafe 3 Coracoes and are 100% certified organic. You’ll get a rich, strong coffee with a balanced body.
So if you’re wanting something with an authentic feel that’s a bit higher quality than some of the other available options, this is the one for you.
Brazilian Coffee Brands
In case you are looking to order your Brazilian coffee from a specifically Brazilian brand, here’s a break down of some of your top options (aside from the ones mentioned above).
Brazil Santos Coffee
We mention Santos coffee earlier in this article, but here is a little extra info on it. Bourbon Santos is a mid to high quality, washed coffee from Brazil. These coffees generally have more pronounced fruit flavors and acidity.
Café Bom Dia
If you are looking for sustainability, this is the brand for you. This gourmet coffee brand is the largest sustainable coffee producer in the country and offers single origin, fresh roasted coffee. It brews a smooth cup with a heavy body, lending it a luxurious, silky mouthfeel complemented by sweet, bright citrus notes.
Café do Ponto
This brand’s beans are produced in the São Paulo and Minas Gerais estates in Brazil. These farms come together to create an impressive blend with a vibrant flavor and smooth finish. The blend comes medium roasted with a fine grind.
For the lovers of dark-roasted intensity, Melitta Extra Strong Coffee is a great option. With it, you get a distinctly strong brew with and equally intense aroma. Melitta is commonly considered one of the best specifically Brazilian brands.
Cooxupé is a private coffee cooperative and is in fact the largest one both in and outside of Brazil. Like Café do Ponto, the beans are from Arabica-producing estates located in São Paulo and Minas Gerais.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much of the world’s coffee production is Brazil responsible for?
While Brazil’s coffee industry did see a bit of decline in the late 20th century, its reign as the top producer of coffee in the world remains intact. In fact, it has held that position for the last 150 years. It is both both the leading producer and exporter of coffee in the world, dominating roughly 1/3 of the global coffee production. In 2016, that meant producing about 7.26 billion pounds of coffee.
Fun fact: Coffee plantations cover an incredible ~10,000 square miles of the country.
How does the classification system work?
Brazil has a long, complex history of developing a coffee classification system. The result that remains in effect today is a highly detailed system that far overshadows the complexity of many other countries. The ranking is based off of 3 different factors: screen sorting (size), color, and cupping (flavor).
The resulting ranks are strictly soft, soft, softish, hard, riada, rio, and rio zona (from best to worst).
What is the growing environment like?
On the brighter side of things, Brazil has pretty consistently temperate weather, which is great for producing both Robusta and Arabica beans. However, Brazilian coffee is generally grown at pretty low altitudes. Very few farms are actually able to achieve a high enough growing altitude to be recognized as premium by your resident coffee snob. Nonetheless, there are some promising coffee-growing regions that might make even the staunchest critics reconsider.
High-end Brazilian coffee comes from three main growing areas: Mogiana, Sul Minas, and Cerrado. Mogiana is the oldest and has incredible, rich red soil that produced sweet, full-bodied and balanced coffees. Sul Minas is a hilly region at the heart of coffee country and houses two of the most well-known coffee estates: Ipanema and Monte Alegre.
Lastly, Cerrado is the newest and most promising growing region. Located on a high, semi-arid plateau, the weather is consistently clear and dry during the harvest season. This helps tremendously with the drying process, giving the hope of truly high-quality beans.
What is the best brewing method?
As we mentioned earlier, this is the go-to for most Brazilian coffees. And honestly, it is difficult to find an espresso blend that doesn’t have Brazilian beans in it. The chocolate notes and full body of even the mid-tier beans lend themselves quite well to this method.
The French Press lends itself well to heavy, full-bodied coffee’s. Plus, Brazilian coffee’s naturally low acidity means the long-steep isn’t going to give you an unpleasantly sour brew. Instead, you’ll get more out of those sweet chocolate notes we mentioned.
Because Brazilian coffee is known for being mellow and smooth, it tends to do well as a cold brew. When prepared this way, the coffee can be delightfully refreshing.
What’re the benefits of being a “blend” or “filler” coffee?
Because of the nature of the majority of Brazilian beans–that is, relatively mellow flavor with high production rates– they are often used as fillers in coffee blends. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, the mild or ambiguous flavor profile allows the more distinct profiles of other beans to be showcased. Second, the high production rates mean that Brazilian coffee is relatively cheap. Combined, these factors make Brazilian coffee perfect to use in blends as to both maintain quality and costs.
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