PurelyCoffeeBeans wonders about his most recent cup of Brazilian Coffee? It's true that, when it comes to coffee, Brazil is the undisputed world leader.
In the fifty years that Brazil has been producing and marketing coffee it produces approximately 2/3rds of the world's annual supply. But not many people know that Brazil is the world's second largest consumer of the tasty brew!
So, we really have to thank the Brazilians for being so generous with their coffee that so much of it is exported! In fact, Brazil coffee beans are found in most coffee shops and in home coffee makers worldwide.
You can find them in exclusive coffee brands, and in innocuous blends. So we really have to thank the Brazilians for being generous with their coffee and allowing so much of it to be exported!
What can I learn about Brazilian Coffee?
Where does Brazilian Coffee come from?
What types of beans can you get from Brazil?
How is it produced?
Origins of Brazil Coffee
It is ironic that the coffee plant isn't native to the country that produces the most coffee on earth. Francisco de Melio Palheta from Cayenne, French Guiana supposedly smuggled it into the country in 1727 although the rumor has never been substantiated.
Nevertheless, Brazil provides the rich soil and the hot humid climate that coffee plants thrive in. And the rest is history. Today, Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world and many types of coffee beans are grown throughout the country.
Robusta and Arabica Beans, too
Because Brazil doesn't have the high altitude of most coffee-rich countries, the beans are less acidic tasting. The low altitude fields produce both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.
Arabica beans are the type of coffee beans you might find in high-end products available in up-scale coffee shops and in grocery stores or in premium or specialty coffee brands. Around eighty percent of that coffee is Arabica Coffee.
Robusta beans are used in instant coffees and are generally considered to be of lower quality, which explains why instant coffee never seems to have the body and richness of brewed coffee. Robusta makes up about 20% of Brazil's coffee bean crop.
Top Quality – Small Farming
Though the coffee beans produced in Brazil were previously blended only with other coffees, Brazilian coffee has now developed a reputation as a stand-alone bean with its own unique characteristics.
Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, growing about twenty five percent of the world's coffee supply, despite the fact that the majority of coffee farms in Brazil are small, less than ten hectares.
Brazilian coffee trees flower about three times a year and are harvested shortly thereafter. The beans are sorted from high quality for better blends to lesser quality for mass-produced coffee.
There are two main growing districts for Brazil coffee in Brazil, Serra Abaixo below the mountains and Serra Acima above the mountains. In recent years the Serra Acima area has faced drought that produced inferior quality beans.
Because coffee needs a combination of heat and humidity, minimal rainfall and ideal altitude for reasonable quality, it can be a very fickle crop in such difficult circumstances.
Even when things go right, the size of each region and the differences in climate from region to region are significant enough to have a profound effect on the flavor of the beans.
Coffee Processing: Coffee Origins
Brazil coffee is processed using wet, dry, and semi-washed processes. Thanks to the weather in Brazil, most beans are processed using the natural (dry) method.
- Dry processed coffee is coffee that is dried while it is still in the cherry, creating a sweet, smooth, complex flavor in the beans that is a favorite among coffee drinkers. In the dry method, coffee beans are dried while still in the fruit; this makes a sweet, smooth coffee but is a time-consuming process.
- Wet processing removes the 4 layers that are around the bean and produces a fruitier, cleaner coffee.
- Sun-drying, though more economical and used more widely, doesn't produce the quality of coffee preferred by restaurants and discerning coffee lovers.
As with any other type of coffee the flavor of the coffee is largely dependant on the method used to process it. Once the beans are picked and processed, unique flavor profiles begin to develop that are specific to the region where the beans were grown and processed.
Brazilian Coffee Traditions
In Brazil, coffee is enjoyed with breakfast and lunch and after dinner. Brazilians use the term cafezinho, which is Portuguese for "little coffee". Many Brazilians even take a special break, called "cafezinho hour" in which they enjoy strong coffee served in tiny cups.
Drinking these tiny cups of heavily sweetened and very strong coffee is a far different experience than the traditional "American" coffee that we are accustomed to, but the ceremony surrounding the beverage shows the love that Brazilians have for coffee.
Modern Flavors: Pushing the Flavors
Brazilian manufacturers have been experimenting with a new method, called the re-passed method, for processing beans. When the coffee cherries are picked, they are placed into a vat of water and any cherries that float are usually discarded.
Recently, though, the re-passed (also called 'raisin') coffee beans have a flavor profile that many coffee drinkers find to be far sweeter than traditional coffees because of the extended ripening time before fermentation begins. You can read more about these methods for Coffee Processing.
Santos Beans: Best Brazilian coffee
The Brazilian Santos Coffee are perhaps the best known coffee beans, from the port of the same name and harvested from the original plants that were imported from French Guiana. These beans produce the highest quality coffee, and are considered the best Brazil has to offer. Bourbon Santos is considered the best while Flat Bean Santos is of lesser quality but still acceptable to most coffee drinkers.
Altitude also matters, as beans grown at lower altitudes pick up ashy, bitter flavors. If you can find a City to Full City roast, you'll be drinking the best Brazil has to offer; the light roast is deliciously nutty and the dark is smooth and chocolaty.
It's a favorite!
The smooth yet sweet flavor of Brazilian beans is a favorite of coffee drinkers who want a flavorful roast without the bitterness that some coffees have. Brazilian coffee is one of the primary beans used in most espresso blends, partly due to the low acidity and strong flavor profile of the beans.
Brazilian coffee has become increasingly popular thanks to many large commercial companies that market and sell Brazilian coffee blends. These blends are found on every coffee aisle and in most coffee houses and represent the most common type of coffee that you can buy.
I've included some samples of coffee with pure Brazilian Beans (Coffee Bean Direct Santos Coffee, Organic Camano) and blends which is more typical of Brazilian coffees (Lavazza's inBlu, and Gevalia's Brazilian Estates)
However, Brazil has only recently begun entering the specialty coffee market, competing with specialist blends produced in Ethiopia, Sumatra, and other well-known coffee exporting countries.
Other Brazilian Coffee Beans
You may also find Brazil Cerrado Coffee Beans (in Organic, Green Bean, and Ground) worth trying. I'll be happy to add more suggestions ... so drop me a line with information about the Brazilian Coffees you've tried.
At PurelyCoffeeBeans, I’ve answered lots of questions over the years. You’ll find the questions and their answers scattered throughout the site!
I’m always open to more questions, if you’re frustrated or curious, why don’t you drop me a line! This week we welcome!
I'd like to buy Brazilian coffee, but which one?
by Ann from Michigan
I have a friend who loves brazilian coffee, could you tell me where I can order or buy some for a christmas gift? I am not a coffee drinker, so I don't know much about it. Thank you.
It's really hard to know what your friend loves most about Brazilian coffee. I will say that it's likely that by spending a bit more on the beans, you're likely to find a much better coffee. Don't go for volume over quality! I already outlined some suggestions on my Brazil Coffee page, and you can explore them.
I would add: don't buy ground, buy freshly roasted (if you can); avoid popular brand names (including the biggest)... you can find better
quality elsewhere; and if you live in a city, you should certainly be able to find locally roasted coffee. Just google "City" + coffee roaster.
I have enjoyed coffee also from Guatemala, Colombia, ... so don't feel constrained if you can't find something palatable from Brazil.
Please feel free to let me know if I missed anything or your experience is different!