People of the world drink more coffee from Brazil than any other nation. Why? Is it worthy of all that attention? Here, we explore all there is to know about the Brazilian coffee bean, celebrate its successes as well as point out some flaws, and help you seek out the best cup of Brazilian coffee there is.
Here are three things you need to know about Brazilian coffee.
1. Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world
For the last 150 years, Brazil has consistently been amongst the world’s largest coffee producers and it is dominant today. In 2021, for example, it exported 3.2 million 60-kilo sacks of coffee.
That’s three times as much as Columbia and more than five times more than Indonesia, both of whom are also in the top five producers. Only Vietnam comes close.
In many ways, you can think of Brazil as the farm of the world. It’s also the world’s largest producer of soy, sugarcane, oranges, and (unsurprisingly) Brazil nuts. It exports huge volumes of cocoa, banana, cotton and avocado all over the world. In short, Brazil is an excellent place to grow crops. Why?
Firstly, Brazil is a huge country. It’s the fifth largest in the world by area and population so the resources are there to support a vast agricultural effort. Around 3.5 million people in Brazil are part of the coffee supply chain and 10,000 square miles are dedicated to coffee production. That area is equivalent to a small country, such as Haiti or Rwanda. Brazil is also covered with rainforest and blessed with a warm, tropical climate. Many edible plants thrive in these conditions, including coffee.
These good fortunes mean that, at times, Brazil has completely dominated the coffee markets. One hundred years ago, it produced 80% of coffee drunk around the world. This is why it might be surprising to learn that…
2. A lot of Brazilian coffee is not very good
While Brazil may have the opportunity to grow lots of coffee, much of the land has less than ideal conditions to grow the best coffee. It’s the embodiment of quantity over quality.
Why is this? While Brazil has temperate weather conditions and large areas of land, most of this is at a relatively low altitude for growing coffee. At lower altitudes, coffee plants can grow quickly and produce large harvests. Higher altitudes, however, are needed for the best-tasting coffee. This is because the plants grow more slowly and put more energy into reproduction (i.e., the beans). This will result in more of the sugars that make for an excellent-tasting coffee.
Brazil produces vast amounts of Arabica beans. You’ll find these in everyday supermarket blends and instant coffee. It also grows a lot of Robusta. Robusta is popular locally and is brewed into cafezinho, a hugely popular Brazilian drink.
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Coffees like Arabica and Robusta can be grown on large farms at lower altitudes and are therefore more easily harvested using machinery. While this means huge volumes can be produced, the taste is compromised. Machine picking cannot weed out unripe coffee cherries. Arabica cherries ripen at different rates which means a cultivated crop is likely to include a lot of unripe cherries, affecting the taste.
Together, lower altitude conditions and mass-farming methods compromise the quality of much Brazilian coffee. However, don’t dismiss all Brazilian coffees.
3. Great Brazilian coffee is harder to find but worth the effort
There are some excellent Brazilian coffee beans available. They’ve been grown at higher altitudes by dedicated farmers using traditional methods. These farms are much, much smaller than the big operations producing Arabica and Robusta. That makes them harder to find and you’ll have to search outside your local supermarket.
To seek out the best Brazilian coffee bean types, look for single-origin coffees. Being a single-origin coffee means the bean belongs to a single farm, farmer and their methods, plus a particular season, harvest, and processing method. These factors give the coffee a unique flavour profile. In Brazil, like elsewhere, single-origin coffees are usually grown at the highest altitudes possible, using the optimal farming and processing methods.
This means that while not all Brazilian coffee is great, there are some shining examples to match the very best from elsewhere. Here is one incredible Brazilian coffee available online here at Three.
These single-origin beans come from a family-run farm covering 8 hectares. The family grows the Yellow Catuai variety of coffee. What makes these beans stand out is the length of time taken to dry the coffee cherries. Slow drying has brought out a sweetness and soft acidity, combining to create a flavour profile akin to nuts, caramel and chocolate.
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For more incredible coffees from the world’s greatest producers, why not explore more of our unique single-origin beans and blends available to buy online today?