Brazilian Coffee Beans: Should You Try Brazil Coffee Beans in 2021?
The Brazilian rainforest is a lush and dense arena as far as the eye can see, so it’s no wonder that Brazil is globally renowned for its fertile soil and potent agriculture. Brazilian coffee holds no exception which is why it makes for some delicious and fresh coffee beans!
Brazilian coffee is imported around the world for its rich flavor and unique taste. The beans are high-quality and robust, making this coffee ideal for the casual consumer and the connoisseur. If you’ve been to a local coffee shop recently, you probably saw some Brazilian beans on the shelf. This guide will discuss the history of Brazilian coffee, what makes it so popular, and the different types/varieties grown in the country.TRY OUR BRAZILIAN NATRUAL COFFEE →
The History of Brazilian Coffee
In this section, we’ll discuss coffee's origins in Brazil and how it became the largest producer of specialty coffee in the world. While Brazilian coffee tends to be used for blends, esprecially espresso based blends, they make for a scrumptious single origin as well.
Some of the best Brazilian coffee is capable of holding it's own against a competitors like Kenyan coffee and Ethiopian coffees, which are typically a bit pricier due to their highly sought after flavor profiles.
The Start of Coffee Production in Brazil
Since coffee is not native to the Americas, it had to be brought over by the Europeans. The first coffee grown in Brazil was by Francisco de Melo Palheta in 1727. The seeds for this plant did not come from Europe or Africa, though. Instead, Palheta smuggled the beans from the neighboring colony of French Guiana.
The governor there didn’t want to help the Portuguese with their coffee production, so the beans had to be transported in secret. Legend has it that Palheta seduced the governor’s wife to get the beans.
Once Brazil had its first coffee bushes the industry exploded, reaching Rio de Janeiro in 1770. However, Brazil didn’t start exporting its coffee until the 1800s. Famously, the 1800s had two “coffee booms,” which led to mass consumption in the Americas and Europe. Brazil began its exportation of coffee to respond to these booms.
By the 1820s, plantations in Rio de Janeiro, Sāo Paulo, and Minas were responsible for 20% of the world’s coffee production. A decade later, in the 1830s, coffee had become Brazil’s primary export and upgraded to 30% of the world’s production. By the 1840s, Brazil was up to 40% of world production and became the largest producer of coffee in the world.
By the 1920s, Brazil had over 80% of the world’s supply of coffee and dominated the market. However, this was the peak of their production and this number soon decreased as other countries entered the coffee market.
Brazilian Coffee and Slavery
As with any industry in the Americas, it’s difficult to discuss the history of coffee in Brazil without mentioning slavery. Imported slaves staffed most plantations throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, later being replaced by the domestic slave trade in the 1850s.
When slavery was outlawed in Brazil in 1888, plantations began attracting workers from Japan, neighboring South American countries, and various European nations. Still, the majority of plantation workers were black and some were still enslaved.
This expanding labor force and the financial success from coffee production led to the city of Sāo Paulo becoming the economic center of Brazil. By the 1930s, Sāo Paulo passed Rio de Janeiro with 1 million inhabitants.
Brazilian Coffee Production Today
Today, Brazil makes up about a third of all coffee production worldwide. They are still the largest coffee producer on Earth. Coffee plantations comprise about 27,000 ㎢ of Brazil’s territory. Last year Brazil produced 7.8 billion pounds of coffee.
Brazilian Coffee Beans
Brazilian coffee beans have a soft texture. They are popular because of their low acidity and have a nutty flavor with a little bittersweet chocolate aftertaste. Due to its popularity, people associate Brazil’s coffee with average quality, deeming it nothing special.
However, that depends on the type of Brazil coffee you’re drinking. Depending on the plantation and the variety you can have a splendid cup with rich flavor or something that tastes a little better than instant coffee. Check our analysis of Brazil’s two coffee varieties, Robusta and Arabica, below.
Brazilian Robusta Beans
Robusta coffee originated in Sub-Saharan Africa and is one of the most commonly consumed varieties of the coffee plant today. It doesn’t require a particular environment to grow and is relatively easy to cultivate.
Robusta has a very bitter taste and its high-caffeine content makes it a favorite for instant coffees and espresso blends. It is also strong against pests and other plant problems, also contributing to its easier growth.
Due to its simple cultivation, it is one of the cheapest coffees to produce and most generic or inexpensive brands of coffee are made from Robusta. Coffee experts criticize Robusta because they feel it has less flavor than alternative bean varieties.
In Brazil, Robusta makes up about 20% of their coffee production. They grow Robusta in the Northern parts of Brazil, where the climate is hotter and the terrain is flat, the ideal environment for the plant to grow. Most of these beans are used for Brazilian instant coffees.
Brazil is one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere to produce Robusta. Typically, it is grown by farmers in Asia.
Brazilian Arabica Beans
Arabica coffee is the most commonly consumed type of coffee globally and is widely considered to be tastier and higher-quality than Robusta. Historians say it is the first species of coffee to be cultivated and was discovered in Yemen in the 12th century.
Today, about 70% of the coffee produced globally is Arabic coffee. Almost every coffee blend in coffee-drinking is made primarily from arabica.
It takes about seven years to fully mature and isn’t very resistant to pests. It also needs a precise amount of rain, evenly distributed throughout the year, to flourish. It’s a lot harder to grow than Robusta. It also prefers a cooler climate.
Arabica coffee can be further broken down into sub-categories called varietals. The most popular of which is “Bourbon,” a variety known for its rich caramel taste. In Brazil, bourbon saved their coffee plantations after other varieties lost a stable supply due to a Java plant disease outbreak.
Brazil has two varieties of Bourbon Arabic: Bourbon Vermelho (red) and Bourbon Amarelo (yellow) named for the fruits’ colors. Other coffee varietals in Brazil are Typica and Mundo Novo. Typica is more challenging to grow than bourbon and has a different flavor. Mundo Novo is a hybrid of the Typica and Bourbon.
Arabica coffee is grown in the south of Brazil because of the cooler climate and higher elevation, making for the ideal environment.
Coffee Production in Brazil
Coffee is produced differently in every country where it’s grown. While one country may prefer a certain method, another will excel at something different. This is usually related to the climate and the traditions of the country.
The most common of these processes is the “fully-washed,” which most coffee-producing countries use. However, Brazil prefers the “natural” and “pulped natural” methods. Check what each of these processes is and why Brazil prefers them below.
Natural coffee processing originated in Ethiopia (the birthplace of coffee). It involves drying the beans while the fruit is still on them. It requires pretty unique climate conditions because if it is too humid outside, the fruits can become moldy.
The natural process has received criticism in the modern coffee era because it can result in beans with inconsistent flavors. This is because some of the fruits can be picked before they’re ripe and lead to a different drying process.
Brazil has stuck to this method because they believe it is what gives their coffee its unique taste. The fruit drying around the bean is said to add an element of complexity and sweetness to the coffee that makes Brazil’s blends so unique and identifiable. Some specialists even say that processing coffee in this way for 150 years has led to a cup of Brazilian coffee being recognized worldwide.
Naturally processed coffee beans are supposed to have a more fruity flavor than a washed bean.
Pulped Natural Coffee
The pulped natural process of drying coffee is halfway between natural and washed. When done properly, the coffee can take on a brown sugar taste and the process has also been called ‘Honey Natural” due to how sticky the beans get during drying.
To use the pulped natural method, farmers load the fruits into a machine that removes their skins but not the meat or mucilage. The beans are left to dry with this mucilage still intact to add sweetness and texture to them.
This is one of the hardest coffee processing methods because fermentation and bacteria run rampant on the sticky beans during the drying process. Harvests need to be closely monitored to maintain quality and avoid disaster. The cultivator needs to rake the beans 2-3 times every hour throughout the entire drying process.
After the outer layer of fruit has dried, farmers remove it and shift the beans over to roasters for final processing. Roasting beans in this way gives them Brazil’s signature peanut flavor and heavy body.
Brazil’s Coffee Producing Regions
While Brazil’s coffee-producing history began in the North in the state of Pará, its most popular regions are located in the mountainous south. The higher altitude and cooler temperatures in the region made it ideal for bean growth, especially with the arabica varietals. This section will look at the most popular regions, their specialties, and what type of coffee they produce.
Rondonia is one of the largest producers of Robusta in brazil due to its flat terrain and hot climate. It is on the central-western edge of the country. They usually control their branches in January to accommodate the rising temperatures and humidity during this time of year.
During January, fruit growth and pests/diseases are also monitored. This region produces one of the highest quantities of Robusta beans in the Western Hemisphere.
This region sits just north of Sāo Paulo city in between the regions of Sāo Paulo and Minas Gerais. It is famous for its red soil, which is rich in nutrients and great for growing coffee. They produce arabica here, and it is sweet, rich, and well-rounded.
Mogiana is one of the most popular coffee-producing regions of Brazil and one of its largest producers. The region is made of several small hills and uneven landscapes, so farms are usually small to medium-sized.
Minas Gerais makes up about 50% of brazil’s coffee production. It has four main coffee producing regions: Sul de Minas, Cerrado, Chapada de Minas, and Montanhas de Minas. The state has cheap land compared to other regions and also an inexpensive labor force.
Sul de Minas has an average altitude of 950m and mild temperature year-round. The main varietals it produces are Obatã, Catuai, Catuaí Rubi, Icatu, and Mundo Novo. Cerrado de Minas has achieved high recognition from coffee consumers globally and has a similar status to famous wine-producing regions in France and Italy. The altitude ranges from 800 to 1300m and has distinct seasons with a wet summer and a dry winter.
Chapada de Minas is mostly highlands and valleys and specializes in the mechanical production of coffee. Montanhas de Minas is in the Atlantic Forest and also falls on relatively uneven land. Most of its farms are less than 20 hectares.
Espirito Santo is Brazil’s runner-up in coffee production. It is the largest producer of Robusta beans in Brazil. However, there are also quality arabica beans produced in the region as well.
The region is divided into two sections: Montanhas do Espírito Santo and Conilon Capixaba. In Montanhas they mostly grow Mundo Novo and Catuai. In Conilon they grow Robusta, usually on smaller plantations at low altitudes.
Best Brazillian Coffee
You might think that even the best Brazilian coffee is nothing special due to its prevalence. Countries like Ethiopia and Costa Rica who hold a much smaller portion of the coffee market might outrank them due to their rarity. If you love coffee you should know this is false.
Many factors play into a good cup of coffee and it goes far beyond the country of origin. The farmers who grow the coffee need to take care of the process, and they need to pick the fruits when they’re ripe and dry them carefully. The roasters need to watch the beans and roast them at the right temperature so all the flavor isn’t extinguished.
Once the coffee is exported, how you brew it also plays an important role. Did you buy the coffee pre-ground? Do you have a grinder at home? What method do you use for brewing? All of these things make a significant difference between a good cup of coffee and a mug of dirt.
If you want to get a tremendous Brazilian coffee brand then try our Brazilian beans! These beans are hand-picked by a reputable Brazilian coffee producer. The blend has a chocolaty and nutty taste.TRY OUR BRAZILIAN NATURAL COFFEE →
Brazilian Coffee Brewing Methods
To get maximum flavor out of Brazilian coffee beans you need to brew them properly. At Black ink, we recommend avoiding traditional filter coffee machines and going with a more classical method for the best flavor.
Espresso: Brazil produces the most espresso beans globally, so you can’t go wrong with that method. If you have an espresso machine, this is a great way to get a strong and flavorful cup of coffee.
French Press: French presses also work great with Brazilian coffee brands. With a French press, you want your coffee to sit for about five minutes to be fully absorbed into the water. Highly acidic coffees aren’t great for French presses because they can become muddy or sour. Since Brazilian coffee has low acidity, it’s perfect.
Cold Brew: The low acidity also makes it great for cold brew. Cold-brew should be smooth and refreshing. Low acid makes the cold brew easy to drink and the unique flavors of Brazil’s beans make it delicious.
Cafezinho: If you want a quick cup of Brazilian coffee then we recommend a cafezinho. Traditional filter machines will remove a lot of Brazil’s rich flavors, but the cafezinho will get the job done while preserving the richness.
Fun Facts about Brazilian Coffee
Now that we’ve learned the ins and outs of the Brazilian coffee world let's learn some interesting facts about Brazil and its beans.
Brazil isn’t Widely Recognized as Great Coffee
Despite controlling a large portion of the market, Brazil is not recognized as top of the game in any coffee category. For cheap coffee, most consumers prefer to go to Vietnam. The Robusta that’s grown there is easier to produce and less expensive. For high-quality beans, most connoisseurs prefer Central America (like Columbia or Guatemala) or Africa (Ethiopia).
That being said, the country of Brazil still produces high quality single origin coffee. In fact, we offer a coffee bean at our roastery that cups just as high as any of our African coffees, which just so happens to be a Brazilian!
Brazil is Moving away from Its’ Coffee Dependency
This failure to keep up could be related to Brazil’s rules against importing beans, which can create exciting new flavors highly coveted by coffee fans when blended and mixed.
Brazil’s population isn’t that disappointed. The country's economy is one of the strongest in the world and they want to expand their exports so they aren’t too dependent on one commodity.
There was a time, known as the era of Coffee and Milk, where Brazil’s two largest exports were milk and coffee and their country’s success rose and fell with the goods. Now they are expanding into other industries and diversifying their interests.
Slavery could Still Exist on Some Brazilian Coffee Plantations
When buying Brazilian coffee always make sure it comes from a reputable source. Some of the moderately sized plantations will accept indentured servants or migrant workers and hold them on their property through debt bondage.
Many of these farms also have excessively long workdays as well as poor shelter for the workers. When buying directly from Brazil, check the supplier and research their farms, the internet will have answers and abuse reports. If so, don’t buy!
Brazil has a rich coffee history and is the largest producer in the world. Throughout the last two centuries, Brazil has been supplying coffee all over the world, in coffee shops, chain shops like Starbucks, and supermarkets. If you drink coffee, the odds are you have tried a Brazilian blend.
The regions of Brazil produce coffees of different quality and sometimes different strains altogether. If you prefer the inexpensive robust or the flavorful arabica, Brazil has a cup for you. Remember not to brew using a filter coffee machine and you’ll have a delicious beverage in your mug.
So, if you are searching for the best Brazilian coffee beans to try this year, be sure to give ours a shot. Brazil coffee beans tend to get a lot of scrutiny, but when properly soured and roasted, these beans deliver a taste like no other!TRY OUR BRAZILIAN NATURAL COFFEE →