Brazilian Coffee: All you Need to Know

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Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers of coffee for both Robusta and Arabica beans, being responsible for around 40% of global coffee production.

If you’re into specialty coffee, you will have come across many varieties from Brazil. Not only is Brazilian single-origin very popular, but beans from Brazil are also present in many blends.

So what makes Brazilian coffee so great and what varieties should you look out for?

Read on as we take a deep dive into the world of Brazilian coffees, covering everything from the history of coffee in Brazil right through the difference between Brazilian, Colombian and Ethiopian coffee.

The history of coffee in Brazil

A Brazilian coffee farm

The history of coffee in Brazil is thought to have started in the year 1727 when sergeant Francisco de Melo Palheta planted the first coffee tree in Paraná after securing some coffee seeds from the governor’s wife in the French Guiana.

The crop began growing rapidly thanks to the climate conditions and by 1830 Brazil was producing 30% of the world’s coffee.

Brazil started focusing on growing coffee on a massive scale but most plantations were manned by slaves. When slavery was abolished in 1888 plantations took a big hit followed by the Great Depression of 1930 and the entrance to the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) in 1962. This agreement established quotas and prices for the world’s dominant coffee producers which affected Brazil.

It wasn’t until the ICA’s quotas were dropped that Brazil started becoming one of the greatest exporters of coffee in the world once again.

Brazil now has 14 coffee growing regions and an estimated 300,000 coffee farms.

Brazilian coffee production

A Brazilian coffee farmer

Brazil has been the world’s largest coffee producer for over 100 years. Nowadays, it is responsible for 40% of the total coffee consumption.

In 2020, Brazil produced 58 million coffee bags, each weighing around 60 kilos.

In 2021, Brazil suffered a drought followed by freezing temperatures which ended up affecting 200,000 hectares of coffee farms. It is estimated that 20% of the areas that had coffee trees will need to be transplanted, affecting the crops for the following two years.

Thanks to its large scale production, Brazil’s coffee exports have a significant impact on global coffee prices.

The cost associated with the 2021 droughts will likely be passed on to Australian coffee drinkers in 2022, both those buying beans directly from local roasteries and those purchasing coffee at cafes.

Brazilian coffee varieties

About 80% of the coffee grown in Brazil comes from the Arabica variety. Of these, the most common bean varietals are bourbon, catimor, caturra, catuai, icatu, mundo novo, pacamara and typical.

The other 20% of the beans are from the Robusta family and are destined for cheap coffee blends or lower quality coffees such as instant coffee.

In order to get the most out of the coffee plant, many agronomists breed hybrids that adapt to that specific region. It is common for a coffee plant in Brazil to have many coffee varieties.

How to roast Brazilian coffee beans

Coffee roasting equipment

Due to relatively low elevations, coffee beans from Brazil are not very dense.

Green coffee beans that have a low density will start roasting faster because the water percentage will evaporate more quickly.

This means that a medium-dark roast will be ideal for Brazilian coffees as it will enhance the nutty and chocolate flavour while delivering a medium body and low acidity.

Dark roasts can develop a slightly bitter flavour in the coffee which can sometimes overpower the chocolate taste.

We recommend doing a few rounds of sample roasting (whenever possible) in order to evaluate the aroma, flavour and acidity.

Note that some Brazilian varieties might still benefit from having a darker roast, especially those coffee beans intended for espresso.

What is Brazilian Santos coffee?

Santos is by far the most traditional coffee from Brazil.

The name Santos comes from the market where these coffee beans are usually shipped from.

This type of coffee uses the natural process which means that the coffee beans were dried inside the fruit, delivering a specific sweetness when brewing.

It also has a medium roast to highlight some fruit notes.

How do people drink Coffee in Brazil?

A Brazilian woman drinking coffee

Brazil has a huge coffee culture and it is often considered a national source of pride as 98% of Brazilian households drink coffee on a daily basis.

However, it is important to mention that, as the best Arabica coffee beans that Brazil produces are generally saved for export, most Brazilians drink coffee from lower-quality beans.

Coffee in Brazil is usually drunk as a filtered cup of black coffee that is served boiling hot and is often sweetened with sugar.

People in Brazil do not like to overcomplicate things with espresso machines or extra ingredients, and they will have their coffee as pure and simple as they can get it.

When going to restaurants, it is common for waiters to ask “quer um cafézinho?” (would you like a coffee?) at the end of every meal. Children in brazil also drink coffee with milk from a young age.

Brazilian coffee FAQ

What is special about Brazilian coffee?

One of the things that make the coffee from Brazil so special within the coffee industry is the flavour profiles. The coffee beans offer notes of caramel, cacao, nuts and spices with a full, rich body and almost no acidity. Most consumers, including coffee shops, look for that specific profile when choosing what coffee to buy as these types of beans pair well with milk.

What does Brazilian coffee taste like?

As mentioned earlier, coffee from Brazil is known for its chocolatey and nutty flavours. Cocoa, almond and caramel are some of the most popular notes you will be able to detect.

What is the difference between Colombian and Brazilian coffee?

The difference between Brazilian and Colombian coffee is determined by the taste profile. While Colombian coffee is also known for having cacao and nutty notes, the origin tends to highlight more acidic and exotic flavours. On the other hand, Brazil is known for having beans with the lowest acidity, which complements the creaminess that you feel on the mouth. Colombian beans can work well for espresso and pour-over, while Brazilian beans shine in espresso.

What is the difference between Ethiopian and Brazilian coffee?

Ethiopian coffee beans are the complete opposite of Brazilian ones. Ethiopian coffee is known for having jasmine, lemon, berries and tea-like profiles. A medium-light or light roast is preferred as this will make the natural acidity of the coffee shine. Ethiopian beans are the preferred option for pour-overs. Brazil is the complete opposite as the medium and medium-dark roast highlight the heaviness of the coffee as well as the chocolaty and nutty notes.