Brazilian Coffee: Guide to Becoming a Leading Exporter


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Brazil is one of the countries that are highly known in the world of coffee. Being the current world’s leading grower and exporter of coffee beans, there’s no question about the quality of the coffee produced in the country.

Known for the flavors of intense sweetness with notes of chocolate and caramel, authentic Brazilian coffee is a must for all coffee lovers. This coffee is even worth traveling to Brazil for some aficionados as nothing compares to premium Brazilian coffee that is traditionally prepared fresh from the growers.

But the Brazilian coffee didn’t earn its stellar reputation overnight —it took years of attentive cultivating and skills mastered to reach the current status of their premium coffee.

Focus Brazilian coffee what makes it the World’s Leading Exporter

History of Coffee in Brazil

Before Brazil became the Land of Coffee, the industry wasn’t popular amongst farmers in the first place. In fact, coffee is only considered to be a minor crop for locals.

This is why even if the very first coffee plantation in Brazil was established in 1770, it wasn’t until the 1800s that the coffee industry became a huge hit in the country. In 1800, Brazil only clocked at less than 2,000 pounds of coffee exports. Come the year 1840, the country has reached more than 137,300,000 pounds of coffee distributed to the rest of the world.

But like coffee, there is a bitter side to the history of coffee planting in Brazil. These production booms that the country experience was largely due to Brazil’s patronage of slave laborers.

More than any other country, Brazil became host to over five million slaves who were involved in the expansion and mining of gold and diamond. At least two million slaves were specifically assigned to agriculture —thus, the drastic boom of the coffee industry.

How Brazil Makes Over A Third Of The World’s Coffee

Rightfully, the abolition began in 1826 with the signing of the British-Brazilian Treaty. To compensate for the loss of slaves, plantation owners looked for immigrant workers for cheap labor. Between the years of 1840s to 1850s, immigrants were subjected to horrible working conditions as the transition to a slave-free country is ongoing.

Revolts and rebellions were common, especially in large-scale plantations. Eventually, the Brazilian government passed many laws to regulate the importation of foreign labor and provide high importance to the working conditions of the immigrants.

In the present day, Brazilian coffee is now regarded to be one of the best in the world. Specialty coffees are well-cultivated and taken attention to, with the government even forming the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association.

Understanding Coffee Culture & Domestic Consumption

The coffee culture in Brazil is unlike any other country. With such a high expectation to produce the very best beans in the world, this country has cultivated many varieties and specialty beans that are unique to Brazil.

To understand the local coffee culture in Brazil, one must first know about the stringent export quality control for Brazilian coffee beans. Since this is a source of pride and honor for Brazil, only the best coffees are exported while the not-so-good coffee is reserved for local consumption.

But of course, Brazil’s definition of lower graded coffee is still really good and even matches the highest quality beans that other countries produce. Despite being lower graded locally, it is still on the higher echelon of international coffee standards.

Because of this, high-quality Brazilian coffee is widely available and affordable for people. It’s also normal to serve free coffee in public establishments.

Since Brazil takes special attention to nurture exquisite flavors, they love to enjoy their coffee black with a lot of sugar especially if it’s a mass-market local brand. Lower graded Brazilian coffee beans tend to have a little bit of bitter taste when compared to higher graded ones because it’s produced in a lower altitude.

Locals also tend to stay away from coffee types that have too many flavorings or extra ingredients. For them, this muddles the true flavor of the beans that were carefully produced by the coffee farmers to have the right taste for consumption.

Brazil Growing Regions and Condition

Focus Brazilian coffee what makes it the World’s Leading Exporter

Microclimates in the country vary from region to region. These growing conditions determine the variety and the quality of the coffee beans produced by the coffee farmers.

While Brazil has a lot of coffee plantations around the country, the most famous regions that have ideal growing conditions for coffee are:

  1. Minas Gerais
  2. Sao Paulo
  3. Bahia
  4. Espirito Santo

If your Brazilian coffee beans came from any of those regions, expect them to be of higher quality grade. In fact, the most important growing condition that Brazil considers in grading their coffee for exportation is the altitude of the plantation.

That’s because Brazilian coffee beans that are harvested from high-altitude plantations are characterized by having less to no bitter taste at all —which is the trademark of authentic Brazilian coffee. A high altitude contributes to the better development of flavors and makes the coffee beans have floral and fruity notes with low acidity.

Generally, coffee beans that were cultivated in lower regions will have a tinge of bitterness when compared to beans that were grown in regions with higher altitudes.

Brazilian Coffee Processing Methods

There are three main processes that coffee farmers use in the methods of coffee production: wet/washed, dry/natural, and semi-washed/pulped natural.

Wet/Washed Process

The wet process, compared to other methods of processing used in Brazil, is relatively newer. To keep it simple, water is used in this process to strip the four layers of coffee beans. The coffee beans are rinsed out at every step of the way bringing a crisp and cleaner taste to the coffee.

Dry/Natural Process

The majority of coffee farmers in Brazil use the dry process in coffeemaking. It’s an unpredictable, labor-intensive process that the country perfected over the years.

Through this process, the coffee is left to dry while it’s still in its cherry resulting in a much fuller body with a sweeter tone and smoother mouthfeel. The most complex part of this process is preventing the fermentation; hence, Brazil investing a lot of money in developing new drying systems.

Semi-Washed/Pulped Natural

In the semi-washed process, the coffee is pulped in a similar way during the wet process but skipping the fermentation stage like the dry process. As a result, the beans develop a flavor that is in between the washed and natural processes of coffeemaking.

The flavors are more on the sweeter side yet still have that acidic taste that wet-processed beans don’t have. Brazil paved the way to popularizing the semi-washed process in coffeemaking and produces the best pulped natural coffee in the world.

Experiencing the Taste & Flavor Notes

Focus Brazilian coffee what makes it the World’s Leading Exporter

Brazilian coffee is beloved by all because of its unique flavor profile. The majority of the coffee exported in Brazil is used in a professional setting because the standard across all beans are the same and are always consistent.

The best flavor profile that can describe Brazilian coffee is fruity without being acidic. The careful growing stage and processing methods are refined by coffee farmers for generations in order to achieve the best flavors out of the beans while removing the less desirable ones.

When we think of standard black coffee, we often reach the conclusion that strong flavors equate to bitterness. The bolder the coffee, the more bitter it is to the palate.

But in the case of Brazilian coffee, high-altitude-growing beans are cleaner to taste and have minimal to no notes of unpleasant bitterness. That way, you’re able to enjoy the flavors of your coffee more and appreciate the hard work that goes behind each coffee bean.

Overcoming the Challenges of Brazilian Coffee Production

Focus Brazilian coffee what makes it the World’s Leading Exporter

The coffee production in Brazil is starting to lean on diversifying as each coffee regions look more into specialized coffee beans.

Aside from producing new varieties of coffee, there’s a deeper, more urgent matter that the coffee industry in this country needs to address —the low genetic diversity of Brazilian coffee beans.

Despite the fact that every region in Brazil produces different types of coffee, the genetic composition of each variant is actually quite closely related to each other. There are only a few modified ancestral lines between them which result in a different coffee bean variant.

This low genetic diversity makes the coffee plants highly vulnerable to pests and diseases. If one variant catches something undesirable, then it’s easy to spread it to other variants of Brazilian coffee beans. This will not only kill the crops and hurt the coffee farmers, but this can also devastate the national economy of Brazil.

Brazil already had a couple of cases where coffee crops were endangered from different bouts of diseases and pests. In the 70s, the introduction of leaf rust was devastating to the industry and was only controlled when chemical control was developed and widely used.

Many agricultural scientists in Brazil dedicate their lives works to address the issues of low diversity in Brazilian coffee beans. One promising angle is the inter-regional incorporation of coffee varieties which will eventually make way into national breeding programs.

Coffee breeding is also closely monitored to make sure that the varieties bred aren’t too close to each other. With the challenging terrains of Brazil except for few ideal coffee-growing regions, agriculturists and coffee farmers are continuously working to introduce new varieties to existing coffee plants. This is crucial for the country to have the desired genetic diversity in order to pursue a sustainable coffee industry.

Conclusion

With such a high distinction in the world of coffee, it is safe to say that every coffee lover should try Brazilian coffee. The hard work and multi-generational cultivation of coffeemaking and processing are evident in each sip that you take.

Regardless if you bought it from a local shop near you or traveled miles to experience Brazilian coffee straight from the plantation, it’s truly a taste like no other.

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