Coffee was first introduced to Brazil in the 1700s when Francisco de Melo Palheta planted the crop in the northern region of Para. Since then, Brazil has become the largest coffee producer in the world, supplying about 30% of the world’s coffee.
Brazil’s colonial history is tainted by the use of slavery; exploitation which allowed the industrialisation (and the consequent growth) of agriculture in Brazil, not to mention the rapid growth of coffee production in the country. Yet, even after the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888, the market developed a strong demand for the crop, and the coffee harvests still proved to be both successful and efficient.
Coffee production experienced a boom in the first half of the 1800s, resulting in a strong demand for the beverage, both domestically and globally. By 1940, Brazil was producing almost a quarter of the world’s coffee. While Brazil has adopted a highly industrialised approach to coffee - an approach which can result in an inferior quality - the nation’s reputation of producing exquisite and delicious coffee remains tenable.
In the coffee-producing areas of Brazil, you’ll be able to find a range of traditional and more experimental varieties, including Bourbon, Mundo Novo and Cutacaí (amongst others). When the plethora of varieties are combined with the range of coffee plantations (from small family establishments to enormous plantations), it makes Brazil’s coffee offering a force to be reckoned with.
The majority of Brazilian coffees undergo a natural (unwashed) or pulped natural (semi-washed) process; the former process involves the coffee cherry is picked and dried, without the removal of skin. This process is known for adding body and complexity to the flavour profile, and is benefited by the low rainfall and increased sunshine of Brazil’s climate.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of Brazil’s key coffee-producing regions.
Minas Gerais is responsible for producing almost half of the coffee in Brazil, thus making it a region of high importance. Minas Gerais boasts an ideal environment for growing coffee, with its rich soils, high altitudes and tropical climates being perfect for producing large yields of coffee. The state is home to four major producing regions: Cerrado de Minas, Chapada de Minas, Matas de Minas and Sul de Minas, all of which are known for producing a range of coffee varietals (including Catuaí, Icatu and Mundo Novo).
Bordered by Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Minas Gerais and the Atlantic Ocean, the small territory of Espírito Santo is known for its unique microclimate, which is perfectly conducive for coffee farming. Espírito Santo is home to predominantly small coffee farm establishments, many of which have a strong cultural identity in the Capixaba tradition. The coffee that is grown in Espírito Santo includes such varietals as Mundo Novo and Catuaí.
Located in the northeast of Brazil, the region of Bahia has one of the highest productivity rates in the country; an impressive feat considering that Bahia only started growing coffee in the late 1970s. Along with Arabica (which comprises about 75% of Bahia’s coffee production), the region is known for producing varietals such as Conilon (Robusta) and the sweet-flavoured Catuai.
São Paulo has a strong history of coffee production, as it was one of the first regions that initiated coffee growing in Brazil. Since then, farmers in São Paulo have taken advantage of the beneficial climate and conditions to produce a range of varietals, such as Mundo Novo, Catuaí and Obatan. Alongside having a strong reputation for producing high-quality coffee, many of the farmers of the São Paulo region have gained UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certifications for their establishments.
Image by Cafe Imports