Brazilian coffee is one of the most common beans you can find. This is because Brazil is responsible for around one-third of coffee cultivated in the world, making the country the largest coffee producer.
There is no doubt that Brazilian coffee beans are plentiful, but are they any good?
Even though Brazilian coffee has traditionally been associated with quantity rather than quality, there are notable specialty coffee beans that can be found in Brazil too.
In this article, we are going to address everything you need to know about Brazilian coffee, including how it grew in popularity, where it is grown, how it tastes and what’s the best way to prepare it.
History of Brazilian Coffee
The coffee first arrived in Brazil in the 18th century and its production prospered during the century after, when it became the largest coffee producer in the world.
There were two big coffee production booms in Brazil. The first one occurred from the 1820s to 1840s and the second one from the 1880s to 1930s, the political period which is referred to as “cafe com leite” or coffee with milk, due to coffee and dairy being the two dominating industries.
Unfortunately, slavery was widespread on the coffee plantations with some of the practices still prevailing even after its abolition in 1888 in Brazil.
Due to the rapid boom, coffee production peaked in the 1920s, when Brazil supplied 80% of the world’s coffee. After the 1950s, this number started decreasing due to rising global production.
Interestingly, the people of Brazil don’t only produce a lot of coffee, but also like to drink it, with Brazil being the country with the highest coffee consumption in the world as well.
Growing Coffee in Brazil
Since most of the country lies within the tropical climate, has stable hot and humid weather, and has rich fertile soils, Brazil has ideal conditions for growing coffee plants.
Compared to other coffee-growing countries, Brazil’s average altitude is lower, around 1,100 meters above sea level. This means that while there are beans that still classify as high-grown coffee, plenty of crops is grown at lower levels.
Brazilian coffee plantations produce a wide range of coffee varietals and both Arabica and Robusta beans, although 80% of the coffee is Brazilian Arabica coffee beans.
Coffee Producing Regions in Brazil
The large production of coffee results in a great diversity of beans being grown in Brazil. There are 14 major coffee-producing regions with both small farms and large estates.
Here are the most notable coffee growing areas in Brazil:
This is the largest coffee-growing estate in Brazil with over 50% of the coffee being produced here.
The second most notable region that grows the best-regarded coffee in Brazil is in the state of Sao Paulo and is exported through Port of Santos, where the Brazil Santos coffee takes its name from.
The ground of different regions in the North-East of the country only started growing coffee in the 70s but it has embraced technology and innovation, which together with consistent weather and good irrigation systems, produces a high yield.
The popular Brazilian Carrado coffee, which is primarily Arabica, is grown here.
This region grows mostly Robusta beans which are not that attractive for the specialty coffee market, but still is the second highest coffee producing region in Brazil by volume.
Brazilian coffee is known for its neutral to low acidity, balanced profile, subtle sweetness, and flavor notes of chocolate and roasted nuts.
Most coffees produced in Brazil are naturally processed, which results in stronger flavor and more body. The washed coffees have a cleaner taste and a medium body.
Brazilian Espresso Coffee
Brazilian coffee is often used in espresso blends at specialty cafes around the world. But what makes this origin so suitable for espresso brewing?
When brewing espresso, it is desirable that the coffee beans aren’t too acidic, with the ultimate goal to produce a well-balanced shot with a subtle sweetness.
Brazilian coffee, with its wonderful sweetness and chocolate and nutty undertones that do not taste bitter even when roasted dark, makes them an ideal choice when making espressos.
Brazilian coffee is also characteristic for its mild flavor, which can help to balance more dominant single origins in espresso blends.
Quantity Or Quality?
In the past, because of its high volume and output, Brazilian coffee has been associated with quantity rather than quality and has been considered a good baseline coffee suitable as a “filler” in blends.
As the specialty coffee market in Europe and North America grew, this has contributed to Brazil producing more premium specialty coffee to meet this demand.
Brazil also has a complex classification system, with coffees sorted and ranked according to their quality. This means that the highly-rated coffee beans are bound to meet your taste expectations.
The high production of Brazilian coffee allows for a wide range of coffee to be produced, which means that while there are plenty of cheap average Brazilian coffees, there is also a significant amount of specialty coffee with an excellent flavor profile.
So don’t make the mistake of underestimating Brazilian coffee!
Best Brazilian Coffee
Out of the beans that can be found in the popular regions, there are two coffees that deserve a special mention – Bourbon Santos and Carmo de Minas coffee.
Bourbon Santos is a specialty-grade coffee that gets its name from the port Santos in São Paulo, where it is shipped from and is regarded as some of the best coffee to buy in Brazil.
Bourbon Santos is a wet-processed coffee grown at lower elevations of around 600-1,200m in the northern Minas Gerais region.
The beans have a light to medium body, low acidity, pleasant aroma, and a smooth, mild, and nutty taste.
Carmo de Minas
This coffee is grown in the southern part of the Minas Gerais region that has fertile soils and higher elevations than most of the country, resulting in a better-tasting coffee.
Carmo de Minas coffee is a little more acidic and has more fruity tasting notes than is typical for Brazilian coffee.
How To Drink Brazilian Coffee?
Choosing the brewing method according to the specific characteristics of your single-origin will ensure that you enjoy the beans in the best possible way. While Colombian coffee is very versatile, African coffee is better suited to pour over brewing methods.
What’s the best way to enjoy Brazilian coffee beans?
As mentioned, Brazilian coffee is popular and shines most when used in espresso blends and as a dark roast.
The espresso brewed using Brazilian coffee beans is balanced, sweet, nutty, and has a pleasant low acidity.
Since French Press brews coffee with full and robust flavors, Brazilian beans, with their low acidity and dominant but well-balanced flavor notes are a great fit.
Brazilian coffee beans are excellent for making a cold brew since you need to use coffee beans that produce a smooth and refreshing beverage that is still full-bodied enough to retain strong coffee taste characteristics.
The chances are, if you’ve ever ordered a coffee from your local specialty cafe, you’ve tasted Brazilian coffee in their espresso blend.
But if you want to experience the flavor of this origin on its own, look for some notable Brazilian coffee brands, such as Volcanica, Santana Estate, Methodical Coffee, Coffee Bean Direct, Brazil Santos, or Delta.
What do you think of Brazilian coffee? Are you a fan of its specialty single origins or do you prefer to enjoy its smooth flavors in espresso blends?