Brazilian Coffee Beans
Brazilian Coffee History
Coffee was introduced in Brazil by Francisco de Mello Palheta
in 1727 from Cayenne, French Guiana. Today, Brazil is the
world's largest coffee producer and is becoming a significant
player in the specialty coffee industry. Bourbon, Typica,
Caturra, and Mundo Novo coffee varietals are grown in the states
of Paraná, Espirito Santos, São Paulo, Minas
Gerais, and Bahia.
When the International Coffee Organization (ICO) and the
Brazilian Institute do Café (IBC) set quotas for
importing and exporting coffees, it protected a few producers
in Brazil while deteriorating the specialty coffee sector. Since
quotas were set, volume was expected. Unfortunately, the
focus was on coffee prices and quantity rather than quality. The Brazilian coffee producers
would mix together higher-quality coffees with low-quality
Brazilian coffees to meet the demands of the quota system.
The producers would then rename the coffees as Santos 1,
Santos 2, etc. where Santos was the port where coffee was
exported. In the early 90's the new government in Brazil
broke the quota and protection laws for both the coffee
and sugar industry. Subsequently, both the IBC and the IAA
(sugar) were closed. This brought about a revolution in
how coffee was exported in Brazil, thereby bringing about
a reform in how coffee was grown, processed, and treated.
Slowly the amazing variety of coffee available in Brazil
became evident as consumers exercised their new right to
purchase estate specific specialty coffees.
Today, Brazil coffee beans are not only used for coffee blending.
Now that they are not pre-blended for us we can roast them
properly to amplify their diverse characteristics. Then,
if desired, we can blend the roasted coffees together to
achieve a richer, bolder, and smoother espresso blend. Since
the breakdown of the IBC and the quota system internal coffee consumption
in Brazil has increased. Coffee exportation to the United States
has also increased. Brazil specialty coffee is on the rise and
Brazil should no longer be viewed as a country suitable
only for blending.
Size of Coffee Plantations in Brazil
The vast majority of coffee farms in Brazil are less than ten hectares
in size. According to the Diagnóstico da Cafeicultura
em Minas Gerais, 71% of farms are less than 10 hectares,
25% of farms had less than 50 hectares, and only 4% of farms
were larger than 50 hectares.
Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer and produces
around 25% of the world's supply of coffee. Eighty percent
of coffee from Brazil is Arabica.
Coffee Processing Methods
Brazil processes its coffee by the wet (washed), dry (natural),
and semi-washed (pulped natural) methods. The vast majority
of Brazil coffee beans are still processed via the dry method since
Brazil is one of the few countries in the world that has
the appropriate weather to do so successfully. Due to Brazil's
distinct dry and wet seasons, the flowering and cherry maturation
is homogeneous. This allows Brazilians to harvest coffee
via the strip picking method and/or mechanically. Although
under-ripe and overripe cherries are also harvested, careful
processing will easily remove these coffee cherries. In my experience,
I have found Brazil to have one of the most advanced and
well-cared-for processing systems in the industry.
Dry-Process: Dry-processed (Naturally processed) coffees
are dried while they are still in the cherry. Prior to drying,
only cherries that float will be removed. Since the coffees
are dried in contact with the sweet mucilage, the coffee
will be heavy in body, sweet, smooth, and complex. This
coffee is also one of the most complex to deal with do to
the long drying times and possibility of fermentation. However,
since dry-processed coffees are more difficult, Brazil has
invested significant time and money to developing new drying
systems and drying practices to prevent fermentation.
Wet-Process: Wet-processing coffees is a relatively new
method of removing the four layers surrounding the coffee
bean. This process results in a coffee that is cleaner,
brighter, and fruitier. Wet processing is done in a relatively
small proportion to dry-processing in Brazil, but offers
another cleaner and brighter dimension to Brazilian coffees.
Pulped Natural: The pulped natural method consists of pulping
a coffee, but emitting the fermentation stage to remove
the silverskin. This results in a beverage that has characteristics
of both a dry- and wet-processed coffee. It is often sweeter
than wet-processed coffees, has some of the body of a dry-processed
coffee, but also retains some of the acidity of a wet-processed
coffee. This type of processing can only occur in countries
where the humidity is low and the coffee covered in the
sweet mucilage can be dried rapidly without fermenting.
Brazil has made this method famous and produces some of
the best pulped-natural coffees in the world. All twenty
winners of the Gourmet Cup competition in Brazil in 2000
processed their coffees using the pulped natural method.
Re-passed: There is another type of coffee that has emerged
on the market called re-passed or raisins. These coffees
are floaters and are usually discarded with the rest of
the floaters. However, they have a flavor profile that some
of the world's best experts find to be much sweeter than
traditional pulped coffees. The cherries float because they
have dried too long on the tree before being collected.
This, however, allows the bean to interact with the mucilage
for a longer amount of time before the start of fermentation.
The beans are removed from the rest of the floaters using
a barrel system developed by Eduardo Sampio in Brazil. The
coffee beans are then re-passed and pulped. They can then be
washed or used as pulped naturals. The availability of the
curiously sweet re-passed coffees is very limited since
it is mainly experimental at this time. Ask your Brazilian
supplier if they separate out this type of coffee and what
flavor characteristics this coffee possesses. It may be
another option for espresso blending and is likely to become
the fourth category of coffee processing.
As in other countries the most significant player in coffee flavor is the coffee processing method. After coffee processing, more subtle
nuances due to regional characteristics can take over. There
are several distinct coffee growing regions in Brazil, each large enough
to be their own country and distinct enough to be considered
For more information about Brazil coffee, visit Sweet Maria's.