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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 so.

For more information about Brazil coffee, visit Sweet Maria's.

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Harvesting Coffee

Processing Coffee

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