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The history of Brazilian coffee – from discovery to global success

2023-10-09
The history of Brazilian coffee – from discovery to global success

Brazil is a veritable kingdom of coffee. We will even say more, it is a true coffee empire! It is in this country that 1/3 of the world's coffee production is concentrated. And it all started with an inconspicuous bouquet of flowers... What characterises it, what distinguishes it from others and what is the best Brazilian coffee? In today's post, we will examine the topic of Brazil's “black gold” in detail.

Summary:

  1. Brazil – the kingdom of coffee
  2. How did coffee make its way to Brazil?
  3. What does the original Brazilian coffee taste like?
  4. How to recognise a good coffee from Brazil?

Brazil – the kingdom of coffee

Although we, mateists, associate Brazil primarily with yerba mate, the truth is that coffee is the real queen in Brazil, not mate. In South America's largest country, coffee plantations cover a total area of almost 30,000 square kilometres. Around 4 million tonnes of coffee are produced annually in the country – that's one-third of world production! Most of the coffee produced in Brazil travels from the port of Santos to literally all corners of the world, but Brazilians themselves also love to drink coffee. They most like it strong and sweet.

How did coffee make its way to Brazil?

Today, Brazil is the centre of the coffee industry, but “only” 300 years ago there was no coffee here at all. The coffee plant originally came from Ethiopia, and legend says that the stimulating properties of its berries were discovered by accident by a shepherd named Kaldi. He observed that after eating the berries of a certain plant, his goats were very stimulated and had an extraordinary amount of energy. He took an interest in the plant and brought the berries to a local shaman, who made an aromatic brew from the seeds, which, when drunk, strengthened concentration and kept them alert for longer. Word of the miraculous plant and the brew made from its seeds spread to other tribes. Gradually, thanks to traders, coffee reached other countries and regions. From the Middle East, through Europe, to the Americas.

Coffee was first brought to Brazil in 1727 and there is another legend associated with it. The Portuguese, who were establishing a colony in Brazil at the time, were in love with the black, stimulating drink and were keen to start growing coffee trees themselves on “their” territory. For this, they needed seedlings, which they had to ask another country that already had coffee cultivation. As it happened, Brazil's neighbouring Guyanese had seedlings, but they treated them like the greatest treasure and absolutely refused to share them. So an intrigue was plotted. Under the guise of a diplomatic mission, Colonel Francisco de Melo Palheta was sent to Guyana. He fell in love with the wife of the Governor of Guyana, who presented the Colonel with a bouquet of flowers as a farewell gift. Inside it were hidden coffee seeds.

Since then, coffee cultivation has taken off in Brazil and, with its growing popularity in Europe and the United States and a significant increase in demand, the Brazilian coffee market very quickly became a real powerhouse. The largest plantations were located in the provinces of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais. So much coffee was produced that at the beginning of the 20th century, Brazil accounted for more than 80% of the world market, which could have significantly shaken the economy in the future. It was necessary to impose certain restrictions and regulations, so the Coffee Institute was founded in 1931.

Brazilian coffee

What does the original Brazilian coffee taste like?

If the coffee plant is not originally from Brazil, why does it grow most here, and why is Brazilian coffee considered to be the best in the world? The coffee plant feels very comfortable in Brazil and has excellent growing conditions here. There is a favourable, subtropical climate here, characterised by high temperatures and frequent rainfall, and consequently high humidity. The coffee plantations are located on fertile soils, rich in mineral salts; in mountainous terrain. Coffee grows in Brazil at an altitude of around 800-1200 metres above sea level. This is a lower altitude than in Costa Rica or Colombia, for example. This has a significant impact on the taste of the coffee – it is softer, with less noticeable acidity. The coffee leaves are closer to the sun, while being protected by the lush tropical vegetation from too much exposure to the sun's rays. Brazilian coffee is made from two types of coffee plant – arabica (the milder) and, to a lesser extent, robusta (heavier, more bitter and has a higher concentration of caffeine). Coffee is harvested once a year during the dry season – from June to September. Unlike other countries, where the “wet” or “washed” method is usually used to process the fruit (using water and specialised equipment to mechanically separate the pulp from the beans), in Brazil the coffee beans are dried using the “dry” method – naturally, in the sunlight.

And what does Brazilian coffee taste like? How does it differ from Colombian coffee, for example? Is Brazilian coffee better? It is said that the most classic and versatile coffee is that which comes from Brazil. It pairs well with milk, but performs just as wonderfully as a black beverage, without any additives. Average Brazilian Arabica coffees are characterised by a light, sublime flavour with low acidity. They are almost completely devoid of bitterness. They exhibit pleasant chocolate and nut notes and the taste is balanced, with a distinctive sweet finish at the end.

How to recognise a good coffee from Brazil?

Unfortunately, associated with the large scale of production is the fact that the vast majority of products from Brazil are industrial coffees. Machines are used to grow the plants, harvest the crop and process it further, reducing human employment costs and production time. Producers focus on quantity rather than quality. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this. In the 1990s, some plantations began to introduce high standards of cultivation, harvesting and production. These are usually small, family-run plantations, where no machinery is used, only the work of human hands. Plants are subject to strict selection. Only the best fruit, of the highest quality, is harvested. The best Brazilian coffees are referred to as “premium” or “speciality”, and one example is the Mary Rose artisanal coffee available in our shop.

Mary Rose Brazilian coffee is available in our shop in three types, depending on the region of origin – Mogiana (from São Paulo), Cerrado and Guaxupe (from Minas Gerais). All three, as befits a strong Brazilian coffee, are characterised by a pleasant taste, with nutty-chocolate-milky notes, low acidity and a heavy body. The Guaxupe and Cerrado coffees additionally have a delicate citrus aftertaste. The beans of these coffees are large, classified as premium. They are roasted to a universal omniroast degree, so that the brew can be made in virtually any way – whether with professional equipment or at home.


Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia: Coffee, List of countries by coffee production, Coffee production in Brazil.
  2. J. Hoffmann, The World Atlas of Coffee, 2014.
  3. International Coffee Organization.

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