One third of all coffee in the world comes from Brazil. Of the 130 million bags of coffee produced every year, Brazil is responsible for 50-60 million of that total. It’s a nation home to the Amazon, eccentric fútbol fans, the famous Carnival celebrations, and gorgeous miles of beaches. People travel from around the globe to soak up the culture and sun from South America’s largest country and it’s been a powerhouse in the coffee industry for the last 150 years.
The coffee-growing regions are mostly in the south east like Sāo Paulo, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Bahia, Rondônia, and Paraná. Unlike countries like Costa Rica where the hillsides are home to plantations, in Brazil you have vast landscapes of flat fields. It’s like driving through Iowa here in the US, flat ground and rows upon rows of product.
Varietals in Brazil
As far as varietals go, Brazil grows a lot. The most common are Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Catuai, Acaia, Mundo Novo, and Icatu. The Mundo Novo varietal accounts for about 40 percent of Brazilian coffees and is a hybrid between Typica and Bourbon that was found in Brazil in the 1940s. It’s particularly suited to the country’s climate and farmers like it because of its resistant to disease and high yield. Coffee drinkers like it because it produces a sweet cup with a thick body and low acidity.
Brazil is also unique in their harvesting. “They want to harvest within four weeks because they have mechanical harvesters,”Sam Mirto, Ferris Coffee’s Director of Coffee explained. “Costa Rica is like 3-4 months of harvesting by hand, which is a lot harder.” And the other eleven months out of the year, they are fertilizing, pruning, and planting new plots of land. Brazil has huge capabilities because of their high output, and this has allowed automation to be integrated into the workload.
Choosing Dry Processing
Virtually all coffee in Brazil is processed using the dry (or natural) process, meaning they rarely wash their coffees. “It takes so much water for a washed process, they don’t bother,” Mirto acknowledged. Without wasting water on washing, the coffee cherries are cleaned and placed in the sun to dry for 8-10 days and even up to four weeks. If conditions aren’t ideal, many farms have commercial dryers to help with this process. It isn’t just about saving water though. This traditional method has been dominant for decades and it compliments well with the lower altitude that Brazil battles with for flavor. After that, the outer layer of the dried berries is then removed in a hulling process and then the beans are sorted, graded, and packed.
It May Not Be Specialty But…
“The Brazil general rule is that they are known for being mild and nutty with low acidity. They’re simple coffees,” Mirto explained. These pronounced nutty qualities with heavy bodies are ideal for blends to mellow out flavor profiles. They may not be crazy complex with fruity flavors, but Brazil can hold it’s own in a lineup. “They’re mild coffees, ideal for espresso and other blends, but can absolutely be enjoyed by themselves. They’re perfect for people looking for “coffee flavored coffees, nutty, heavy bodied, and sweet. There is a lot of experimentation going on in Brazil with varietals and processing. I’ve recently tasted coffees from Brazil that taste more like coffee from Central America with the complexity in acidity,” Mirto expressed. So don’t overlook a Brazil coffee for its simplicity, embrace it for it’s smooth flavor. They are finding ways to get creative and to never settle for what people expect from Brazil.