Brazil is the largest coffee producer than any other country on this planet by a country mile. Each year, more than 2.5 million metric tons of coffee is grown on the farmlands of this South American nation, and second-place Vietnam only produces approximately two-thirds of that. But one of the most interesting debates surrounding Brazilian coffee culture is whether this massive quantity translates into genuine quality.
Being one of the largest countries in the world, Brazil has a fairly variegated landscape that produces diverse coffee flavors. However, the lack of several necessary geographic factors that are considered ideal for coffee growth has led many to question the broad appeal of Brazilian coffee.
Coffee Culture in Brazil
Coffee has long dominated Brazil’s export industry. Its share of the global market, which today stands at about 30%, was once much higher, but even despite the recent decline, it is still the largest producer of coffee in the world.
Brazilian coffee contains several diverse chocolatey flavors that vary in intensity depending on how the coffee has been processed. The most common way to prepare the beverage here is called the ‘cafezinho.’ It is relatively different from an espresso in that it contains much more water, and even milk depending on personal preference. The following sections outline all the various idiosyncrasies of coffee from Brazil, noting the factors that give it its distinctive flavors, as well as features of the general coffee industry in this nation.
How is Coffee Produced in Brazil?
As touched upon earlier, Brazil lacks a few key geographical factors that its competitors have been blessed with.
1. Brazil has a low concentration of volcanic soil
The high amount of nutrients contained within this type of soil, along with its excellent water retention capabilities makes it highly suitable for coffee growth. However, most coffee is grown on grasslands.
2. Most coffee is grown on low altitudes
One of the main ways coffee is classified is based on the height of land above sea level that it was grown on. Brazil’s average altitude of around 1200 meters above sea level means that it is classified as soft bean coffee, which is less densely flavorful than hard bean coffee but has its appeals. Lower altitudes are also generally used for Robusta beans, but most of Brazil’s coffee production comprises of Arabica.
Be sure to check out “Exploring Brazil’s Coffee Culture: Cafézinho” for an inside look at the coffee culture in Brazil as well.
3. Weather conditions
Despite these troubles, Brazil’s weather conditions make it one of the few big coffee producers that use a technique of processing called dry processing. Coffee beans are encased in many layers of fruit and cherry and need to be dried after they are plucked. Farmers can choose to do this by either leaving the additional skins on or by removing them before drying.
4. Dry processing
Dry processing is generally harder to carry out due to the high risk of beans cracking and being wasted, but Brazil does not seem to have that problem. This method helps the flavors of the skins and cherry interact with the bean for a longer time, giving it many of the traditional flavors associated with Brazilian coffee. These are discussed in the next section.
What Does Brazilian Coffee Taste Like?
Brazilian coffee is characterized by its light to medium body, and nutty, chocolatey flavors that can be either slightly bitter or akin to almonds. They also have fairly low acidity. Depending on where you are in Brazil, the dry processing will imbue coffee beans with unique flavors native to that region. You might find strong, intense flavors, or heavy fruity overtones mixed with some spices.
Higher quality coffee in Brazil is grown on estates that are placed at an altitude slightly higher than average, and many of them wet process their beans as well. This gives them a thicker body, as well as more densely flavored beans. Given this variation across Brazil, the South American nation does present coffee enthusiasts with much to explore and experiment with. The next section discusses the best brands in this country.
The Best Coffee Brands From Brazil
There are two types of coffee producers in Brazil. First, you have those that sell their stock to the government and abide by its stringent set of regulations. But the Brazilian government has also allowed certain producers to distribute their coffee without any state intervention. These growers usually utilize more modernized techniques to process coffee.
The most popular growing regions here are the Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Cerrado, and the Espírito Santo.
Minas Gerais produces about half of all coffee that is grown in Brazil, easily making it the largest coffee-growing region in the country. The Espirito Santo primarily grows Robusta beans that are conventionally used for instant coffee or dark roasts. The two high-quality coffee producing regions are Cerrado and Santos. These areas produce some of the best coffee Brazil has to offer. Santos is a port in Sao Paulo that makes wet-processed coffee grown on higher elevations, while Cerrado is one of the most technologically advanced regions in the nation. The former produces some surprisingly light-bodied coffee that is low on acidity, but smooth to the taste. If you’re looking for the very best, look no further, because these regions are it.
There is no doubt that coffee is available in copious quantities, covering its vast farmlands all over. But make no mistake, quantity doesn’t always supervene over quality here. There is much to appreciate among the diversities of its product. Cerrado and Santos are two areas that produce particularly noteworthy coffee despite the environmental barriers facing the country. Most coffee from this region comes with nutty, aromatic flavors of fruit, chocolate, or spice. Depending on how it has been processed, you might find densely flavored beans or an ultra-light cup with subtle notes. Regardless of what you generally prefer, Brazilian coffee has something for everyone, and it stands tall among the bright coffee cultures of the world.
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