An Ultimate Guide to Brazilian Coffee - Types, Facts, Brewing TipsPublished Date:
Brazil: coffee, bossa nova, and carnivals. Is there anything that this big country doesn’t do well? When it comes to art, Brazil brings out all its splendor as a rich culture, and Brazilian coffee – a true art form – is one of its proudest works.
The Brazilian coffee flavor profile is as diverse as the coffee regions that produce it, and there are lots of excellent Brazilian coffee varieties. Let’s take a look at them!
Brazilian Coffee: A History
South America is well known for producing some of the best coffee in the world and this is no new thing, as many of its countries are part of the Coffee Belt. One of them has even taken the crown as the leading coffee producer in the world since 1840.
Yes, Brazil has been named the largest coffee producer in the world! And today it still proudly holds that title and keeps pushing its boundaries year after year.
It is astonishing to realize that 40 percent of the coffee supply on the planet comes just from one country, but Brazil’s reach really is quite that extensive! The production of coffee in Brazil is such an important source of work that nearly 8 million people have employment thanks to it.
How Was Coffee First Introduced To Brazil?
As you might know, coffee plants originated in Ethiopia. Some legends say that coffee was first brought to America by French officers and it was planted first on the island of Martinique.
Next, coffee was spread to Surinam and French Guiana. We have to stop our travels here – because this is where the history of Brazilian coffee starts! It seems that the Portuguese were looking to enter that revolutionary coffee market commanded by France.
So in 1727, the Portuguese diplomat Francisco de Mello Palheta was sent to Cayenne, French Guiana, with the mission of obtaining that famous coffee and bringing it to Brazil. That request was not accepted by France, but due to a strange twist of fate and a certain scandal that involved the French Guiana governor’s wife, Palheta achieved his goal.
The First Brazilian Coffee Production
After those controversial events, the first coffee bush was planted in the state of Pará and the production of Brazilian coffee began. It took Brazil only around 100 years from when the first coffee tree appeared in its territory to become the world’s top coffee producer. They still have never relinquished that title!
With great power comes great responsibility, and Brazilian coffee brands were set with strict exporting quotas by the International Coffee Organization (ICO) and the Brazilian Institute of Coffee (IBC after the Portuguese initials), to meet the North American and European demands to buy Brazilian coffee.
That situation carried a few conflicts that were almost impossible to maintain. The severe exporting quotas made the best Brazilian coffee producers lose their quality, as large quantities and good prices were priorities. The Brazilian coffee brands needed to mix high-quality and low-quality coffees, but the final results were not satisfying enough, and Brazilian coffee was used just for blending.
Brazilian Coffee Revolution
At the beginning of the 1990s, a new government was set in Brazil and it decided to break both the protection laws and exporting quotas for coffee production. The IBC was dissolved and new reforms dictated the way Brazilian coffee would be grown, processed, and exported.
This allowed the Brazilian coffee brands to grow their regional coffee varieties and the specialty coffees thrived in all their glory. The Brazilian coffee flavor profile was enriched with every new regional coffee that was produced and even the locals started to buy Brazilian coffee because of its enhanced quality.
Not only did the local consumption of Brazilian coffee brands increase thanks to that new regimen, but the exportation to the United States soared too. Brazilian coffee was no longer viewed as a product that was useful only to be used for blending. Specialty coffee beans from Brazil flourished to the point that their quality and flavor conquered people's hearts on a global scale.
Brazilian Coffee Flavor Profiles
It is impossible to give only one description that encompasses the flavor profile of all Brazilian coffee. Since the best Brazilian specialty coffees appeared, there are so many flavor notes and textures to try! Besides the regional coffee bean variety, there are other factors influencing the flavor profile of Brazilian beans.
Flavor Profile Due To Type Of Roast
If you buy Brazilian coffee that is dark roasted, like this Fazenda Sucuri single-origin Brazilian coffee, it is highly likely you taste a heavy-bodied coffee, low in acidity, and with a resounding sweetness.
Due to these features, the flavor profile of this type might remind you of chocolate or caramel. Some of the best regional varieties of Brazilian coffee that are dark roasted may also have bitter cocoa, milk chocolate, or even toasted almond flavor notes.
However, the light roasted Brazilian coffee brands tend to have a more citrussy or bright fruit flavor profile, resembling plum or peach. If you want to buy Brazilian coffee that has this citrus taste balanced with honey and brown sugar flavor notes, try out Fazenda Santa Monica single-origin Brazilian coffee.
Flavor Profile Due To Regional Variety
You are going to learn about the best Brazilian coffee varieties and producer regions soon, do not despair! In this flavor profile section, we are going to tell you roughly what some of these diverse coffee varieties taste like.
The coffee that comes from the biggest coffee producer state, Minas Gerais, is known for being fruity and very sweet. Brazilian coffee brands that are from Espirito Santo tend to produce more acidic and intense flavor notes. And when you buy Brazilian coffee from Bahia, you are going to taste the fruitiest of flavor profiles, like red berries, peach, or even passion fruit.
What Else Can Affect The Flavor Profile?
Besides the regional coffee varieties or the type of roast, another element that can affect the flavor profile is the way Brazilian coffee brands process their coffee beans.
There are three traditional processing methods that most brands use, and a fourth one that is becoming popular among coffee producers. More on this later!
Best Brazilian Coffee Varieties
This high-quality and super productive Brazilian coffee variety is originally from the Island of Reunion, which belongs to France.
In 1859, when these seeds arrived in Brazil, both the island and the coffee variety were called Bourbon. Nowadays, this coffee variety is called Red Bourbon to differentiate it from the Yellow Bourbon variety.
This Brazilian bean is probably a mutation of the Red Bourbon, or maybe a natural cross between the Reb Bourbon and the Yellow Botucatu. The first time the Yellow Bourbon was studied as a separate variation of the coffee plant was in 1930.
Its trees are up to 45 percent more productive than the Red Bourbon variety, but still have a lower average yield than the Mundo Novo, Yellow Catuai, and Red Catuai.
One of the most iconic and best Brazilian coffee varieties, the Mundo Novo resulted from a natural cross between the Sumatra and the Red Bourbon strains.
The Mundo Novo bean is named after the former municipality of Mundo Novo in Sao Paulo, now called Urupes. The seeds of this variety were planted in that municipality and distributed to the farms in early 1952.
The Brazilian coffee variety of Acaiá, which means “fruit with large seeds” in Tupi Guarani, is a selection from Mundo Novo that was distributed in 1977.
The Acaiá does justice to its name because both its cherries and the coffee beans inside are marked for being large.
Catuai means “very good” in the indigenous language Tupi Guarani, which is spoken in many regions of Brazil. This bean is an intended cross between Mundo Novo and Yellow Caturra.
How can this coffee strain be red if it was a cross with a yellow one, we hear you ask? Well, only the trees that produced red coffee cherries were selected to keep reproducing. In 1972, this variety was launched and had a good acceptance due to its high productivity and vigorous growth.
You can sample this particular flavor profile by slurping a good cuppa of Fazenda Cachoeira single-origin Brazilian coffee.
Just as the Red Catuai variety was made, the Yellow Catuai varietal was obtained crossing Yellow Caturra with Mundo Novo. But as its name states, the Yellow Catuai kept the yellow coffee cherries for reproduction, instead of the red ones.
This specimen might be small in stature but it is every bit as productive as the Mundo Novo. You can buy this delicious coffee as Fazenda Joia Rara fermented Brazilian coffee.
The original name of Patrocinio City, in Minas Gerais, was Catigua. This variety was named after this particular city because it was there where its plantation started.
The selection process of this variety was made in the year 1980, and the Catigua varietal we know nowadays resulted from the intended cross between the Timor Hybrid and the Yellow Catuai.
This intended cross between Catuai and Icatu was developed by the IBC in 1988. Its name is a combination of the Brazilian coffee varieties that gave it life.
The varietal of Catucai is one of the best choices because it has sufficient resistance to coffee leaf rust. Although plants of this variety can be infected, the damage is not enough to produce a large leaf fall.
How Is Coffee Planted In Brazil?
Brazilian Coffee Producers' Farm Sizes
The great majority of Brazilian coffee plantations are based on small farms or, as they’re called in Brazil, fazendas. These farms are no larger than 10 hectares but represent 71 percent of the total fazendas that produce coffee in Brazil.
The remaining fazendas around the country are not that big either. 25 percent of the farms have less than 50 hectares, and only 4 percent of the Brazilian coffee producers' fazendas are larger than 50 hectares.
Who Grows The Best Brazilian Coffee On These Farms?
The people growing coffee in Brazil are as diverse as the varieties that they manage. In Espirito Santo, for example, the majority of the farmers are smallholders that descend from the European immigrants that arrived in Brazil decades ago with the sole objective of growing coffee.
In Minas Gerais, on the other hand, large agribusinesses and estate owners are the ones who grow and process the best Brazilian coffee in that region.
Does A Fazenda Grow Only One Coffee Variety?
Farmers decide if they want to grow only one coffee variety or a few of them, instead. It is not surprising that many of these farms have their own nurseries to select their own varieties.
Other growers purchase different seeds from suppliers that are verified to ensure their quality. If a Fazenda grows many different types of coffee beans, they are separated into sections for easier care and more efficient traceability and subsequent harvest.
What Is More Important In Brazil: Traditional Growing Or Innovation?
As it was mentioned before when we were looking at the best Brazilian coffee varieties, a lot of them were the result of many years of research and selection development.
Historically, there were institutes dedicated to investigating and distributing new varieties and growing processes. Some of them were closed by later governments, but nowadays there are still numerous institutes and national universities that dedicate their efforts to innovating the coffee production methods, determining the best Brazilian coffee varieties by region, enhancing the plants’ resilience, and much more.
Brazilian biologists, agronomists, scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs benefit from these constant coffee research studies too, and have found a great source of work on them. In Brazil, coffee production is such a representation of their culture, enthusiasm, and hard work, that we must say its tradition is to keep innovating.
Coffee Growing Regions In Brazil
Brazil is a huge territory that is comprised of 26 states, and of these, half of them are dedicated to coffee production. These 13 states are divided in turn into 32 coffee regions.
But from all of these, the best coffee is produced only in 4 main states located in the southeastern part of the country. The enormous coffee brands of these lands produce nearly 90 percent of the total coffee produced there.
So, when you buy Brazilian coffee, you are probably getting coffee from one of these 4 states: Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo, Sao Paulo, and Bahia.
Undoubtedly, Minas Gerais (that means General Mines in English) is the most important state that produces coffee in Brazil. Approximately half of the coffee in the entire country comes from here.
Minas Gerais state is divided into 5 regions: Cerrado de Minas (Bushy Mines), Chapada de Minas (Mines Plains), Matas de Minas (Forest Mines), Norte de Minas (North Mines), and Sul de Minas (South Mines). From these, Sul de Minas is the main coffee production region of the whole country, as it is responsible for 30 percent of Brazil's total coffee production.
What makes Minas Gerais so special for Brazilian brands? Its high elevations and rich soils make Minas Gerais one of the best regions for growing the specialty coffees that helped Brazilian coffee achieve its fame.
If you want to experience the authentic flavors of coffee from Minas Gerais, you ought to buy varieties such as Mundo Novo, Catuai, Catuai Rubi, Icatu, and Obatã.
Espirito Santo (meaning Holy Spirit in English) is not only the second-largest coffee production state but the main producer of the Robusta coffee variety. But this does not mean that no specialty coffees or Arabica coffees are growing in this region.
Brazilian coffee brands located in Espirito Santo are predominantly small family farms and they are highly committed to producing the finest quality coffee, even with medium height altitudes and temperate climates. These mild conditions allow these farmers to produce mid-grade specialty coffee.
The flavor profile of Espirito Santo is high in acidity and has strong fruity and floral notes. These flavor notes are thanks to the high humidity of this coffee region because that way, the coffee cherries mature very slowly and the coffee beans are in contact with the sweet mucilage for a long time.
Maybe one of the most famous regions of Espirito Santo is Montanhas do Espirito Santo (Holy Spirit Mountains). This coffee production region shares borders with the state of Minas Gerais and is known for growing its coffee plantations on the side of pronounced mountains elevated from its beautiful beaches’ coasts.
The coffee producer state of Sao Paulo (translated as St. Paul in English) is well known for two main reasons. First, the historical Port of Santos, the most important port of Brazilian coffee exportation, is located here. Secondly, Sao Paulo is the home of two regions that play host to only the highest quality Brazilian coffee brands.
These regions are Alta Mogiana and Centro-Oeste de Sao Paulo (St. Paul Center-Western area). Alta Mogiana is located in the northeastern part of Sao Paulo, and borders Minas Gerais, specifically with Sul of Minas.
The Brazilian coffee brands produce only high-quality coffee in Alta Mogiana as they benefit from its rich red soil, its mild temperatures, and its perfect altitude for growing coffee. Mundo Novo and Catuai are the best coffee varieties that grow there. If you would like to buy coffee from this region, this Brazilian coffee is an excellent choice.
Brazilian coffee brands started planting coffee trees in Bahia very recently compared to the other states. Brazil's coffee production in Bahia began in the year 1970, and 75 percent of its production is Arabica.
What makes Bahia so important nowadays is the implementation of new technologies for growing, irrigating, and processing coffee plantations.
These top-notch farming techniques allowed Bahia to have higher productivity rates than the other coffee states and helped it to maintain lower costs for other countries to buy Brazilian coffee more easily.
Brazilian Coffee National Classification
Brazilian coffee brands have their own national classification system, dictated by the Brazilian Official Classification (COB after its Portuguese initials), and it turns out that it is a very complicated one.
Three factors were considered when developing this classification system, and these are flavor profile, coffee bean color, and coffee bean size.
From best to worse, these are the grades the coffee beans can get:
- Very soft
- Kind of soft
- Rio zona
Not a conventional grading system, right? Well, it seems that there is another classification the coffee can get, but this time the grades would depend on the number of flaws that the COB can find in a 10.5oz sample.
The fewer defects the COB can find, the better the results are. So under this grading system, coffee beans are classified as follows:
- Group 1: Arabica from the highest quality (no Rio cups)
- Group 2: Rio cupping Arabica with a slight iodine flavor note
- Group 3: The most famous Robusta in Brazil, Conillon
It is important to mention that these particular grading systems are just for Brazilian coffee brands and are used only in the national territory. The best Brazilian coffee that is for exportation utilizes a more standard classification system like the one provided by the Green Coffee Association or the one that belongs to New York.
So, if you were about to buy Brazilian coffee and then felt astonished by the Brazilian coffee classification, fret not. You will understand what your favorite coffee store is talking about! Take a look at this useful Fazenda Eldorado Rescue pack. Don’t you want to experience Brazilian coffee even more now?!
How Are Brazilian Coffee Beans Processed?
The way that the coffee cherries are processed after being harvested can alter the flavor profile of each plantation’s beans.
The preferred methods that Brazilian coffee brands use traditionally to process their coffee beans are as follows: dry process (also called natural), semi-washed process (called pulped natural), and fully washed process (or wet).
As mentioned earlier, there is a fourth method that is now being used to process some of the best Brazilian coffee. This is called re-passed (or, occasionally, it is known as “raisins”). Are you curious about the differences between them and how they achieve the flavor profiles that you are looking for?
The dry process, or natural process, is the most extensive. This method needs specific climate conditions to be carried out correctly, like constant warm weather, and strongly marked dry and wet seasons.
Brazil, as blessed as this huge country is, is one of the few places in the world where this process can be executed appropriately thanks to its natural features. Not for nothing, it is one of the most important coffee producers in the Coffee Belt!
To do the dry process, the coffee cherries need to be laid under the heavy tropical sun until they have turned black and hardened. This allows the beans to be dried naturally around the sweet mucilage of the coffee cherry and therefore they develop a more complex flavor profile.
Normally, coffee beans that are processed with this dry method have a sweeter and smoother flavor profile and feel heavy-bodied in their texture. If you want to buy Brazilian coffee that uses this natural process, here you have the Brazilian coffee “Taste of Brazil Gift Trio”! Three excellent Brazilian coffee varieties in one!
The semi-washed process is also called the pulped natural method, as it consists of pulping the coffee cherries and letting them soak to ferment for about 6 or 12 hours to be able to remove the silver skin.
The flavor profile of the coffee beans processed with the pulped natural method shares the properties of both the dry and the wet processes. The best Brazilian coffee that has been semi-washed processed may be as acidic as the wet-processed varieties and almost as heavy-bodied as the dry-processed coffee beans.
For the success of the pulped natural process, the skins of the coffee cherries are removed mechanically before leaving them to dry out in the sun. Their sweet mucilage is left to be dried too and processed after that.
The semi-washed process is used by Brazilian coffee brands because it is faster than the dry process. This method can only be made successfully in countries with low humidity so the sweet mucilage does not ferment while drying and, again, Brazil has the specific conditions to do it better than anyone.
Fully Washed Process
This method, also known as the wet process, consists of the pulp of coffee cherries. It is allowed to ferment, then washed, before being dried under the sun. The four layers that surround the Brazilian coffee beans are also removed to achieve this.
The wet process is a fairly new method and is particularly popular among the best Brazilian coffee producers in the state of Bahia.
Fully washed processed coffee beans result in a flavor profile that is very clean, extremely bright, and fruity.
Speaking of innovative processing methods, here we have the re-passed process or “raisins” method. This method uses the Brazilian coffee cherries that floated and were discarded, and considered “bad” or not suitable for the other processes.
The flavor profile of these coffee beans is considered a delicacy by some of the best Brazilian coffee tasters, as this type of coffee is by far sweeter than the more traditional pulped coffees.
To understand why the flavor profile of these coffee beans is so special, you must know that the coffee cherries that float are the ones that have dried too much on the coffee tree before being harvested. This allows the beans to spend more time surrounded by the sweet mucilage before the fermentation starts in the drying process. After these coffee cherries are initially discarded, they are re-passed and pulped. It is optional to wash them after this or treat them as pulped naturals.
Best Brazilian Coffee Brewing Ideas
Usually, coffee in Brazil is brewed via espresso or the Turkish style. Depending on the flavor profile, there are Brazilian coffee varieties that taste better when they are brewed via immersion processes such as the cold brew method or with a French press.
How Is Brazilian Coffee Brewed By Locals?
If you have decided to buy Brazilian coffee after reading our guide, brewing it authentically is a must! In Brazil, coffee is taken black and with lots of sugar added. Milk is also commonly added, and vegan alternatives work well.
As the best Brazilian coffee is most often exported, the coffee that is left for local consumption has a significantly more bitter taste, and this is the reason locals frequently choose to sweeten their coffee.
The locals prefer to drink their coffee pure and are not big fans of the espressos or other coffees made with the help of machines. Recipes like mochas, frozen lattes, and caramel macchiatos are not typically welcomed!
Brazilians are proud of their coffee production and culture, and their most beloved and served coffee recipe has a simple yet adorable name: Cafezinho!
The Ultimate Brazilian Coffee Recipe: The Cafezinho
Cafezinho is by far the best Brazilian coffee recipe. It consists of a tiny cup of filtered coffee that is served with a high amount of sugar and at a boiling hot temperature.
You only need a few things after you buy Brazilian coffee to enjoy a good Cafezinho at home, and these are:
- 1/3 cup of finely ground Brazilian coffee (dark roast preferred)
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 4 cups of boiling water
- Scalded milk or your favorite plant-based milk alternative to top (this is an optional step)
And now the show starts!
- Put a filter on a pour-over device. It is better if you have a manual coffeemaker.
- Add the sugar – lots of sugar!
- Add the best Brazilian coffee you have found.
- Pour the boiling hot water over the top.
- Heat the milk or milk alternative until it reaches the scalding point (82 Celsius degrees or 180 Fahrenheit).
- Add the scalded milk/milk alternative.
- Cafezinho is ready for you to enjoy!
We can not get enough of Brazilian coffee. This rich, colorful, and joy-filled country is such a paradise for coffee production and the Brazilians are very proud of all that they have achieved thanks to it.
Next time you buy Brazilian coffee, think about all the history, processes, and regions we saw in this article, and we are sure you will find the Brazilian coffee that you desire!