Brazil: The World's Leading Coffee Producer

Coffee in Brazil Origin Blog

Coffee in Brazil: History, Geography, and a Song?  

Brazil has a long history of coffee production and blazing the trail for new and creative ways to enjoy coffee. It's the largest producer of coffee in the world, but just because it produces the most doesn't mean it's easy. Brazilian coffee is so well known that it even has a song. Frank Sinatra recorded a song in 1946 titled the coffee song but has become lovingly referred to by its repeated line, "They've got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil." I have to say, in many cases, the item that is the most popular is not always the best. However, despite many challenges, Brazil has managed to maintain successful coffee production over its long history and a renewed commitment to higher quality in more recent years. 

 
Coffee isn't native to Brazil or Latin America. Portuguese legend says it was smuggled in from French Guiana. Supposedly, it was first planted in Para and then made its way to Rio de Janeiro in 1770 and would eventually spread beyond Brazil. At first, it was only grown for domestic consumption, but it would grow to Brazil being the largest producer of coffee in the world. From the early 1800s to the early 1900s, Brazil's share of the world coffee market grew from 30 percent to a whopping 80 percent! However, in the wake of two World Wars and a global depression, this massive imbalance in the coffee world would be quite unstable. A massive surplus of Brazilian coffee led to the government burning 78 million bags of coffee in an effort to increase demand for their product and therefore raise the price of coffee. These efforts were largely unsuccessful. In the decades that followed, the production and price of coffee stabilized in Brazil, thanks to international agreements and a carefully designed quota system. While Brazil maintained the majority of worldwide coffee production, very little was done to improve the quality of Brazilian coffee. For decades, Brazil exported a high volume of questionable coffee.   

Current Coffee Growth in Brazil  

Brazil has a reputation for being the biggest coffee supplier in the world. To keep up that reputation and volume, it's possible that some of their practices became more about quantity than quality. Brazil practices strip and machine picking, which is a more efficient way of picking coffee, but it means they are less discriminant about the cherries that are picked. Whether it's a machine used to shake off cherries from the coffee plants, or a person using a cloth or towel to strip down the cherries off the tree, both methods are less selective in selecting only the best and most mature cherries. While these methods have brought on criticism, it has helped Brazil maintain its position as the largest coffee producer in the world. I suppose that's how they want to do it, and to each his own, right? Picking the most mature cherries increases the likelihood of producing great coffee, but maybe their goal is to produce more rather than the best. I don't want to clump all farmers together and say that they all do it this way, but maybe that explains some of the inconsistencies we've experienced with Brazilian coffee. I'm sure many farmers in Brazil strive for the best and not just the most. Because of farmers' commitment to a better product, we can offer Brazilian coffee to our customers. And thankfully, in the last 25 years, Brazilian farmers have sought to improve their methods for growing, picking, processing, and selling their coffee beans. There is much to be optimistic about in Brazilian coffee because some practices are improving, from changes in growing regions and altitude to privatizing roads and single-origin offerings. As the world of coffee agriculture has grown and changed, Brazil is striving to keep up, and while there is still a great deal of average coffee coming out of Brazil, it is getting much easier to find quality beans among the quantity.  

The Challenge of Coffee Growth in Microclimates  

For farmers in different world regions, difficult challenges are par for the course when growing coffee, from elephants in Tanzania to volcanic eruptions in Central America; one of Brazil's most significant obstacles is all their microclimates. Their land is so vast with so many differences in their elevation that unpredictable weather can adversely affect coffee growing. They deal with a climate roller coaster. They experience severe droughts, unprecedented downpours causing flooding, and frosts. Too much rain causes immature coffee cherries to fall off of trees which reduces production significantly and leads to diseases and pests because machines can't move about the trees for picking. In 2021, Brazil suffered from its worst drought in 90 years, and then it experienced such an extreme downpour of rain that fatalities were reported. At the same time, a dry spell would destroy most of their soy crops in the southern region.  

More Coffee Varieties Isn’t Always Bad 

More isn't always bad, especially when we're talking about coffee varieties. Whether some happen naturally or are developed in a lab, Brazil is a pioneer in the development of different coffee varieties. For example, the Catura, which is a dwarf of the Bourbon variety, originated in Brazil. The Mundo Novo, which is a Bourbon/Typica and a parent plant of the Catuai, was developed by Brazilian agricultural scientists. So while Brazil may at times produce somewhat average coffee, it has brought much to the coffee industry, and so we should not overlook it. Some of these variates make excellent coffee and may help when it comes to some genetic deficiencies plants naturally have. The Bourbon by itself can be very susceptible to disease, but when it's farmed with a stronger variety like the Typica, it becomes a stronger plant. We recently launched a Pink Bourbon from Colombia, which is an example of how farmers overcome genetic deficiencies in coffee plants. 

Brazilian Coffee Flavor Profile  

The most common and high-quality Brazilian coffees are frequently low in acidity, heavy in body, and sweet to taste. Like many Latin American coffees, they display a common and widely enjoyed rich chocolate and nutty flavor, which is excellent for Espressos.   

Statistics on Brazil  

Statistics are an interesting way to get a bird's eye view of how things work. When it comes to coffee, I enjoy reviewing statistics from year to year to see the trends of coffee and how they change in the world. Here are some from Brazil; I hope you find them interesting. 

 

Description 

Statistics 

Area (km2) 

8,514,879 

 

Population (million) 

 

209.3 million 

 

Coffee Production 

 

5.71 billion pounds 

 


 

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