Brazil's Coffee Farm Region
Did you know that Brazil single-handedly produces almost 40 percent of the world’s coffee supply?
In fact, coffee plantations cover approximately 27,000 km of Brazil, with most of them being located in Parana, Sao Paulo, and Minas Gerais.
Because of this, there are a lot of choices when it comes to Brazilian coffee. And, as you can imagine, you really can enjoy a good brew if you decide to go for coffee that has been produced in Brazil.
However, with so many options, it can be quite overwhelming. Don’t panic, though, as we’re here to help! Read on to discover more about the best Brazilian coffee.
Some of the most popular coffee in the world originates in South America, and perhaps no country in the region does it better than Brazil. Since the 1840s, Brazil has been the largest player in the international coffee trade.
Today, the country produces 40 to 60 million bags annually and is also known for being the world’s largest exporter of instant coffee.
Coffee Plantations in Brazil
Brazil has an estimated 300,000 coffee plantations spread across thirteen of its states. Brazilian coffee is usually exported in these forms:
- Green coffee
- Ground & roasted coffee
- Soluble coffee
- Concentrated/essential extracts
- Coffee residues
Coffee grown in Brazil is predominantly of the Arabica variety, making up around 80% of the total crop. Harvest season runs from May to August.
The largest international buyers of Brazilian coffee (in descending order) are Belgium, Japan, Italy, the United States, and Germany. Not only is Brazil the largest exporter of coffee, it’s also among the countries that drink the most coffee.
History of Brazilian Coffee
Coffee first came to Brazil in the early 18th century when, in 1727, lieutenant colonel Francisco de Mello Palheta was commissioned by Portugal to steal a coffee plant from French Guiana, a nearby territory under French control at the time.
After supposedly smuggling the coffee plant into Brazil, Palheta began to cultivate it in the state of Pará.
In the following years, coffee production quickly spread across the country, spurred on by European and American demand. By the 1840s, Brazil had dominated the world coffee market.
The Land of Brazil
Brazil’s geography makes it ideal for growing coffee. Nearly all of the country lies within the tropical zone. Its relatively stable, mostly hot and humid climate (which ranges from tropical to temperate), along with its rich soils, means that conditions are prime for coffee crops.
There are also several smaller regions throughout the country that have “microclimate” zones prime for yielding very high-quality specialty coffee.
Key Coffee Regions in Brazil
Brazil is divided into 26 states, and of these, half (13) have coffee plantations or farms. But most of the coffee is grown in the southeastern region of the country comprising five states – Bahia, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Paraná, and São Paulo.
What are some of the most significant coffee-producing areas in the country?
Minas Gerais is by far Brazil’s most important coffee-producing state, as nearly half of the entire country’s coffee production is based there.
Rich soils and higher elevations in this region make it perfect for growing the country’s most famous specialty coffees. Varieties grown here include Catuaí (and Catuaí Rubi), Obatã, Icatu, and Mundo Novo.
Minas Gerais is home to four major producing regions:
- Cerrado de Minas - Cerrado de Minas holds the special distinction of being the country’s first region to be awarded the Designation of Origin (Cerrado Mineiro) status, a title that’s like the coffee equivalent of a famous wine region. The region has higher elevations (800 to 1,300 meters), humid summers, and mild/dry winters, which enable it to produce high-grade specialty coffees. Coffees grown here are more acidic and usually fall in the middle when it comes to sweetness and body.
- Chapada de Minas - The landscape of Chapada de Minas is diverse, with valleys often subdividing the region’s highland areas. Mechanized production is common throughout the area, and some of the varieties grown here include Catuaí and Mundo Novo.
- Matas de Minas - Nestled in the Atlantic Forest and, as such, mostly smaller farms populate the area. Temperatures are warm and humid, and the region’s landscape is rather uneven. The region is also becoming well-known for its up-and-coming specialty coffee production. Varietals grown here are often sweet, imparting notes of chocolate or caramel.
- Sul de Minas - Translated to “South of Minas”, Sul de Minas has an average altitude of about 1000 meters and mild temperatures. This combination has allowed the region to become an industry hotspot within Minas Gerais – despite being cultivated on mostly smaller farms, 30% of the country’s coffee is produced in Sul de Minas. Sul de Minas cultivates a diverse range of varietals, but the flavor profile of most coffees grown here consists of a fruitier aroma, a hint of citrus in the taste, and a full body.
The country’s second-largest coffee-growing state is also its biggest producer of Robusta coffee. That’s not to say you won’t find any specialty coffee here, however.
Nestled in the highlands, Montanhas do Espírito Santo boasts a mild climate and medium-level altitudes ranging from 700 to 1000 meters. These conditions enable farmers in the region to output mid-grade specialty coffee. Coffee grown here is very fruity and highly acidic.
A bit further north, the Conilon Capixaba region is known for cultivating the Brazilian robusta of the same name, grown at lower elevations and on smaller fields.
São Paulo makes the list for two reasons: it’s the home of the Port of Santos, the country’s primary coffee exporting port, and it’s home to two regions that grow high-quality coffee.
- Mogiana - Located in the state’s northeastern area, straddles the border with Minas Gerais and is one of the country’s most important growing regions. A combination of its famous rich red soil, perfect altitude (900 to 1100 meters), craggy terrain, and mild temperatures yield high-quality coffee like Catuaí and Mundo Novo.
- Centro-Oeste de São Paulo - The region encompasses four cities and is more down-home, with predominantly small- and medium-sized fields here. As with Mogiana, the area is hilly, with uneven terrain.
Compared to the other regions, Bahia is fairly new to the coffee scene, as coffee has only been cultivated here since the 1970s. However, it’s already popular for its use of quality beans and high-tech farming techniques, notably in the state’s Cerrado and Planalto da Bahia regions, where productivity rates are the highest in the country.
The region is mostly higher-altitude and sees rainy winters and dry summers, which yields sweeter coffees. 75% of the coffee grown here is Arabica.
Paraná’s Norte Pioneiro region is home to dense, highly productive coffee farms. Only Arabica beans are grown here.
Brazilian Coffee Characteristics
Brazil has gained a reputation for being a producer of distinctive, high-quality coffee.
Generally speaking, their coffees are known for having relatively low acidity, being heavy-bodied, and boasting intense sweetness. Caramel and chocolate are the distinct flavor notes of Brazilian coffee, yet there are variations ranging from milk chocolate to bitter cocoa and toasted almond-based on the region the coffee is grown in.
Brazilian coffees are typically medium roasted but can vary from light roast all the way up to dark roast. The lighter roasts tend to show more fruit flavors such as peach and plum while darker roasts have more chocolate notes.
Brazilian coffees are often noted as having a “smoky” flavor profile, but this is more likely due to the higher use of wet processing than an actual smokey flavor component in the beans themselves.
The Coffee Classification System in Brazil
It is not unusual for regions or countries to have a classification system. The Brazilian classification system is one of the world’s most complicated.
There are three distinct factors considered; cupping, which is a process similar to wine tasting, as well as bean color and size.
The beans get one of the following grades, ranking from best to worst:
- Strictly soft
- Rio zona
Brazilian Coffee Blends and Brands
- Bourbon Brazilian Santos: The Bourbon variety of Brazil’s Santos, arguably Brazil’s most famous coffee, is a washed (wet-processed) medium- to high-quality coffee. Coffee from this variety is usually fruitier-tasting than other Brazilian coffees. The best-quality Bourbon Santos coffee is found in the lower elevations, where the resulting beans are less acidic.
- Café Pilão: This full-bodied blend is a testament to Brazilian coffee’s traditional down-home style. The dark Café Pilão coffee beans are slow-roasted and impart an intriguing flavor profile, including notes of fermented fruit.
- Cafe Caboclo: The traditional style of Caboclo’s brew means that it’s also a local favorite. The happy medium of its finely-ground, medium-roasted coffee makes it a popular brand for many.
- Café Bom Dia: Not only is its Gourmet Coffee an international hit, Café Bom Dia has also become Brazil’s biggest sustainable coffee producer. The fresh-roasted coffee is harvested in the country’s most fertile soils and is heavy-bodied, silky-textured, smooth-tasting, and sweet with citrusy notes.
- Café do Ponto: Cultivated throughout Minas Gerais and São Paulo, the Café do Ponto blend is a smooth, medium-roasted coffee that reinvigorates with an intense, dynamic flavor.
- Café Melitta: Brazilians love strong, dark coffee, and Melitta’s Extra Strong Coffee, in particular, is one of Brazil’s most popular and appealing examples. Melitta coffee beans are combined with grains and dark-roasted, yielding an intense brew – in both aroma and taste.
What is the Best Brazilian Coffee?
Now that you know a little bit more about Brazilian coffee, let’s take a look at some of the best options out there today:
|Medium Roast||Whole Bean||$16.99|
Best Overall: Volcanica Brazil Peaberry
We simply had to include Brazil Bracosta Estate by Volcania on this list, as it has an unusual bean that really encapsulates everything that we want from a coffee from this part of the world.
This coffee has an amazing taste with hints of sweetness, chocolate notes, balanced acidity, and a pleasantly clean taste.
Grown at high altitudes, this single-origin coffee is moderately acidic, highly aromatic, and full-bodied.
You may find this medium-roast bean to be a little bit too dark if you are someone who prefers lighter, single origins. However, if you love a good, all-around coffee, this roast is going to be right up your street.
While this coffee is delicious, it does fall into the gourmet category, so you can expect it to be one of the more expensive options on the list. We do believe it is worth it, though!
This coffee is available in whole bean and pre-ground packs and available in up to 5 lb bags. While you can pick it up on Amazon. Truth be told, you’re better off ordering direct from Volcanica to ensure freshness:
- The coffee will be roasted to order and on your doorstep in 1-3 days.
- Who really knows how long bags of coffee are stored in Amazon fulfillment centers.
- Mellow and smooth, with strong aromas and moderate acidity
- A truly Brazilian coffee, giving you an authentic experience
- The roast is one of the more expensive on the market today
- It is not suitable for people who prefer a light roast
Best Espresso: Cooper’s Cask Brazilian Espresso Cremoso
If you are looking for the best Brazilian ground coffee, we would definitely nominate Cooper’s Cask Coffee as the number one choice.
This is a creamy, dark, single-origin coffee that is available in either whole bean or espresso grind. It has the typical chocolatey characteristics you would expect from Brazilian coffee, yet this roast also brings brown sugar, orange, and cherry notes to the surface.
We love the interesting flavors that come to light when drinking this coffee. It is worth pointing out that it is a bit lighter than what you would typically expect for an espresso. Still, it creates exceptional cream, has a delightful aroma, and it comes in a convenient espresso grind size.
- Flavors of brown sugar, orange, cherry, and chocolate
- Available in whole bean or espresso grind
- Distinctly Brazilian characteristics
- The roast is lighter than we expected
Upgrade Pick: Brazil Santos Fresh Roast Coffee Beans
Earlier, we mentioned that you have the Bahia region to thank for the popular Cerrado coffee. The Brazil Santos Fresh Roast is a great product if you want to give this coffee a try.
Made from 100 percent Arabica beans, this coffee has a medium body, smooth mouthfeel, and chocolatey and fruity flavors. The beans are micro-roasted and shipped within 24 hours as whole beans, so we love the freshness you get with this type of coffee.
- One of the freshest coffee products available
- From the high-tech Cerrado region
- It is a little bit lighter than expected
Best K-Cup: Peet's Coffee Brazil Minas Naturais
The best K-Cup is Peet's Coffee Brazil Minas Naturais, which has a smooth, full-bodied flavor.
Naturally processed coffee cherries from the Minas Gerais region are sweetened by the Brazilian sun producing natural notes of hazelnut - a staple of the Minas Gerais growing region.
It's one of the most expensive coffees on the market, but it's worth it if you're looking for a cup that will wake you up without any caffeine jitters or crashes.
- Packaged in a recyclable pod
- Roasted by hand
- Brew taste can be inconsistent
- May be too light for some drinkers
The Future of Coffee in Brazil
In the past, quotas established by local and international coffee organizations meant that Brazil’s main priority for its coffee industry was the volume of production; the country’s specialty coffee market suffered, and Brazilian coffee developed a reputation for mostly being used in blends.
In recent years, however, new regulations have turned the industry around, and Brazil is beginning to emerge as a specialty coffee producer.
This trend is expected to grow in the coming years.
Enjoy a Taste of Brazil!
For a coffee that has low acidity, is heavy-bodied, and boasts intense sweetness, Brazil is the country for you!
As the world’s biggest coffee producer, you can have great fun trying out the different varieties of coffee from this part of the world.