About 50% of all coffee in the world is produced in Brazil, nearly 3.6 million metric tons annually. With so much coffee produced in one country, it’s no wonder that there are a wide range of qualities produced there. Brazil produces everything from natural Robusta to the standard, neutral and mild Santos screen 17/18 coffees and the distinctive Rio Minas 17/18. In recent years, Brazilian producers also jumped on the bandwagon of specialty coffee, adding mild, sweet and at times floral coffees to the specialty spectrum. Next to being the biggest producer of coffee, Brazil also ranks highly among the world’s top coffee consuming countries. Coming in at number 14, Brazil consumes the most coffee of all South and Central American coffees and is second only to Canada in all of the Americas.
Most of Brazil’s coffee production is lower-grade or standard Arabica or Robusta – not specialty grade. Coffee is a major agricultural crop in thus vast country, playing an important role in the country’s economy. That’s one of the reasons why volume matters more than cup quality. Most Brazilian coffee is grown on huge farms, built and equipped for mechanical harvesting and processing, maximizing the production output. This also means all cherries are harvested – unripe, ripe and overripe – in contrast to specialty’s selective hand picking. Coffee is typically dry processed, but far from comparable to the controlled, almost scientific, natural processing you can find on a Costa Rican specialty farm, for example since coffee is often dried in huge piles, leading to a large risk for uneven drying and unstable coffees.
However, there are also great Brazilian coffees out there for those willing to look for it. There’s a growing number of farms who are more concerned about cup quality than volume and are producing their coffee with great attention to growing, harvesting and processing. The country does not have great luck with their growing conditions, lacking both high altitude and volcanic soil, but this only contributes to the distinctive mild, nutty, sweet and chocolaty flavor profile that characterizes the origin.
For harvesting, cherries are picked with handheld machines over cloth. Most farms in Brazil use these machines, which look like engine-powered rakes with fingers at the end. The current labour situation has made it basically impossible for a farm to hire enough pickers and to be able to pay them. These machines help greatly in reducing the intensity of the harvesting work, and increases productivity. Nowadays, the technology is so greatly refined that it allows for precise harvesting, without damaging the tree. The cloth spanned in between the trees prevents cherries falling to the ground, which would attract insects.
Mechanical harvesting is becoming a reality a little bit more every day, even outside of Brazil. When the layout of the farm allows maneuvering with manual machines, this is often a much-welcomed solution for larger coffee farms. Coffee harvesting is hard labour, and pickers deserve to be paid much higher for this. With low international coffee prices, coffee estates and farms often cannot afford to pay the wages for the pickers. With a good control on cherry quality after harvest and before processing, there is no reason why mechanical harvesting can’t have a place in specialty coffee.
Mantiqueria de Minas
The Mantiqueira de Minas region lies on the Minas Gerais state side of the Mantiqueira Mountain Ridge (Serra da Mantiqueira). This microregion is currently the region with most awards in Brazilian national competitions. This is in part thanks to the experience and tradition of the producers for producing quality coffees. No less important in the creation of quality coffee, are the characteristics of the region. Mantiqueira de Minas has many hills and plateaus rich in mineral content with an altitude up to 1300 meters above sea level. In 2011, Mantiqueira de Minas received a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) due to its tradition and worldwide reputation for producing high-quality coffees. There are 7,800 registered coffee producers throughout the region.
Sul de Minas
Sul de Minas is the biggest region for Arabica coffees in Brazil. The region can be accessed through the port of Santos. SdM is known for its chocolaty round flavor. Our medium to good bean is sourced in the Sul de Minas region. The most important point with this MTGB ss fc is that it’s stable, balanced and relatively clean for its price. It shouldn’t contain primary defects or major taste flaws. This commercial grade volume coffee is a typical blender quality.
The cerrado, a mix of grassy savannah, scrublands and gallery forests, is rich in biodiversity, with over 10,000 plant species and 800 bird species. It is the largest woodland savannah in South America. At over 2 million square kilometers, it’s three times the size of Texas and 21% of all of Brazil’s land area. Since the 1960s, over 40% of the cerrado’s original land mass has been converted into agricultural land. Coffee have been grown in the area for over 40 years and there are now over 3000 farms, most of which are smallholder plots. The average altitude in the cerrado is 850 meters. Soil is generally infertile and requires large amounts of fertilizers, lime and phosphorus. Most of the farms are highly mechanized with many irrigated due to low rainfall. Cerrado coffee is known for its more pronounced and elegant acidity.