The first coffee plants were reportedly brought into Brazil in the early 18th century, spreading within 50 years from the northern state of Pará in 1727, to Rio de Janerio in the south. Coffee was initially grown almost exclusively for domestic consumption by European colonists, but as demand for coffee began to increase in United States and on the European continent during the early-mid 19th century, and coffee supplies from elsewhere in the world started to decline due to major outbreaks of coffee-leaf rust, which practically destroyed the coffee-growing powerhouses of Java and Ceylon, creating an opening for the growing coffee industry in Central and South America. Brazil’s size and the variety of its landscapes and microclimates showed incredible production potential, and its proximity to the United States made it an obvious and convenient export-import partner for the Western market.
In 1820, Brazil was producing 30 percent of the world’s coffee supply, but by 1920, it accounted for 80 percent of the global total.
Brazil’s weather is a constant topic of discussion among the coffee-producing community. Frosts and heavy rains have caused coffee yields to vary dramatically over the past few decades, impacting market pricing. Despite these challenges, Brazil remains one of the two largest producers of coffee, along with Colombia.
Of particular note in Brazil is the number of varieties, mutant-hybrids, and cultivars that have originated here, either spontaneously or by laboratory creation. Caturra (a dwarf mutation of Bourbon variety), Maragogype (an oversize Typica derivative), and Mundo Novo (a Bourbon-Typica that is also a parent plant of Catuai, developed by Brazilian agro-scientists) are only a few of the seemingly countless coffee types that originated in Brazil and, now, spread among coffee-growing countries everywhere.
PICKING AND PROCESSING
In an effort to keep pace with the scale of demand for Brazilian coffee, the national industry has adopted new and innovative means of picking and processing to achieve efficient production processes. Strip picking is commonly found on farms of all sizes in Brazil, either mechanically or by hand. With strip picking, coffee is picked less discriminately with pickers using towels, tarps, and heavy gloves to simply strip cherries from the branches at the peak of the harvest, collecting them in baskets, barrels, or in sacks and cloth bags. Elsewhere, on much larger farms, coffee plants are arranged in rows and mechanical pickers will pass through and shake the trees, which loosens the riper cherries and allows them to be collected for sorting and processing. Once collected, the cherries are then sorted by ripeness.
While these methods raise some criticism from specialty-coffee circles, they are what have allowed for Brazil to maintain its position as a tremendous source for volume, and in many cases also imparts some of what is considered the classic Brazil profile that is richer in chocolate, nut, and pulpy coffee-cherry notes.
Brazil's’ post-harvest processing is also somewhat unique, and has been adapted largely in response to a combination of productivity, climate, and desired profile: Pulped Natural and Natural processing still dominates the industry here: Pulped Natural coffees are depulped and allowed to dry with their mucilage still intact; while Naturals are typically either dried on the trees before harvesting (called Boya), or picked and laid out on patios in order to finish drying before being hulled. Both processes tend to lend the coffees a nutty creaminess that has a more tempered fruit tone than the bright and acidic Washed or even Honey coffees we see elsewhere from Mesoamerica.
Bahia, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais (including Carmo de Minas, Cerrado Mineiro, and Sul de Minas), Nambuco, Paraná, San Janeiro, São Paulo (including Mogiana)
Bourbon (including Yellow Bourbon), Catimor, Catuai, Caturra, Maragogype, Typica
Pulped Natural, Natural, Washed (less common)
April–September, October–December (Espírito Santo)