Since colonial times, exports have been essential to the stability of the Brazilian economy. Brazil is the world's largest producer and exporter of coffee. It is responsible for 35% of all coffee production and trade thanks to having vast amounts of land, a variety of climates and altitudes ideal for farming and advanced scientific and technological resources to improve agricultural production.
There was a time when gold and sugar cane both reigned supreme. But today, the commodity that gains the largest recognition is coffee. Since 1861, Brazilian coffee has dominated global exports. But it hasn't been without hurdles. The 1929 stock market crash saw the demand for quality coffee decline. This happened at the same time at large plantations were expanding farm production. The result was a surplus of coffee with no one to buy. In order to alleviate some of the strain, the Brazilian government ordered warehouses to destroy coffee in an attempt to increase prices. But the effects of the crisis wouldn't see resolve until World War II when prices began to recover.
In the 1990s, like other coffee producing countries, Brazil began to liberalize farms. In addition to opening the door for investment, Brazil would soon join Mecosur and the WTO which both had a positive effect on coffee exports. In the early 2000s, Brazil experienced a "Coffee Boom" as China's economy opened up and demand for coffee increased. Reports show that from 2005-2011, Brazilian exports to China increased by 500%.
Today, Brazil exports an average of 60 million bags of coffee each year from the regions of Minas Gerais, Espinto Santo, Sao Paulo and Bahai. The largest importers of Brazilian coffee include the EU, US and Japan. But it is worthy to note that like Ethiopia, Brazil is also a large consumer of coffee withholding at least 30% of annual production for internal trade.
Coffee Regions of Brazil
The largest coffee-growing state in Brazil, Minas Gerais accounts for nearly 50% of the country’s production. It also happens to be a major source of Brazilian specialty coffee. The producing regions within Minas Gerais include Sul de Minas, Cerrado de Minass, Chapada de Minas and Matas de Minas.
Sul de Minas
Sul de Minas (also known as South of Minas) has a high altitude, averaging 950m, and a mild annual temperature of around 22 degrees C. It also produces approximately 30% of the country’s coffee, mostly on small farms ranging from 10 to 100 hectares – although that can vary greatly. The main varietals are Catuaí, Mundo Novo, Icatu, Obatã, and Catuaí Rubi. As for the flavor profile, you’ll typically find that coffee from here is full-bodied with slightly citric notes and fruity aromas.
Cerrado de Minas
Cerrado de Minas happens to be Brazil’s first coffee-producing region to win Designation of Origin (Cerrado Mineiro) status, giving it similar stature to famous wine-producing regions. It’s a large region, comprised of 55 municipalities located between the Alto Paranaiba, Triangulo Mineiro, and the Northwest of Minas Gerais. Its farms range from medium-sized (2-300 hectares) through to large estates.
With an altitude of 800-1,300m and well-defined seasons (humid summer and mild to dry winter), this region is well-suited to the production of specialty coffees. You’ll find Mundo Novo and Catuaí here, and Cerrado de Minas coffees tend to have a higher acidity with a medium body and sweetness.
Chapada de Minas
Chapada de Minas has highland regions interspersed with valleys, making it suitable for mechanized production. Catuaí and Mundo Novo are cultivated here.
Matas de Minas
Situated in the Atlantic Forest, Matas de Minas has an undulating landscape and is characterized by a warm and humid climate. 80% of its producing farms are smaller than 20 hectares. It's known for its increasing production of specialty coffee, which is typically sweet with critic, caramel, or chocolate notes. Catuaí and Mundo Novo are farmed here.
São Paulo is one of Brazil’s historical coffee-growing states. It’s also home to the Port of Santos, Brazil’s main coffee exporting port. Its main producing regions include Mogiana and Centro-Oeste.
Mogiana’s favorable altitudes (900-1,100m), mild temperatures (averaging 20 degrees C), and uneven terrain make for good-quality coffee, with very sweet and balanced cupping profiles. You’ll find both Mundo Novo and Catuaí here.
Centro-Oeste de São Paulo
This hilly region comprises the cities Marilia, Garça, Ourinhos and Avaré. Like Mogiana, the terrain is quite uneven. Most of the farms are small to medium-sized.
Espírito Santo is Brazil’s second biggest coffee-producing state, but its largest producer of Robusta. You’ll still find some specialty-grade coffee here, though. The producing regions within Espírito Santo are Montanhas do Espirito Santo and Conilon Capixaba.
Montanhas do Espírito Santo
This highland area has mild temperatures and altitudes varying between 700 and 1,000m, allowing it to produce satisfactory specialty-grade coffees. The region’s known for its high acidity and fruitiness, and the main cultivated varieties are Mundo Novo and Catuaí.
Conilon, a Brazilian Robusta, is grown here, usually on small properties and at low altitudes.
Bahia, located in the northeast of Brazil, is a new addition: coffee cultivation only began here in the ‘70s. Yet it’s already gained fame for its quality beans and use of technology. About 75% of its crops are Arabica. There are two producing regions within Bahia.
Cerrado and Planalto da Bahia
These are the most high-tech coffee-producing regions in Brazil. From cropping to harvesting, full mechanization is common. This is made possible by the uniform ripening of the cherries, which in turn is induced by irrigation. These variables produce some of the highest quality coffee in the country.
As for the region’s climate, it has high altitudes and a warm climate, with dry summers and rainy winters. This results in sweet coffees, usually Catuaí, with low acidity and a full body.