Country Spotlight: Brazil and the Most Popular Coffee Around the Globe


If you drink coffee on a regular basis, you have almost certainly enjoyed a cup of joe made from Brazilian coffee beans. Around one-third of the coffee in the world is grown right in Brazil. The coffee exported from Brazil makes up about 60% of the amount that is consumed around the world on an annual basis. That’s a huge amount of coffee and it might make you wonder why in the world Brazil is elevated above the other great countries that offer delicious coffee beans.

What might be even more surprising is that Brazil has held the top spot in terms of coffee exports for around 150 years. Today we’re going to look at what makes Brazil so unique from its history to its agriculture, unique flavor of coffee, and more. All of these things combine to offer a coffee that millions of people enjoy every single day. So, the next time you sip on a coffee beverage, think about Brazil and how it may have had an impact on what you are drinking.

Brazilian Coffee History

The coffee plant was first transported to Brazil in the 1700s. The actual history is steeped in mystery, but many believe that the first plant was smuggled into the country from Ethiopia and immediately took off. The first coffee tree was planted by Francisco de Melo Palheta in 1727 and it quickly began to spread, mainly being plant along the shores of Brazil. Coffee had spread all the way down to Rio de Janeiro by the late 1700s. Up until this point, sugar cane was the biggest economic activity in Brazil but that was all about to change.

While coffee began its life in Brazil planted mainly for domestic consumption, the 19th century changed things rapidly. Europe and America were both looking for more coffee and Brazil was happy to provide it. Coffee plantations began to grow and expand in Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo. Production quickly peaked when the soils in Vale do Paraiba began to be used to produce coffee. Soon Brazil was providing 20% of the coffee for the globe and by 1830, coffee was the biggest export of the country.

From 1820 and going forward, coffee became the top export from Brazil and sugar cane started to lose its luster. The peak of production was found when coffee began to be planted in Vale do Paraiba. During this time, Brazil became the top exporter of coffee around the globe. This led to changes in society as coffee farm owners between wealthy and powerful. These people had both economic and political power, even to the point of changing the way the country’s presidential elections turned out.During this same time, progress came swiftly. The rich invested in things like railways, bank institutions, infrastructure, industrialization, and credit expansion.

Later on, in 1888, slavery was abolished which had a huge detrimental effect on the production of coffee. There were government programs instituted to bring in immigrants to work in the coffee fields of Brazil. Having these immigrants in the country helped build the internal market of the country and also increased its level of urbanization. Things were going at a decent pace and the country was growing by the day up until the Great Depression of 1929. At this point in history, Brazil was exporting most of their coffee to the United States. When the depression occurred, the prices also dropped which led to a huge loss and even the burning of thousands of bags of coffee beans before they ever left Brazil.

This led to a serious change in the way Brazil would make an effect in the world of coffee. However, coffee has never stopped being important to the Brazilian economy. It’s one of the most valuable commodities of the country and that will likely not change at any time in the future.

Geography of Coffee Growth in Brazil

There are over a dozen areas in Brazil where coffee is grown. These areas are spread across a total of seven states, which is why the country offers such a diverse variety of beans. We’re going to take a quick look at where coffee comes from in Brazil and exactly what you can expect from each location. The states where coffee is grown largely include Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Parana, and Rondonia. The largest of the coffee producing states if Minas Gerais, so we will start there.

Minas Gerais

About half of the coffee in Brazil comes from Minas Gerais, which means General Mines. It is also one of the most significant sources for the specialty coffee that comes from the country. There are several regions in the state known for their environment, coffee, and more.

  • Sul de Minas – This area has a mild temperature and a high altitude. It is responsible for the production of just under a third of the coffee in Brazil. Most of the coffee comes from small farms, although larger ones do exist. When it comes to coffee varieties, you can expect Catuai, Catuai Rubi, Mundo Novo, Obata, and Icatu to make up most of them in this region. The flavor of the coffee here is typically full-bodied and offers slight notes of citrus with a fruity scent.
  • Cerrado de Minas – When it comes to Destination of Origin status, this location produces the most coffee. This region is quite substantial and has 55 municipalities within its borders. Unlike Sul de Minas, the farms here are typically medium to large in size. The altitude is high here and the weather has traditional seconds, which means it is suited to producing specialty coffees. Some of them you may see in this area include Catuai and Mondo Novo. However, the Destination of Origin coffees have a sweetness with a medium body and high level of acidity.
  • Chapada de Minas – The most common coffees produced and cultivated here are Mundo Novo and Catuai. The region features valleys along with highland areas, which makes it a fantastic choice for production using machinery.
  • Matas de Minas – This area can be found in the Atlantic Forest and typically offers smaller farms. It has a climate that is warm and humid. This area is slowly becoming more known for offering specialty coffees with notes of caramel and chocolate. You will find Mundo Novo and Catuai to be in abundance in this area.

Sao Paulo

Another of the best-known states in Brazil for coffee production is Sao Paulo. This is also where the Port of Santos lies, which is the largest port for the export of coffee. There are a few regions of note in this area, which we’ll look at below.

  • Mogiana – With an altitude of around 1,000 meters and mild temperatures, Mogiana is a fantastic location for high-quality coffee. The beans here are typically sweet and have a balanced profile. This location includes both Catuai and Mundo Nova varieties.
  • Centro-Oeste de Sao Paulo – The farms located in this region are often medium or small in size. The region is very hilly and the cities of Garca, Marilia, Avare, and Ourinhos are all located here.

Espirito Santo

The second highest amount of coffee is produced in Espirito Santo. Most of the coffee that comes out of this area is Robusta, but there is some specialty level coffee, too. There are two major regions that produce coffee in this state.

  • Montanhas do Espirito Santo – This is a highland area that experiences fairly mild temperatures. This has led the area to be considered one of the best for specialty coffees. The main varieties cultivated in this area are Mundo Novo and Catuai with the region known for fruity notes and a high level of acidity.
  • Conilon Capixaba – A Robusta variety known as Conilon is typically grown here. Most properties are quite small, and the coffee is produced at a lower than average altitude.


Bahia is a rather new addition to the coffee world and has only been in production since the 1970s. However, the technology used there along with the quality of the beans has made the areas one to watch out for. About 75% of the crops coming out of Bahai are Arabica.

  • Cerrado and Planalto de Bahia – This region has a warm climate and high altitudes but can experience rainy winters and dry summers. This has led to coffee with a full body but a low level of acidity. This area is one of the best in Brazil when it comes to technology. Full mechanization is common, which also means that productivity is outrageous.
  • Atlantico Baiano – This region is similar to Conilon Capixaba in that most of the coffee produced here is done on small properties located at relatively low altitudes.


Nearly all of the farms in Parana will be producing Arabica coffee and located in Norte Pioneiro. This area is dense with coffee plantations and you can expect a massive level of productivity.


Last, we look at Rondonia. This is an area where Robusta coffee is typically produced. This region has a tropical climate, low altitudes, and higher than average temperatures.

Coffee Processing in Brazil

Much of the coffee that comes out of Brazil is known as pulped natural coffee. That might seem like a confusing term, but once you understand it, it makes a lot of sense. The method of pulped natural started becoming popular in Brazil about two decades ago and was called peeled cherry. Thatis because the process involves removing the skin from the coffee cherry before the coffee is left to dry with the pulp still attached to the bean.

This is something in between the wet and dry processing options. The typical dry method involves drying the fruit exactly is it comes off of the tree, while the wet method involves removing all of the skin and pulp from the cherry before the coffee bean is allowed to dry. However, there are other methods that are similar to pulped natural. These include the honey process, which removes part of the pulp before drying, among others. The only real difference is how much of the peel and pulp are removed in each case.

You might wonder what this process does in terms of taste. The idea behind the process is that the pulped natural coffee will have a higher quality than a traditional coffee with a more consistent aroma. One of the ways that production can save money during harvest is by using less space, which this method allows. Unfortunately, the process does require equipment for drying, processing, and storage.

The other method most commonly used by Brazilian coffee farms is the natural process. This process can also be known as the dry process. It involves taking down coffee cherries at the best level of ripeness before drying to an appropriate moisture level. The flavor profile you can expect from this process is one that is fruity, bold, and diverse. This is because of the ability to inherit the taste of the coffee skin and pulp. This method is also associated with a heavy body cup of coffee.

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When coffee comes out of the tree, it has a thin pulp which is covered by a skin. Most beans have two seeds which are covered by a thin layer and When using this natural method, the cherry is left exactly as it is. This allows it to take in the taste of the skin and pulp longer than a traditional method. Most of these coffees are dried using a raised bed, which can be complicated but when done right, can bring about the best tasting coffee on the planet.

Wet processed coffee is less popular in Brazil, but some farms make use of the process. This is a newer method of processing that removes all four of the layers that are around the coffee bean. The bean that results from this process has a fruitier taste and is commonly brighter and cleaner than the alternatives. While this is not used in large amounts in the country, it does provide a cleaner and brighter coffee when it is used.


What Makes Arabica Coffee More Popular Than Robusta

As we mentioned earlier, Arabica coffee makes up the largest amount of coffee the is exported from Brazil. However, if you don’t know much about Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties, you may wonder what is unique about each. We’re going to focus on Arabic, from what it is to some facts about what makes it stand out from Robusta coffee.

In the shortest definition, Arabica coffee is a coffee made using the beans from a Coffea arabica plant. This type of coffee got its start in Ethiopia and is the most popular around the globe. Robusta coffee, on the other hand, is made from the plant called Coffea canephora. It is believed that the name refers to the fact that the beans traveled from Ethiopia to Arabia. In Ethiopia, the coffee beans were being crushed and mixed with other foods to be eaten. However, it was first brewed in Arabia and became the coffee we know and love today.

Arabica coffee is known for offering a sweet flavor that includes notes of caramel, chocolate, and nuts. Sometimes it also has notes of berries or fruit. The acidity is there, but not overwhelming, and there is a bit of bitterness, too.  However, the roast of the coffee will also impact how much you notice the various flavors. The soil composition and location where the beans are grown can also have an effect on the balance of the flavors.

Less Caffeinated

Arabica coffee has less caffeine than you will find in Robusta coffee. This might be a positive or a negative depending on your preferences. Robusta has a caffeine content of about 2.7% while Arabica has about 1.5% caffeine content. Those who prefer a large amount of caffeine may find the lower amount in Arabica to be a problem. However, those who are worried about the potential health effects of additional caffeine may appreciate the fact that Arabica has less. In addition, the caffeine has a bitter taste so that may be pronounced more in Robusta coffee and beverages the incorporate it.

Higher Levels of Sugar

While Arabica coffee will have less caffeine than Robusta, it does have more sugar than Robusta. In fact, the amount of sugar in Arabica is nearly two times as much. This can be a positive for those who prefer sweet flavors to bitter ones. However, some people prefer to avoid added sweetness and may appreciate Robusta for that reason. The first factor seems to be more important to most based on the sheer popularity of Arabica when compared to Robusta coffee.

More Lipids in Arabica

Another substance that is found in larger amounts in Arabica is lipids. That includes things like fats and oils but can also include certain vitamins, waxes, and hormones as well.

Higher Level of Acidity

The acidity of Arabica is traditionally higher than you will find in Robusta coffee. As with coffee, acidity is considered by man to make a beverage taste better. What it does with Arabica coffee is add to the chocolate, fruity, and nutty flavors that are already present. With lower acidity, Robusta has a flavor that is less appreciated and can be woodier or even taste a bit burnt.

A Better Flavor to Most

Most people enjoy the flavor of an Arabica brew more than that of a Robusta coffee. Robusta is more bitter and can have an earthy or rubbery taste. Arabica has more notes of fruits, berries, nuts, and chocolate. As far as the aroma goes, Arabica smells like fruit while Robusta can smell a bit like peanuts before roasting occurs.

More Fragile Than Robusta Coffee

It’s easier to grow Robusta coffee than it is to grow Arabica coffee. Arabica coffee requires a more consistent climate without major lows or highs, while Robust can handle more changes and a higher temperature. In addition, Arabica requires a humid climate while Robusta is okay with rainfall variance and a higher level of direct sunlight. It also can be more easily damaged by pests if any are in the area of the farms.

All of these factors together make up the reasons why Arabica coffee is the most in-demand and popular coffee variety of the many available. While it isn’t just coming out of Brazil, the country does provide a huge amount of this tasty brew. You probably enjoy it yourself as your morning brew unless you are one who prefers the bitterness or extra caffeine content of Robusta coffee.

Brazilian Coffee Culture

If you plan to visit Brazil in the future or are just curious about how coffee has created culture there, we wanted to share a bit about that. The reality is that almost everyone in Brazil has some connection to the coffee we drink every day. The coffee industry in the company provides nearly eight million jobs to Brazilians every single day. While the best coffee out of the country is largely exported, even the “subpar” coffee is of a high quality and enjoyable to drink. Because of the large amounts of coffee in the country, you can expect that indulging in drinking coffee is common and it is often an inexpensive indulgence.

Most of the people who live in Brazil drink their coffee black but with the addition of a large amount of sugar. The reason for that is because the beans grown at lower altitudes are less likely to be exported and can have a substantially bitter taste. Those who use creamer in their coffee will most likely choose milk rather than half and half or other options. Other than that, most coffee consumed in Brazil is fairly simple. There aren’t a lot of machines used nor are extra ingredients the normal. In fact, many places offer coffee for free.

As far as the most popular coffee goes in Brazil, that distinction goes to a beverage called Cafezinho. This drink consists of filter coffee sever extra hot with plenty of sugar. All you need to make your own is 1/3 cup finely ground coffee, 2/3 cup sugar, and four cups of hot water. You can also add scalding milk to taste. This is a beverage made with a pour over device. You put a filter over it, add sugar and follow it by coffee. Then you pour the super-hot coffee over it all. Those who want milk will then add it to your coffee in the amount you prefer.

This can also be made in a French press if you prefer a modern twist on the recipe. For this recipe, you’ll need a few other things. You need a scale, French press, electric kettle, grinder, and large spoon. The ingredients for the coffee include an ounce of coffee, two tablespoons of granulated sugar, steam milk if you like, and two to three cups of water.

First you will want to weigh your coffee and grind it down if it has not already been ground. You then add the coffee to your French press with sugar added to the top of the grounds. Next, boil your water and then let it rest for about 30 seconds before adding it over the contents of your French press. Stir everything up, add the lid, and wait about four minutes for the coffee to brew. You can make your steamed milk at this point if you would like it. Now you can press the coffee gently and then pour milk into your cup, followed by your coffee.

Taking a Brazilian Coffee Vacation

With Brazil being a tropical paradise and the home so much great coffee, it’s a beautiful place to visit. The reality is that you can find a great coffee on every street corner in the major areas of Brazil. We’re going to take a look at the various regions of this country and determine where you can get the best coffee you have ever had. Whether you want traditional, old-style coffee or something innovative, you can find it in the land of Brazil.

Coffee Lab

Located in Sao Paula, Coffee Lab is an innovative coffee shop and so much more. It takes up two stories and has both indoor and outdoor seating. In the back, you can take in an open kitchen complete with staff dressed up like scientists. The front of the café features coffee roasters, since Coffee Lab does all of its roasting for itself. There are multiple options for the coffees you order, and you can select from French press, Aeropress, pour over, and clever. There are hot and cold beverages along with food and desserts. If you are in the city and try nothing else, your mouth deserves to enjoy some coffee by Coffee Lab.

Confeitaria Colombo

For those staying in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most popular coffeehouses is Confeitaria Colombo. In addition to offering some fantastic coffee, there are also many teas on offer. If you happen to be hungry, you can also pick up delicious pastries. However, what really makes this place so popular us the look. The interior of the shop is something you have to see to believe. The shop has been around since before 1900 and the aesthetic speaks to that. The environment is beautiful, and you and your family will appreciate every second enjoying the sweets and beverages in Brazil.

New York Café

This is an extension of the first New York Café but fully worth visiting if you plan to visit Curitiba. This is another spot that is great for someone with a sweet tooth, since there are dozens of cheesecakes on offer to enjoy. However, the restaurant also offers great meals like cheeseburgers and fries that will appeal even to the picky palates of young travelers. On top of that, there are also vegan menu items and more. It’s clear this restaurant is looking to provide a fantastic experience for anyone who stops in to enjoy a coffee, dessert, or meal.

Café com Letras

As you have likely already discovered, there are tons of coffeehouses in Brazil. Many of them are also more than just that and offer tons of food and desserts for those who want something more substantial than a cup of coffee. The menu changes at Café com Letras, which is located in Belo Horizonte, on a regular basis but some of the items you can expect are tiramisu, vegan penne pasta, tapioca dumplings, risotto, and tapenades. Don’t worry though, there are also dozens of coffee drinks.

Agridoce Café

Agridoce Café is located in Porto Alegre and like the other cafes we have looked at, they offer coffee, meals, and desserts for their patrons. This is a trendy little café with a European feel and a large variety of tasty coffee. Enjoy everything from espresso to lattes, macchiato, and cappuccino. There are also more modern concoctions like Nitro coffee and less common dishes like affogato for those who have a taste for sweetness. Enjoy your drink with a cinnamon roll, crème brulee, or cheesecake for an experience you will want to repeat.

Sofa Café

Want to hang out somewhere that feels like your own home? Try Sofa Café which is located in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paula, and even Boston, Massachusetts. The idea behind the shop is to offer a cafeteria where there is a comfy sofa like home but the specialty coffees you can only get in a café. The café breaks down its philosophy as “selection of special coffees + precision in roasting + extraction = ideal coffee!” in the case of Sofa Café, that means only coffees that have received at least 80 points form the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Freak Café

This is a café located in Sao Paula in a quiet neighborhood called Moema. The café is well-known for offering gourmet coffees but also provides a large selection of paninis and salads. Don’t worry if you have a sweet tooth, there are also brownies, mini cakes, pies, croissants and more that you will find in the window displays. When the weather is a bit cooler, there are also often hot teas, soups, and even fondues on offer. Even vegetarians and vegans will find tons of options available so everyone can hang out here.

Santo Grao

Another café which is all over Sao Paulo is the Santo Grao. You can find locations in Moema, Oscar Freire, Cidade Jardim, Villa Madaleno, Itaim Bibi, Morumbi, and Higienopolis. No matter which you decide to spend time at, you’ll find that the coffee is better than good. Several of the blends offered have won national awards at one time or another. If you choose to visit the Jardim or Itaim Bibi locations, you’ll find something closer to a restaurant than a café. One of the perks of visiting this shop is that you can choose your extraction method for the drink you’d like whether espresso, Hario, or Aeropress.

Urbe Café

This is a café located in the Baixo Augusta region of Sao Paulo right in the heart of the underground culture of the city. If you stop in late at night, you can take in the diversity of visitors, including those taking a break from the nightclubs or those enjoying an indie film in the neighborhood. In the day, it’s just another coffeehouse that caters to the business world. But stopping in on the weekend is the best choice since you can try some fantastic confectionaries including the popular banana bread.

Octavio Café

Also in Sao Paulo is Octavio Café, which is a gourmet coffeehouse that is beautiful to look at from outside or in. This is a massive coffeehouse that serves brilliant coffee along with all sort of snacks and meals. But what most people are really there for are the coffee and the sweets that may accompany it. There’s also a breakfast menu, but if you want to partake, you should make sure to book ahead. It always ends up packed with waiting eaters excited about the fare. The location is nice and clean, accessible, and even features a unisex bathroom for patrons.

La de Venda

Many people step inside this shop in Sao Paulo after seeing all the colorful items in the windows, but what makes them stay is the aroma of fantastic coffee. The Brazilian cheese bread and guava cheesecake are also huge hits. This is another shop that serves full meals all day long. If you stop in for lunch, try the crunch fish filet with steamed noodles or enjoy the genuine stroganoff dish. There are also full meals for families or friends like chicken in a pot or vegetarian quiche and salad. N matter what you try, it is sure to be a total hit.

Café Secreto

The final café we’re going to look at is located in Rio de Janeiro and is known as Café Secreto. It is hiding down a small artistic alleyway near the Largo do Machado metro.  Most travelers pass it by without a second look but those who have been before actively seek it out. You can enjoy not just great coffee but also delicious cookies and warm sourdough bread. All of the coffee made in this shop is from local beans and you’ll find almost any coffee beverage you like on the menu.

Wrapping Up

At this point you have an understanding of the history of coffee in Brazil, where coffee is produced in this South American country, what differs from the method and others, and more. We’ve also looked at the most popular drinks in Brazil when it comes to caffeination and talked about which cafes you absolutely must visit if you end up in Brazil. If you have other suggestions, feel free to pop them in the comments. Otherwise, have a great day and enjoy your next Brazilian coffee beverage.

Bonus Questions

1. What is Brazilian coffee like?

There are a number of different Brazilian coffees and many are considered quite good. Many of the highest quality coffees out of Brazil will have low acidity and soft nutty notes. You can also expect a hint of bittersweet chocolate to be present.

2. How much money does Brazil make from coffee?

The amount of money that Brazil makes from coffee varies but in 2013, coffee exports made over $51.5 billion in revenue.

3. What does Brazil produce the most of?

The most important exports coming out of Brazil include frozen chicken, coffee, ethanol, soybeans, sugar cane, and beef.

4. What food do they grow in Brazil?

As far as foods go, the most significant ones grown in Brazil include beef, coffee, soybeans, citrus, wheat, sugarcane, rice, and corn.

5. Does Brazil have a good economy?

When it comes to nominal GDP, Brazil’s economy is the eighth largest. The same applies when it comes to purchasing power parity.

6. What is the culture of Brazil?

The culture of Brazil is mostly Western. However, there is an extremely diverse culture in the country.

7. What do they eat in Brazil?

Rice is a common food eaten in Brazil, but pasta is also popular. In many cases, these items will be eaten with beans along with a salad and side dish like corn, potatoes, or polenta.

8. What is Brazil’s favorite sport?

Football is the most popular sport of Brazil, but other popular sports include motor sports, volleyball, basketball, and mixed martial arts.

9. What is the most expensive coffee?

Kopi luwak is considered to be one of the most expensive coffees around the globe. It can be sold for as much as $500 a pound in the United States.

10. What are Brazil’s national resources?

Some of the national resources of Brazil include iron ore, timber, platinum, gold, clay, uranium, and bauxite.

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