Brazil is known for its warmth, artistry, and zest for life.
Those qualities perfectly translate over to their coffee, and combined with a favorable climate and agricultural expertise, make it the world's biggest coffee producer.
Let's talk about how this nation has been involved in an enduring love affair with these beans and has changed coffee consumption the world over!
What makes it so unique, and what kind of flavors can you expect from each region's variations?
Let's jump right in!
What Does Brazilian Coffee Actually Taste Like?
While whether or not Brazilian coffee beans taste good is subjective, I will describe the flavors.
Brazilian coffee beans aren’t all the exact same, but you can generally expect them all to boast a low acidity, well-balanced, light flavors, and a notable sweetness.
To be honest, Brazilian coffees are underestimated by coffee snobs who find them “not strong enough.”
However, I know I’m not alone when I say that the Brazilian coffee taste can be even more complex and impressive when you know how to brew it properly!
While many consider excellent coffee to be intense and robust, the texture profiles and flavor profile I've personally experienced from Brazilian espresso blends are incredible.
Sure, it may not be as "thrilling" as those from East Africa or Central America. However, did you know that this kind of coffee started the Italian espresso culture?
In fact, your average Italian espresso blend is usually around 70% Brazilian (pulped natural method), 15% robusta, and a bit of Central American coffee.
Flavor Profile Of Brazilian Coffee Beans
Generally speaking, Brazilian coffee production involves natural (unwashed) or pulped natural (semi-washed).
Natural processing means that after the coffee cherries are picked from the coffee plant, they’re dried without removing any skin or “meat.”
If you order an espresso drink from your local cafe, chances are the grounds used will be made largely of Brazil coffee beans.
While they’ll vary a bit depending on the region the Brazilian coffee is from, you’ll often taste notes of caramel, chocolate, spice, and/or a nutty flavor.
A Brazilian specialty coffee espresso blend is much more heavy-bodied, as well.
Other popular coffee brewing methods are the cold brew and French press.
Bourbon Santos Coffee
Bourbon Santos is named as such due to it typically being shipped through the southern port of Santos, located close to Rio.
I find it perfect for those who aren't typically fans of high-acidity, strong coffees.
On the contrary, Bourbon Santos Brazilian coffees are very smooth, mild, with an intense sweetness and relatively low acidity.
The light roast to medium roast coffee has a nutty flavor with a wonderful aroma that is a nice "casual" coffee - not one that is going to jolt you awake with a punch.
Green Coffee Beans
Compared to Central American coffees, Brazil's coffee is grown at low elevations with less dense coffee beans. This results in less flavorful coffee than those grown at higher elevations.
Due to this, you'll find that when unroasted green coffee beans are brought to a medium-dark roast, they taste best.
Roasting them longer than this could create an unpleasant bitterness, while a lighter roast could result in less flavor.
Brazilian Coffee History (How It Became Popular)
Something that I love about coffee is the history behind how certain countries came to produce it. For Brazil, this story is anything but boring!
As was the case for many other countries in South America, coffee was brought to Brazil by a European.
It started in 1727 when Portuguese Sergeant Major Francisco de Melo Palheta traveled to Cayenne.
Located in Guiana, he was residing there as a diplomat in an effort to help negotiate a dispute over borders between the French and the Dutch sides.
In this process, he became somewhat romantically involved with the local mayor’s wife, who secretly gifted him coffee seedlings hidden in a bouquet of flowers upon his departure back to Brazil.
Paleta brought the coffee cuttings with him to the state of Para. However, it wasn’t until the plant found its way down close to Rio de Janeiro that it really became popular.
With slave labor still legal at the time, by the year 1830, Brazil was already responsible for a whopping third of the global coffee production!
By the 1840s (and largely due to the Haitian Revolution), the country became the biggest coffee producer in the world.
Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888, and this didn't slow things down at all.
In fact, with the government and more immigration influencing the scene, the country's coffee output only increased! Today, Brazil produces over one-third of the world's coffee.
Specialty coffee has really taken hold of the recent culture.
Since coffee in Brazil is rarely produced in a way that would offer these specialized characteristics, you won't often see single-origin coffee production here.
Brazilian producers are known for making much more affordable coffee in high quantity. However, the mistake is in thinking you can't get a great cup of coffee from it.
Main Growing Regions Explained
Just because you're drinking coffee from Brazil doesn't mean you'll get the same results from each region will be the same.
While Brazil doesn't have the high altitudes or has non-volcanic soil, it is more difficult to grow specialty coffee.
However, Brazilian coffee is incredibly varied, and there really is something for every type of blend and flavor preference.
As the biggest coffee-growing state in the country, Minas Gerais accounts for almost a whopping half of Brazilian coffee.
It consists of 4 different producing regions: Sul de Minas, Cerrado de Minas, Chapada de Minas, and Matas de Minas.
The main Brazilian coffee bean varietals you'll find here are Catuai, Mundo Novo, Icatu, Obata, and Catuai Rubi.
These Brazilian beans tend to be full-bodied, with lightly citric-tasting notes and fruity aromas.
Sao Paulo is one of the most important Brazilian coffee-growing states, where the Port of Santos is found. It consists of 2 producing regions: Mogiana and Centre-Oeste de Sao Paulo.
Mogiana features some of the highest altitudes in the country, up to 1,100 meters above sea level.
The uneven terrain and overall mild temperatures of both regions make for producing sweet and balanced Mundo Novo and Catuaí coffee varietals.
Coffee farms only sprung up here recently, growing coffee in large quantities for the past 50 years or so. However, it's quickly become known for producing some of the best coffee in Brazil.
Bahia produces about 75% Arabica and 25% Robusta quality beans.
There are 2 producing regions here: Cerrado and Planalto da Bahia and Atlantico Baiano.
The former has helped revolutionize the Brazilian coffee industry with high-tech, full mechanization of the entire farming process.
This is why they produce much more than other regions.
With high altitudes and a warm climate, you’ll find full-bodied coffee with a sweet flavor profile and low acidity.
You'll find primarily Robusta coffee beans grown here in the highland area, which, in all honesty, are not as popular as Arabica beans by far.
They're more bitter, have a stronger flavor that's quite delicious, and also have almost twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans!
That's right—more caffeine.
Oh, and this is kind of random, but Robusta beans also contain about double the amount of chlorogenic acid, which operates as an antioxidant, and has been suggested to even help with weight loss!
Common Questions On Brazilian Coffee
What else can you make with Brazilian coffee beans?
There's no doubt you can make some great coffees with Brazilian coffee brands. However, you can also make fantastic espresso drinks with these beans. The medium-bodied Bourbon Santos or Brazil Cerrado varietals are perfect for this purpose.
Why is Brazilian coffee so bitter?
If you find Brazilian coffee to be bitter, you may be drinking Robusta beans. Aside from that, Brazilian varietals are often roasted until dark, which may not be the case for, say, Colombian coffee. The most popular Brazilian coffees are absolutely not bitter, though. Arabica beans have strictly soft flavors, with tones of fruits and sugar.
Does Starbucks use Brazilian coffee?
Starbucks uses many different types of coffee from Brazil, including their Brazil Isidro Pereira Estate and Minas Gerais Whole Bean Coffee. With that being said, most people (and definitely Starbucks baristas) have tried a drink made with coffees from Brazil.
So is Brazilian coffee good? When you wake up in the morning, I highly recommend starting your day off with the varied flavors and roasts of some of the most popular coffee from Brazil.
The Brazilian coffee flavor profile is used all over the world for good reason - now it’s your time to give it a go.