Rethinking Brazil's Potential
We all know what Brazilian coffee production is about…or do we?
“When you look at the full geographic range of Brazil from the coast to the mountains to the jungle, that’s 4,000 square kilometers of land. In terms of coffee, Brazil can cover everything,” says Hugo Portes, Specialty Managing Trader with Sucafina Brasil. In short, Brazilian coffee is everything you thought it could be and then much, much more. We’re doing a deep dive into Brazil’s many possibilities in order to understand Brazil’s full potential and how we’re bringing you the best coffees to help you source smart.
What We Know About Brazil
“When most people think of Brazil, the first thing that comes to mind is the sheer volume of coffee produced here,” Hugo says. Brazil produces nearly 40% of the world’s coffee. “Most people buying Brazilian coffees are using them in blends,” says Danner Friedman, Senior Specialty Trader at Sucafina North America. “Brazilian coffee can be really cost-effective and provides a nice, chocolatey base to build upon.”
A huge portion of Brazil’s production is Natural and Pulped Natural (PN). Natural coffees, where the coffee cherry is dried whole, are known for their good body and fruitiness. For PN coffees, the cherry is pulped and the parchment and remaining mucilage is dried. Brazilian PN coffees are known for their clean cup, bright acidity and tea-like body.
Efficiencies of Scale
Brazilian coffee manages to be so cost effective thanks to efficiencies of scale. Farms in Brazil tend to be large. Many coffee growing areas in Brazil are flatter, which enable more mechanization. Combined with the high cost of labor and the large size of farms, a substantial amount of picking and processing in Brazil is mechanized or semi-mechanized.
However, the level of mechanization does depend on the region. “Everybody thinks that all Brazilian coffee is mechanically harvested, but it depends on the region. In Sul de Minas where it’s more hilly, about 80% is mechanically harvested and 20% handpicked. Cerrado, which is very flat, is mostly mechanical but does still have some handpicking,” Danner says. Hand picking in Brazil generally means using derriçadeiras, a sort of mechanized rake that uses vibration to harvest ripe cherry.
Better Quality Through Technology
Mechanization and large-scale production doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality. There are more and more advancements that are improving coffee quality in Brazil, Hugo says, and many farms are now producing both blend components and top lots. Picking-wise, mechanical pickers have become more and more advanced and are now able to more selectively pick ripe cherry. On the processing side, washer-separators are able to remove immature cherry and ensure that Natural-processed coffees are composed of only ripe cherry.
“Technology plays a big role in Brazilian coffee and how they maintain such consistent processing. There are really good color sorters, gravity tables, moisture meters and all that stuff. Brazil is definitely an innovator in technology,” Danner says.
Brazil is a leader in coffee-producing technology and has become somewhat of a proving ground for the broader coffee industry. Thanks to the high cash liquidity of many large farms in Brazil, owners are able to invest in new machinery, often before producers or farms in other countries.
Wet mills across the world are following the setup of washing stations in Brazil, Hugo says. The flow of processing cherry and the machines for processing are both being exported from Brazil and used at washing stations globally to increase efficiency and improve quality.
This is also being seen with dry mills. Pinhalese is now a common brand for pulpers and other processing equipment, but they also have a dry mill in Brazil. “People are looking to the Pinhalese dry mill warehouse in Brazil and imitating that so they can maintain quality and save costs,” Hugo says.
Breaking the Mold
More and more producers are surpassing quality expectations for Natural and PN coffees. The combination of new technology and quality-focused processing is enabling producers to create high-scoring Natural and PN coffees. Some producers are also planting newer varieties with high cup potential, such as Arara.
“There’s huge potential for single origin coffees coming from Brazil,” Danner says. ”It’s going to be a big disrupter when people start seeing the great value single-origin coffees that Brazil has to offer. High-scoring single farms are offering incredible profiles and attractive pricing compared to other coffee growing regions around the world.”
Roasters are becoming more open to the high-scoring microlots that some farmers in Brazil are producing. “I think that they’ll be more and more open to Brazilian coffees down the road. We’re seeing a huge increase in demand for 84+ Brazilian coffee as roasters see the potential there is for better-scoring blenders as well as microlots. Just a short drive from some of the larger farms in Sul de Minas you’ll find the Mantiqueira region which produces some of the best coffee in Brazil. It’s hard not to fall in love with these beautiful farms tucked away in the rolling hills, especially when you cup the coffee,” Danner says.
When it comes to trying new Brazilian coffees, Hugo suggests cupping blind. Our preconceived notions of what Brazilian coffees can and cannot be can impact how we taste and score each coffee. “And a lot of these newer fermentation processes and varieties taste different than what we typically think about as Brazilian coffees,” Hugo says. Cupping blind will help cuppers ensure objectivity and truly evaluate the quality of the coffee.
Sucafina In Brazil
As both as commercial and specialty exporter, Sucafina is well placed to source coffees that meet all your needs, from macrolot to microlot. Our origin and sales teams work hand in hand to source a range of coffees, from our consistent Sucafina Original blends to high-scoring microlots from the Mantiqueira region. Another reason Brazilian coffee can be a great solution for both blends and single origin offerings is that fresh arrivals from Brazil arrive almost year-round. It’s always a good time to book Brazilian coffees.