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The powerhouse behind coffee production has a unique rise-to-fame story.

Coffee was introduced to the country back in the early 18th century, with a unique and riveting story. In 1727, the Portuguese government sent a soldier – Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta – to smuggle coffee seeds from French Guiana, under the cover of mediating a border dispute. The Lieutenant is said to have smuggled coffee after winning over the Governor of Cayenne’s wife, who placed coffee seeds in a bouquet.

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  • Place In World For Coffee Exporter
  • Sacks (60kg) exported annually
    Approx: 40,698,000
  • Percentage of world coffee market
  • Other major agricultural exports
    Sugar, Soybean, Wheat
  • Typical varieties produced
    80% Arabica: Bourbon, Catuai, Acaia, Mundo Novo, Icatu among many others
  • Key coffee regions
    Sul de Minas, Matas de Minas, Cerrado, Chapadas de Minas, Mogiana, Espirito Santo, Paraná and Bahia.
  • Typical harvest times
    May - September
  • Typically available
    Year Round
Rio Verde (2)

Rise to Fame

In one century, the country exploded with coffee production, becoming the world’s leading producer by 1830, representing 30% of global production. Within a decade, Brazil’s percentage increased to 40%. This title has been maintained to this day. Some two million hectares of the country are now swaying with coffee trees, of which the vast majority (70 percent+) is Arabica. Much of this is destined for the large multi-national roasters and is known simply as ‘Santos’ (after the port it is shipped from in São Paulo state – not a producing region).


Struggles with Production

In 1975, Brazil suffered a devastating frost. Many producers abandoned their crops in the south and southeast and resettled in Minas Gerais state, an area less affected by frost. The combination of technology, best practices in cultivation and the farmers’ willpower enabled Minas Gerais—in little more than 30 years—to stand out as the leading coffee-producing state in Brazil.

Canta Galo (12)

Importance of Coffee

Coffee has also helped provide work for immigrants and locals – which led to the development of many well-known Brazilian cities. São Paulo alone exploded with immigrants – the population growing from 30,000 people in the 1850s to 240,000 by the turn of the century.

To recognize the country’s quality coffees, Brazil pioneered the juried Cup of Excellence competition in 1999. Farms range in size from small family plantations of less than 10 hectares, up to massive estates in excess of 2,000 hectares.

Here, a huge number of traditional and experimental varietals such as Bourbon, Mondo Novo, Icatú, Catuaí, Iapar and Catucaí are cultivated. Most of the genetic material used in Brazilian coffee crops stems from the Catuaí and Mundo Novo groups, developed by the Agronomy Institute of Campinas (IAC) in the 1930s.

Historically, much of the coffee grown in Brazil was processed using the natural method due to water scarcity in the early coffee producing regions. This has changed in the last decade, with pulped natural and fully washed methods becoming more widely used. These processes are used to enhance different characteristics of the coffee and to bring out different traits.


Unique Production

Indeed, some large estates process their coffees by each method in order to offer contrasting cup profiles. Mercanta works closely with the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA) to build long lasting, sustainable relationships with quality growers, both large and small. The BSCA works on both international and domestic levels to raise the standards of Brazilian coffee and coffee agriculture. Internationally, it promotes fine Brazilian coffee and helps growers to meet the exacting standards of specialty coffee buyers worldwide. On a domestic level, the BSCA works with farms to continually improve sustainable farming practices and ensure the provision of social care to workers.

Brazil faces some of the most unique weather challenges with frosts occurring part of the year and droughts during others. Producers thus have to find ways to adapt and ensure all areas of their farms are maximizing production and quality is maintained.

Additionally, Brazil is the only country to utilize mechanized harvesting tools to assist with the extensive coffee fields. The flat topography of the country allows for the ease of machines to slowly comb through the coffee trees and remove ripe cherries. Advanced agricultural technology has allowed for the even harvesting of cherries and prevents uneven harvesting.

Today, the well-known coffee producing regions are Espirito Santo, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Bahia.