Coffee Talk: Brazil

By Danny Pinnell, SCAA

This week’s staff meeting was wholly dedicated to The Event in April, but we (of course!) set aside some time for our weekly coffee talk, focusing on Brazil’s impact on the coffee industry.

While sipping on a brew of Future Great Coffee, a Brazilian natural coffee with taste characteristics similar to those of a peanut butter cookie, Sr. Director Peter Giuliano began the meeting, familiarizing us with the “biggest coffee-producing country in the world.”

Everything possible in coffee happens in Brazil. As Brazil goes, coffee goes.

In any given year, Brazil produces approximately 35% of all the coffee produced in the world. In 2014, Brazil produced about 50-52 million bags of coffee. It may be hard to predict exactly what Brazil may yield in 2015, but estimations have been around 45-52 million bags, which leaves a very wide window. Those 7 million bags would account for the entire coffee consumption of Japan (and is one-third of the coffee consumption of the United States). As you can see, Brazil is a huge deal for the world of coffee production.

The Cup of Excellence, the most prestigious award given to high-quality coffees, began in Brazil. Winners of this award are cupped at least 5 times (the ‘Top 10’ are cupped again) during the 3-week competition. During this selection process, thousands of cups are evaluated, tasted and scored based on their exemplary characteristics. The prices that these winnings coffees receive at auction have broken records and proven that there is a huge demand for these rare farmer identified coffees.

This program was pioneered in 1999, then called “Best of Brazil,” by a number of people, including former SCAA Executive Director Ted Lingle and coffee revolutionaries George Howell and Susie Spindler, and has morphed into a very influential, highly instrumental identifier of super extraordinary, high-end, best-of-the-best coffees from various countries over the last 15 years.

Brazil also innovated the pulped-natural coffee, a processing method that involves drying the coffee in its own mucilage (dried with the fruit still around it). In this process, the coffee is left on the tree until the fruit gets ripe and starts to dry out. Then, the tree is stripped by machines (Brazil was at the forefront of the mechanization of agriculture), the coffee gets laid out to dry, and then a variety of sorting mechanisms (both manual and mechanical, humans and robots) sort out sticks and leaves and over-ripe pieces to ensure the quality of the coffee being produced.

With regard to the peanut butter cookie notes we tasted in the coffee, it’s worth mentioning the nutty flavor present in that roast is a unique characteristic common in Brazilian coffee. This flavor profile is primarily nutty and chocolatey, lacking the clear, sparkling acidity that is commonly associated with Central American coffees.

Peter mentioned that, while he was still at Counter Culture Coffee, he was working on an espresso blend with the goal of making it taste like a Snickers bar; the peanut element of this candy bar-inspired espresso came from the Brazilian coffee.

Some standout Brazilian coffee farmers were mentioned during our meeting, including CarmoCoffees, Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, and O’Coffee.

Ric Rhinehart tied up the coffee talk in a neat little bow when he said, “If there is a lot of coffee in Brazil, there is, by default, lots of coffee in the world; if there’s not much coffee in Brazil, there’s not enough coffee in the world. You can never think about coffee without thinking about Brazil.”