Brazilian Coffee: A Chocolaty Coffee History
Learn the story of seduction behind Brazil's first coffee plant and how the Brazilian coffee industry continues to boom today.
The first coffee planted in Brazil begins with quite the scandal. According to legend, Francisco de Melo Palheta traveled to French Guiana on a diplomatic mission and ended up seducing the governor’s wife in an attempt to get his hands on the valuable local coffee crop. His plan worked. The governor's wife sent Francisco back home to Brazil with coffee seeds hidden in a bouquet of flowers. When he returned home to Brazil, he planted the coffee seeds and the first coffee plants were born: beginning a rich history in Brazil that's fully in bloom today.
Coffee production began around the Paraiba River, near Rio de Janeiro. This location was not only ideal for the land but the proximity to the city for export. Unlike the small coffee farms of Central America, the first commercial farms in Brazil were large plantations worked by slaves. This industrialized method of coffee production was fairly uncommon for the rest of the world. Between 1820 and 1830, coffee production in Brazil was booming and began to break its way into the global market. The people heading coffee production were known as ‘coffee barons’ and were extremely wealthy and powerful. Their demands had great pull in government policies and shaped how the government supported the coffee industry. In 1888, slavery was abolished in Brazil and many feared there would be a significant decline in coffee production. However, the harvest continued to be successful year after year.
Burn the Coffee
In the 1920s, Brazil was producing 80% of the world’s coffee. Sales from coffee financed a large amount of infrastructure in the country. The strength of production became an issue when the large surplus of coffee combined with Great Depression in the 1930s led to a huge drop in world demand. In an effort to ignite coffee prices, Brazil’s government burned around 78 million bags of stockpiled coffee. This effort didn’t pay off as they had hoped.
Coffee in Brazil Today
Today, Brazil is the most advanced and industrialized coffee producer in the world. They supply 30% of the coffee production worldwide: for reference, this is almost three times as much as Vietnam who is the second largest producer. The drink is very popular in Brazil and is the most consumed product by individuals over 10. Brazilian coffees are often low in acidity with a sweet, heavy body. The tasting notes in Brazilian coffee draw on chocolate and nutty flavors and are known to produce a very clean cup.