As a coffee lover, you may already know that Brazil grows one third of the world’s coffee supply, making it by far the largest producer on earth. But what does coffee mean to Brazilians, and how do they incorporate it into their daily lives?
How Coffee Came to Brazil
Coffee has a long history and economic significance in Brazil, which leads to the unique coffee culture found there today.
The story of coffee in Brazil began in 1727 when Francisco de Melo Palheta planted the first coffee tree based on seeds he allegedly smuggled out of French Giana. This new environment was ideal for the coffee bean, providing the perfect combination of temperature and heavy rainfall with a unique dry season. The crop did so well that by 1820, coffee was Brazil’s most exported product.
Coffee: A Valuable Commodity Around the World
Coffee is the second most exported commodity in the world after oil, and Brazil has carried the distinction of being the world’s largest producer of coffee for the past 150 years.
Today, there are 220,000 coffee farms covering 10,000 square miles across southern Brazil. (Our own Brazilian Cocoa drip coffee uses beans sourced from Parana and Sao Paulo.) The coffee industry supplies 8 million jobs nationally, and it is a main source of income not just for many locals, but the nation itself. The money gained by the Brazilian coffee bean trade over the past 200 years has allowed the government to invest in vital areas of the economy, substantially aiding in Brazil’s growth and development.
Brazilian coffee is important in the US economy as well. Our demand for arabica coffee has helped Brazil dominate in the US market. Brazil is America’s biggest supplier of coffee, accounting for 25% of the beans we import.
A Good, Quality Cup of Arabica
When it comes to coffee, Brazil offers some of the world’s finest. Arabica is the main coffee bean grown in Brazil, which produces a coffee that is clear, sweet, medium-bodied and low-acid. Since the best beans are reserved for export around the world, Brazilians drink coffee made from the lower quality beans left behind. Despite this, you will still get a very good cup of coffee locally, and it flows freely!
Brazilian Coffee Culture and Identity
It comes as no surprise then that coffee is not just a drink in Brazil, but a national source of pride. Coffee is part of the very fabric of Brazilian culture and identity. At least 98% of Brazilian households drink it, and cafezinho is the signature coffee of choice. It is a filtered cup of black coffee served boiling hot with liberal amounts of sugar. It is small and strong, and consumed regularly throughout the day.
Many Brazilians are not interested in the complicated coffee drinks found in other cultures and prefer to drink it as pure as possible. This means no machines, fancy ingredients or anything else that will get in the way of enjoying the perfect small cup.
Breakfast itself is referred to as café da manhã in Portuguese, which literally translates to “morning coffee” in English. The pingado is a simple favorite for adults, which is coffee with a drop of milk. And though it may sound shocking, young children in Brazil often drink milky coffee with breakfast.
Coffee is so fundamental in Brazilian culture that “cafezinho” is almost a welcome phrase. It is a symbol of hospitality, and should not be refused, if at all possible, especially in someone’s home.
With coffee holding such an important place in the history and economy of Brazil, it’s easy to see why the world’s biggest producer of coffee is so in love with their cafezinhos, pingados and milky coffees. So next time you have your café da manhã, pour yourself a cup of Brazilian Cocoa and linger a little over the smooth, elegant taste of Brazil’s favorite drink.