Brazilian Coffee’s Rise To Respectability

By Michael Engle | February 16, 2012

Photo: CIFOR

Katy McLaughlin of The Wall Street Journal recently published a profile of Brazilian coffee, and its sudden rise to respectability.  Though Brazilian coffee has been produced and exported for a long time, it has always suffered from a reputation of lower quality. As a result, Brazilian coffee beans, for the most part, have been reserved for instant mixes. Brazil’s newly-found status as a coffee powerhouse, however, is not due to any particular magic bean or change in soil; instead, it can be attributed to different roasting techniques.

Compared to the traditionally more respected coffee-growing countries, e.g.: Colombia or Ethiopia, Brazil is much closer to sea level, as it is as low as 3,000 feet above sea level in some regions.  Therefore, dark-roasting techniques as practiced at Starbucks and Peet’s are ill-suited for Brazilian coffee beans.  Instead, it has been discovered that Brazilian coffees, in general, are better suited in espresso blends, which are more delicately roasted.

With Brazilian coffees shedding their long-standing negative reputations, there may be questions pertaining to the future of coffee production, including fair trade.  As coffee roasters continue to discover the merits of lighter-roast Brazilian coffees, how much more money can the Brazilian growers expect to earn, if any, at all? When coffee roasters and producers gain more ways of generating profit via these “new” Brazilian beans, they also have an opportunity to leave a legacy on the Brazilian economy.  If, while given a chance to enjoy record-breaking profits, producers could voluntarily increase the price of the Brazilian raw material with negligible effects to the bottom line, one must hope that “fair trade” would remain fair.

Photo: CIFOR

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