You may be sipping your brew in the peace and safety of your own home, but the coffee world has not always been drama-free. For example, coffee came to Brazil via espionage and intrigue.
Prior to the 1600’s, coffee cultivation was a closely guarded treasure, and the few countries possessing coffee plants were determined that other countries would not join their ranks. But as coffee became a popular beverage in Europe, the stage was set for profit, and Portugal wanted a piece of the action. Enter Francisco de Mello Palheta, Lt. Col. in the Brazilian army. In 1727, he was dispatched by his government to negotiate a border struggle with French Guiana, but his secret mission was to acquire coffee seedlings for Brazil. Story has it that upon seeing how heavily guarded the coffee plantations were, he abandoned the direct approach and instead set out to endear himself to the wife of the governor. Apparently he was successful with more than border negotiations, as she presented him with a bouquet containing cuttings from coffee plants on the eve of his departure.
He planted these in Brazil’s state of Pará, and in a relatively short time, coffee cultivation had spread spread throughout the country--so much so that by the mid 1800s, Brazil took the lead as a coffee producing country, and at its peak during the 1920s, supplied almost 80% of the world’s coffee. Although this number has dropped as other countries’ exports have grown, Brazil still supplies 30-40% of the world’s coffee.
In Brazil, cutting-edge coffee research drives heavy production, and most coffee plantations are huge—some covering 10,000 square miles. The country’s coffee-growing terrain lends itself to mechanization, which is not the best news for specialty coffee, as mechanization of picking and processing tends to reduce the quality of the end product. Also, because much of Brazil’s coffee is grown at lower altitudes and in non-volcanic soil, these differences come out in the cup as a lack of flavor and intensity. That said, there are some stellar Brazilian offerings reaching the specialty coffee market, which we seek out for Crema.co. A great cup of coffee from Brazil carries a distinctive profile: soft, low in acidity, nutty, with bittersweet chocolate notes and distinct fruit.