Brazil is South America’s most influential and economically powerful country and one of the world’s largest economies. During the last few years great strides have been made in lifting millions out of poverty across the country. Coffee was introduced to Brazil in 1720 in the southern state of Paraná and has become the powerhouse of the coffee world accounting for more than a third of all coffee produced. Legend has it that at that time the Brazilian government had wanted a cut of world coffee production and sent Lt.Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta to French Guiana on the pretence of mediating on a border dispute. Aware that he would not be allowed to visit the fort-like coffee plantations, the lieutenant instead used his charms to woo the first lady of Guiana and encouraged her to give him the seedlings he also desired. Unable to resist his charms, she presented him with a bouquet spiked with coffee seeds at a farewell banquet held in his honour. Whether sex and deceit can really be attributed to Brazil’s introduction to coffee cannot be proved but there can be no doubt that now, in the 21st century, Brazil’s dominance in world production is unrivalled. Annual crops as high as 60 million bags are becoming common place.
Coffee plantations cover about 27,000 km2 (10,000 sq mi) of the country; of the approximately six billion trees, 74% are arabica and 26% robusta. The states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná are the largest producers due to suitable landscapes, climate and rich soil. The state of Paraná lies in the south of Brazil and falls below the tropic of Capricorn making it vulnerable to occasional low temperatures and frosts. During the 1970s and 1990s many coffee farms were wiped out following devastating black frosts. Such risky conditions led to many farmers moving further north to a new coffee producing region near the nation’s new capital, Brasilia. This frost-free highland savannah is commonly known as the Cerrado.
The word Cerrado is derived from the Portuguese term for “closed, inaccessible wasteland” and until the early 1970s the area was indeed considered to be an inaccessible and useless wasteland. The region produced little of value and could not be productively cultivated as it was isolated from the rest of Brazil by lack of roads or other modern transport access. Yet the area is vast – the Cerrado region comprises 21% of the entire country and is the second largest biome in Brazil. The grassy and lightly wooded savannah covers over 2,000,000 square kilometres of Brazil’s central plateau and developments in agriculture allowed the land to be used productively. We have chosen both of our Brazil coffees from the Cerrado in Minas Gerais as the region is renowned for producing coffees that are great for anchoring solid espresso blends with plenty of body and sweetness, often with nuances of cocoa and berries.