Brazil has fourteen major coffee-producing regions spread over seven states, therefore it is possible to find a lot of diversity in the country’s profiles due to its size, different characteristics in the producing regions and high level of research to experiment with varietals and processing methods.
The main producing states in Brazil are Minas Gerais (Sul de Minas, Cerrado Mineiro, Chapada de Minas, Matas de Minas), São Paulo (Mogiana, Centro-Oeste), Espírito Santo (Montanhas do Espírito Santo, Conilon Capixaba), Bahia (Planalto da Bahia, Cerrado da Bahia, and Atlantico Baiano), Paraná (Norte Pionerio do Paraná), Rondonia and Rio de Janeiro.
In these coffee-producing areas there are a wide range of traditional and experimental varieties being cultivated mainly: Bourbon, Mundo Novo, Icatú, Catuaí, Iapar, Catucaí, and more.
Another characteristic that brings diversity to Brazil are farm sizes, which can range from small family plantations of less than 10 hectares to big states of more than 2000 hectares.
Most Brazilian coffees are natural (unwashed) or pulped natural (semi-washed). A natural processing method means that, after the coffee cherries are picked, they are dried without removing skin or mucilage and a semi-washed means that the skin and some mucilage is removed before drying.
Usually natural processing is difficult to do without damaging the beans – but it can add a substantial body, sweetness, smoothness, and complexity to the coffee’s profile and Brazil’s climate, with scarce rainfall and long periods of sunshine, makes the country perfect for natural processing. Semi-washed is a more expensive producing method but can be compensated by the fact that it avoids defects and assure a higher quality coffee.
The largest coffee-growing state in Brazil, Minas Gerais accounts for more than 55% of the country’s production. It is also the major source of Brazilian specialty coffee. The producing regions within Minas Gerais are:
Sul de Minas (also known as South of Minas): The region has a high altitude, averaging 950m, and a mild annual temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius. It is the biggest producing region in Brazil, with mostly small farms ranging from 10 to 100 hectares – although that can vary greatly. The main varietals are Catuaí, Mundo Novo, Icatu, Obatã, and Catuaí Rubi. As for the flavor profile, typically coffee is full-bodied with slightly citric notes and fruity/floral aromas.
Cerrado Mineiro: Brazil’s first coffee-producing region to win Designation of Origin status, giving it similar stature to famous wine-producing regions. It’s a large region, comprised of 55 municipalities located between the Alto Paranaiba, Triangulo Mineiro, and the Northwest of Minas Gerais. Its farms range from medium-sized (2-300 hectares) through to large estates. With an altitude of 800-1,300m and well-defined seasons (humid summer and mild to dry winter), this region is well-suited to the production of specialty coffees, it is also known for using irrigation systems. Most popular varieties are: Mundo Novo and Catuaí, as for cupping profiles Cerrado de Minas coffees tend to have medium acidity and body, high sweetness and chocolate and caramel notes.
Chapada de Minas: The region has highland regions interspersed with valleys, making it suitable for mechanized production. Catuaí and Mundo Novo are cultivated here.
Matas de Minas: Situated in the Atlantic Forest, Matas de Minas has an undulating landscape and is characterized by a warm and humid climate. 80% of its producing farms are smaller than 20 hectares. Its known for its increasing production of specialty coffee, which is typically sweet with critic, caramel, or chocolate notes. Catuaí and Mundo Novo are farmed here.
São Paulo is one of Brazil’s historical coffee-growing states since part of it Economic History was highly influenced by the commodity. It’s also home to the Port of Santos, the main coffee exporting port.
Its main producing regions are:
Mogiana: The region has favorable altitudes (900-1,100m), mild temperatures (averaging 20 degrees Celsius), and uneven terrain producing good-quality coffee, with very sweet and balanced cupping profiles. Most popular varieties are Mundo Novo and Catuaí.
Centro-Oeste de São Paulo: This hilly region is comprised of the cities Marilia, Garça, Ourinhos and Avaré. Like Mogiana, the terrain is uneven. Most of the farms are small to medium-sized.
Espírito Santo is Brazil’s second biggest coffee-producing state and its largest producer of Robusta (Conillon). Also, nowadays Espírito Santo is increasing its fame for very complex specialty-grade production in very small farms.
The producing regions within Espírito Santo are:
Montanhas do Espírito Santo: This highland area has mild temperatures and altitudes varying between 700 and 1,300m, allowing it to produce specialty-grade coffees. The region’s known for its high acidity and fruitiness, and the main cultivated varieties are Mundo Novo and Catuaí.
Conilon Capixaba: Conilon, a Brazilian Robusta, is grown here, usually on small properties and at low altitudes.
Paraná was a very traditional coffee producing regions in Brazil but numbers decreased a lot after a big frost in the 1950’s. The state grows exclusively Arabica in Norte Pioneiro do Paraná. Coffee plantations are dense and have high levels of productivity.
Bahia, located in the northeast of Brazil, coffee cultivation only began here in the ‘70s. Yet it’s already gained fame for its quality beans and use of technology. About 75% of its crops are Arabica.
There are two producing regions within Bahia:
Cerrado and Planalto da Bahia: These are the most high-tech coffee-producing regions in Brazil, full mechanization is common. This is made possible by the uniform ripening and rainy winters. This results in sweet coffees, usually Catuaí, with low acidity and a full body.
The region has recently been known for producing high quality coffees, especially in the region from Chapada Diamantina at Planalto da Bahia.
Atlantico Baiano: Like Conilon Capixaba, this region produces Conilon (Robusta) on small properties at low altitudes.
This region is exclusively dedicated to growing Conilon (Robusta) coffee. It has a tropical climate, with high temperatures and low altitudes.