Brazil - Coffee superstate

To get to know the coffee-loving superstate, KALVE team went to our trusted partners - “Sancoffee”, based in the Minas Gerais and Campos de Vertente region of Brazil. It certainly wasn't just a trip, it was an adventure where KALVE team had the opportunity to see where and how the coffee grows. Coffee that  KALVE is proud to serve in its cafes in Riga, as well as offer to partners across Europe.

In this blog series, we will focus on Brazilian coffee varieties, specifically those encountered in the Minas Gerais and Campos de Vertentes regions.

Brazil is the seventh-largest country in the world by population and the fifth-largest in terms of territory. However, it's impressive not only in size but also as the largest coffee producer and exporter, accounting for about 35% of the world's total coffee exports. In the 2022/2023 season, Brazil's coffee production reached 62.6 million 60-kilogram coffee bags. Of these, one-third, or 21.3 million bags, were consumed domestically in Brazil. Meanwhile, over 40 million coffee bags were exported beyond its borders. Although Brazil is a global powerhouse, the coffee industry is relatively small compared to other sectors, such as soybean production or industrial mining. Coffee exports make up only about 1% of Brazil's total exports.

Coffee Varieties and Organic Farming at "SANCOFFEE" Farms

In the Campos de Vertentes region, coffee farms are located at an average altitude of 1100 meters above sea level, and "Sancoffee" manager Fabrizio Andrade notes that the region provides excellent conditions for coffee cultivation - rich and fertile soil and perfect climate conditions that ensure a good range of moisture and temperature for coffee growth.

"Sancoffee" unites 322 growers, as well as farms of various sizes and coffee-growing communities. The most common coffee varieties found on the farms are industry-tested values such as Bourbon, Yellow Catuai, Catucai, and Mundo Novo.

However, a relatively new coffee variety called Arara has been increasingly appearing in coffee fields. It was introduced only in 2012 and it thrives at altitudes of 600 to 1300 meters above sea level and is a highly productive coffee variety that is resistant to various extreme climatic conditions - both drought and extreme heat. By the way, Arara is one of the most productive Brazilian coffee varieties and has become one of the most frequently planted ones in recent years.

"Sancoffee" coffee farms also feature several locally characteristic and high-quality coffee bean varieties, such as Catigua and Acaia.

It was at the Fagundes community farm, run by Arlindo Jr. and Arlindo Lelis Cunha, that the KALVE team tasted this year's coffee harvest - Catigua, Acaia, and Yellow Catuai. Acaia coffee beans have a delicate taste with floral and honey notes, while Catigua offers rich sweetness and a thick, syrupy texture.


Meanwhile, "Fazenda Samambaia," the largest "Sancoffee" farm with a 900-hectare plantation, is currently experimenting and trying to fully understand the principles of organic farming by planting a 12-hectare area with Paraiso coffee variety.

Paraiso coffee was specifically chosen for its resilience to complex climatic conditions and frequent coffee plant disease - leaf rust. Organic farming serves as an alternative to conventional agriculture. In the process of organic farming, no chemicals are used; only natural compost and other plants and insects are utilized to enrich the soil and protect the plant from unwanted pests. It also means that the chosen coffee variety for organic farming must be strong and resilient enough to grow and thrive despite changing weather, unpredictable weather and pests.  

Although the demand for organically grown coffees in developed countries is increasing, it should be noted that relying only on compost as the only soil conditioner and restorer, organically grown coffee trees will not be able to produce as efficiently as those treated with traditional agricultural methods. This means that growing organic coffee will take up more land and will be able to produce fewer coffee beans than conventional agricultural fields.


The war in Ukraine also affects agriculture in Brazil

The war initiated by Russia in Ukraine has significantly impacted Brazilian farmers as well. Prior to Russia's incursion into Ukraine, almost all mineral fertilizers were imported from Belarus and Russia. The rapid increase in prices and the unavailability of mineral fertilizers led Brazilian farmers to seek alternatives to the traditional soil enriching elements such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphoric acid. Many Brazilian farmers began focusing more on resources that were already available to them - processing various byproducts and organic waste into compost. Similarly, greater attention is being given to other crops and plants that help improve soil fertility and repel pests.

Even now, traditional coffee farming employs compost as a soil enricher because, like any crop, coffee fields require soil renewal and enhancement each season. In traditional coffee plantations, other crops and plants are also used to improve soil quality and provide protection against pests, which have become a significant problem for coffee growers due to climate change in recent years.

However, sometimes natural methods are insufficient, especially when plants suffer from climatic conditions, diseases, or pests. As an analogy, consider moments when a person falls ill with a virus or infection - while people generally manage well with natural remedies in their daily lives, when faced with a severe illness, chemically developed medications created by pharmacists come to the rescue, aiding the body in overcoming the unwelcome intruder.

The same principle applies to any plant - if it is plagued by pests or unfavorable growth conditions, it is beneficial to provide assistance using chemically developed solutions that help the plant regain its strength.


The Future of Coffee Cultivation

Both changing natural conditions and the growing demand for organically grown coffee lead farmers to consider non-standard agricultural solutions and invest in new technologies. Currently, more and more specialty coffee farms are introducing hybrids, crossing Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties. Despite the stereotype that Robusta coffee is inferior to Arabica, it is not the case. While Robusta has a very classic and one-dimensional taste profile, it contains more caffeine and is much hardier against adverse growth conditions, making it easy to cultivate and grow. It's excellent for coffee blends or crossbreeding with Arabica to create new varieties that offer high taste quality and resilience to various changing conditions.

Coffee industry is never asleep. Coffee farms, research institutions and other industry's  scientists and stakeholders are actively working together to find new solutions to help coffee plants become more productive and resilient to harmful conditions as well as farming become more effective. 

Choosing the right coffee variety and maintaining the health of coffee fields and trees are time, labor, and resource-consuming processes. It's also the first step to create high-quality coffee with exceptional taste.

In the upcoming blog series, we will focus on coffee harvesting and processing.

Read the previous blog HERE.

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