Beans from Brazil

WorldCupDrawWith everyone going World Cup wild and Brazil bonkers, we take a closer look at the host nation world’s biggest exporter of coffee – Brazil.

Whether or not Brazil keeps the World Cup in the country at the end of the tournament, it will keep its position as the leading global exporter of coffee. After all, it’s been there for the last 150 years.

Coffee production in Brazil is responsible for about a third of the world’s coffee, making Brazil by far the globally dominant producer. Coffee plantations cover 10,000 square miles and are mainly located in the south-eastern states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná, where the environment and climate are perfect for growing crops.

The first crop arrived in Brazil in the 18th century, with the country becoming a leading producer by the 1840s. In the 1920s Brazil supplied 80 per cent of the world’s coffee. But with the rest of the world catching on, this has diminished since the 1950s.

Francisco the hero

Beans2It is said (on Wikipedia) that the first coffee bush in Brazil was planted by Francisco de Melo Palheta in 1727. Seeking a cut of the coffee market, our hero Frank was blocked from obtaining seeds from bordering French Guiana by a stubborn governor, reluctant to export. But returning home from an unrelated diplomatic mission to French Guiana, Frank seduced the governor’s wife and she secretly gave him a bouquet spiked with seeds.

Coffee then spread from Pará and reached Rio de Janeiro in 1770, but was only produced for domestic consumption until the early 19th century, when American and European demand increased. This created the first of two coffee booms from the 1830s to 1850s, contributing to the decline of slavery and increasing industrialisation.

Impact of slavery

coffeeslavesEarly coffee industry was dependent on slavery and in the first half of the 19th century over one and a half million were imported to work on plantations. When the foreign slave trade was closed off by the British in 1850, plantation owners turned to European immigrants. Internal slave trade with the north continued until its official 1888 abolishment.

The boom from the 1880s to the 1930s came during a period in Brazilian politics called café com leite(“coffee with milk”). It refers to the dominant industries of coffee in São Paulo and dairy in Minas Gerais.

Coffee growing attracted millions of immigrants and transformed São Paulo from a small town into the biggest hub of industry in the developing world.] The city’s population of 30,000 in the 1850s grew to 70,000 in 1890 and 240,000 in 1900. With one million inhabitants in the 1930s São Paulo surpassed Rio de Janeiro as the country’s largest city.

Brazil’s notoriously colourful people will be focused on football over the next month, but they are still likely to be driven by the major source of their national wealth: coffee!

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While you’re here, why not take a look at our Brazilian Daterra Rainforest Espresso?