Warmth Blend - Origin Deep Dives
Origin Deep Dive: Brazil
Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world, which is exporting a third of the globe’s coffee. It all started with a scandal.
As the legend goes, in 1727 a Brazilian lieutenant by the name of Francisco de Mello Palheta was sent by the emperor to French Guiana to settle a border dispute, as well as find coffee seedlings. The Portuguese wanted a cut of this coffee market, but the governor of bordering French Guiana was unwilling to send over any seeds. On top of this, the ever-present border dispute was straining the two countries' relationship.
The solution? Seducing the Guiana governor’s wife. It’s told that Palheta spent his trip flirtatiously charming the wife, and after dinner one night, she gave him a bouquet of flowers with the coffee seeds hidden in them. The rest is history!
At first, coffee production was only consumed locally, however, in the mid-1800s, coffee demand increased in Europe and the Americas. This resulted in a coffee boom in the 19th century that saw coffee steadily rise to become the country’s greatest export by 1850.
Success Through Tragedy
The two things that made this possible were slavery and a devastating disease on Asian coffee plants. In the mid-1800s, it is estimated that over 1.5 million slaves were imported to work on Brazilian coffee plantations until slavery was finally abolished in 1888. Secondly, a decimating disease known as coffee rust completely destroyed the thriving Asian coffee industry, which allowed Brazil to rise up to meet the demand.
By the 1920s, Brazil already had a near-monopoly on coffee production, growing around 80% of the world’s coffee.
This major coffee boom did eventually recede as other nations recovered from the coffee rust epidemic (largely due to the widespread use of the Robusta plant!). The Brazilian government was also investing in other agricultural sectors in order to decrease the country’s single crop dependency. Despite this, in the mid-1960s, coffee still took up 60% of Brazil’s total exports.
Brazil continues to be the largest producer of coffee in the world, a title it has held for over 150 years. There are currently over 220,000 coffee farms, covering around 27,000 sq. km across the country, with approximately 3.5 million people involved in the coffee industry. Despite all the different coffee farms, the Brazilian bean tends to be distinctly sweet and chocolatey, with low acidity and nutty undertones.
A distinguished and celebrated cup that all started with a seduction!
Origin Deep Dive: Colombia
As the third largest coffee producer in the world, Colombia has a well established reputation. Both in quality and quantity, it is a country known internationally for its huge output of high quality coffee and internally for its celebration of the bean.
The History of Coffee in Colombia
Introduced to the country sometime in the early to mid-1700s, coffee production slowly grew over the next century and was largely dominated by sprawling plantations built with borrowed money from foreign countries. When favourable prices suddenly disappeared due to war and economic instability in other parts of the globe, many plantations shut down operations or were abandoned. By 1875, coffee farming had largely shifted to small holders working on tiny parcels of land as government policy worked to reintroduce Colombian beans to the global market. To this day coffee is treated favourably all around the country, with infrastructure for farming and exporting being maintained by the government as well as unions of farmers who have worked hard for generations to present the best coffees they can to the world.
Nariño is a region made up of primarily smallholder producers. With the average farm size being less than 1 hectare, many of the farmers have formed groups to work collaboratively. The region is home to some of the highest-altitude farms in Colombia. This, paired with its close proximity to the equator, creates an ideal environment for growing vibrant and complex coffees.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a rebel group, had control of the Tolima region for many years. During this time, farmers were unable to export their coffee. 10 years ago, since the signing of two peace treaties with the indigenous groups and farmers, the coffee farmers in the region have been able to resume growing and exporting coffee.
During the FARC’s occupation of the region, the farmland was untouched. This resulted in soil that was free of any agrochemicals. Because of this, farmers in Tolima have been able to use organic farming methods more easily compared to other regions.
Something that sets Colombia apart from most other countries is their harvest. While most countries harvest cherries once a year for 2-3 months straight, Colombia is one of the few places in the world where most farms have two separate harvests every year. Meaning they produce coffee year-round and are almost always selling. They also host two Cup Of Excellence events annually to make sure no farmers miss out on the chance to compete.
Colombian coffees are usually considered crowd pleasers, but have a varied taste profile as the terroir and microclimates of different regions can change this. Depending on the region, the sweetness can vary between tropical and stonefruits, or it can be smooth and silky like milk chocolate. In some varietals grown in specific microclimates, you can sometimes even get floral and tea-like qualities. Colombian coffees are often heavier on the body while still remaining fairly silky and usually finish smooth and sweet, leaving delicate flavours in the aftertaste.
Origin Deep Dive: Peru
We've featured Peruvian coffees numerous times in The Roasters Pack, and we were thirsty to learn more about it! Let’s take a closer look at the famous coffee origin, and see how it all got started.
Coffee plants were first introduced to Peru in the mid-1700s, and production grew steadily over the next 150 years. Coffee beans very rarely made it outside of the country and what was grown was enjoyed almost exclusively within its borders. This changed drastically when the British seized large amounts of land to farm huge quantities in Peru as coffee rust disease had decimated crops in Indonesia, their former coffee supplier.
Part of the reason for this is coffee is a tricky crop to invest in. With the instability of the commodity market, farmers are unsure if coffee is the crop to rely on for providing a steady income for their families.
Over time, Britain slowly sold the land back to Peru to raise funds for both world wars, and then land was divided among the farmers. With the land once again belonging to the people and global demand still being high, many coffee farmers chose to focus on quantity over quality for much of the second half of the 20th century.
With specialty coffee growing year after year, farmers in traditionally high-volume countries like Peru are working to produce better coffees. They’re doing this by improving existing infrastructure and working with exporters to create the most progressive methods for farming they can.
The Terroir & Infrastructure
It doesn’t hurt that Peru is the second most biodiverse country in the world. The north of the country has arguably the best climate for coffee: ripening season, altitude, the type of soil, and the differentiation between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Basically, every factor that goes into coffee production is great, even the road infrastructure.
Aside from Peru’s amazing terroir, incentive-based pricing has already paid off for many farmers looking to increase both the quality of their coffees and secure better money for their livelihoods. In some countries where prices have not been attractive enough, the children of farmers choose to search for better opportunities in bigger cities nearby and do not continue the farms’ coffee production.
The infrastructure and support Peruvian farmers are now receiving through direct trade partnerships are showing that a good living can be made off of well-grown specialty coffee, and families can work together on planning even better and more stable futures.
Peruvian coffees are often clean and nutty, with hints of berry jams punctuating the brighter notes of the bean. They have mouth-filling, creamy bodies with a lasting, dry sweetness at the end, usually likened to a vanilla cake.