They grow a whole lot of coffee in Brazil, and as Brazilian coffee will make up a fair selection of our first few varieties available for sale, I thought we’d take a bit of time to talk about it.
Brazil is the largest producer of arabica coffee in the world and it’s also a very large producer of robusta. As a rule, it’s a nutty, sweet coffee that is low in acidity and develops an exceptional bittersweet and chocolate roast taste. It’s often used in commercial “all-arabica” blends for the sake of cost control. Even the broken fragments of beans and the dust from the dry mills is sold as “coffee”, ending up in some pretty awful coffee products somewhere, likely the kind you’d find in a Jar. When we select our coffees, we have a very different focus. We are looking to find great examples of both the fruit-forward dry-processed (aka: natural processed) and coffees that are much cleaner-tasting, nutty pulp-natural process.
A big problem with most of the worlds largest coffee-producing origins, is that they tend to do volume far better than they do quality. The problem the average consumer has is knowing which origins provide the best Coffee. As consumers we tend to want clear distinctions about quality and will ask questions like… Is Coffee from ‘Such-and-Such’ any good? To which we’ll often get the answer we want to hear – Yes. Sadly, it’s a flawed question. Every origin that has the capability of producing good coffee, can also produce terrible coffee. You can have farms next to each other producing very differing qualities and even within a single farm, there can be a massive difference between the coffee they produce when it comes to cupping quality. The real question to ask is whether each lot tastes good, “lot” meaning, one batch of coffee processed through the mill. The way we coffee buyers figure this out is by comparative coffee cupping’s, comparing the taste quality in a similar way as to how people rate wines.
When coffee is tested for quality in Cupping’s it’s given a score and the system is based on a 100 point scale, thereby allowing for the classification of very low quality “Off Grade” coffees to “Super Premium Specialty” coffee. According to the system, any coffee that has passed physical grading and cups with a score over 80 points is considered “Specialty” grade. Brazil is a country that produces relatively few containers of coffee that truly cup from 84-87 points, and a staggering quantity of coffee that cups below 80 points, the commercial-grade coffee. From Brazil, we are looking for those rare 84-87 point coffees for you to enjoy at home.
When we roast our Brazilians we prefer to go with a lower initial roast temperature, otherwise it’s a coffee that can turn quite ashy tasting when roasted too dark. Personally for an espresso, I like the beans to have rested quite a while after roasting. A straight pulped natural roasted to a medium dark roast (light Vienna) after a few weeks can become a very deep and heavy bodied espresso. Not all coffee should be rested that long after roasting (especially for other methods like French Press, Drip etc). They would fade after as little as 7 days), but the point is, if you don’t have a good initial experience with a Brazilian coffee when making your espresso, don’t bin it – try it again after a week or two and see how it develops.