Coffee is indeed one of the most versatile drinks out there. It gives you disposition in the morning, breaks the ice in a business meeting, warms you up in the cold, and is an excellent excuse for a group therapy session with friends. The beverage is present in almost all environments.
Brazil is the global leader in coffee exports, and the beans have enormous importance in the country’s history. That is because coffee was Brazil’s main export commodity in the 19th century and early 20th century, guaranteeing the necessary resources to support the country’s Empire and Old Republic regimes.
How did coffee end up in Brazil?
Coffee arrived in Brazil in the 17th century. Its coming to South America is attributed to the sergeant major, Franciso de Mello Palheta, who, in 1727, received a mission from the governor of Maranhão and Grão Pará to visit French Guiana and obtain a seedling of the fruit, which already had a high commercial value at the time. In order to succeed in his mission, Palheta gained the trust of the wife of the ruler of French Guiana’s capital, who offered him an Arabica coffee seedling, which he brought to the city of Belém hidden in his luggage.
From there, the crop spread along the Brazilian coast, heading southward and reaching Rio de Janeiro around 1760.
Coffee production in Brazil benefited from the favorable climate and soil in regions like Baixada Fluminense and Vale do Paraíba, which cross the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Despite this, coffee only began to be produced on a commercial scale for export in the early 19th century. Before that, until the 18th century, Haiti was the leading exporter of the grain. However, the long war the small insular country faced to achieve independence from France led to a crisis in coffee production, favoring business in Brazil.
It was only in 1779 that Brazil recorded its first shipment of coffee abroad in the volume of 79 arrobas, a little over 19 bags.
Exports gained momentum, and almost 30 years later, in 1806, they totaled around 80,000 arrobas, approximately 20,000 bags.
With the increase in acreage, European and Japanese immigrants arrived to work in the coffee harvest process. At that time, the state of São Paulo underwent a process of urban development, which provided railway lines that took the beans from the countryside to the Port of Santos.
From 1800 to 1929, coffee was Brazil’s primary source of wealth. Its heyday lasted until the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, an event that forced the federal government to burn more than 71,000 coffee bags, an amount that – at the time – was enough to guarantee world consumption for three years.
Although coffee is no longer Brazil’s primary export, the commodity remains vital to the country’s trade balance. Brazil exported 1,881,176 tonnes of coffee in the first 11 months of 2022, down 6.14% from the same period in 2021.
Brazilian Exports of Coffee Beans | Jan 2019 to Nov 2022 | tons
According to Cecafé (Brazil’s Council of Coffee Exporters), Arabica coffee was the most exported variety in 2022, with 31.189 million bags from January to November, or 86.5% of the total. Soluble coffee shipments totaled 3.392 million bags, accounting for 9.4% of total shipments. Following that is the canephora variety (robusta + conilon), with 1.434 million bags exported (4%), and the roast/ground product, with 42,424 bags shipped (0.1%).
The chart below demonstrates Brazil’s top coffee export destinations in the first eleven months of 2022. The data are also from DataLiner.
Brazil’s Top Coffee Export Destinations | Jan 2019 to Nov 2022 | tons
Currently, 84% of the coffee exported by Brazil leaves the country through the Port of Santos. The chart below shows the share of each port in Brazilian coffee exports in the first 11 months of 2022:
Participation share of Brazilian ports in coffee exports | Jan 2022 – Nov 2022 | Tons
- A legend says that a shepherd from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) noticed, around the year 800, that his goats were more energetic after ingesting coffee fruits. The pastor commented on the fact with a monk who tried the fruit infusion and realized that coffee helped him stay awake for prayers. Evidence shows that coffee was first cultivated in the Islamic monasteries of Yemen.
- Coffee was disseminated in the Arabian Peninsula by Islamic preachers since the religion does not allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
- The name coffee comes from the Arabic qahwa and means wine. For this reason, it was known as the “wine of Arabia” when it first appeared in Europe in the 14th century.
- The first time coffee was roasted was in Persia. The Arabs kept a monopoly on the product until the 16th century. Then, from 1615, the product gained space in the European continent, taken by travelers after their incursions to the East.
- Coffee is Brazil’s second most consumed beverage, second only to water.
- Coffee growing brought many riches to farmers, earning the nickname ‘Brazilian green gold.’ Mansions and theaters, such as the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo, were built with coffee money.
- In general, coffee trees bear fruit from May to July. Coffee harvests extend from May to October.
- For over 150 years, Brazil has been the world’s largest coffee producer. Currently, the country is also the world’s largest grain exporter.
- Coffee consumption has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s. Caffeine is mainly responsible for this effect.
- Caffeine has been the subject of numerous studies in recent years involving endurance sports such as cycling, athletics, and swimming. Caffeine, for example, is thought to improve performance, reaction time, mental attention, and visual processing in football.