It is widely known that Brazil is the top coffee producer in the world. But how did they get there?

Brazilian Coffee: A Brief History

Coffee is essential in the historical and cultural makeup of this South American country. It was first brought over by French settlers in Pará, a country in Northern Brazil, in the early 18th century. By 1820, coffee overtook sugarcane as the country’s leading export and production peaked once crops started coming out of the very fertile soils of São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.

Fast forward to the 19th Century and Brazil is the top coffee exporter to both Europe and America; in 1840 (that’s 180 years ago, people!), Brazil officially became the World’s Top Coffee Producer and it has held the title ever since.

In 1973, the Brazilian Coffee Industry Association (ABIC) was created with the purpose of instituting regulations on the Brazilian coffee trade. Its main focuses are purity, quality, and sustainability of the country’s coffee crops. Further, the ABIC provides resources to Brazil’s coffee growers; these resources include macroeconomic studies, market polls, statistical information regarding production and consumption, among various other information.

Over 16,000 miles of the 3 million square mile country is dedicated to growing coffee; this wide expanse allows the country to produce extreme amounts of coffee, comparatively, consistently producing over 2 million US Tons per year!

Brazilian Coffee Culture

Coffee is a source of pride in Brazil, not only because of its quality, but because of how it helps the country itself; the Brazilian coffee industry alone is responsible for supplying 8 million jobs! Brazilians reserve coffee not good enough to be exported (but still pretty high quality mind you) for local consumption, exporting only the best that the country has to offer. For this reason, coffee is enjoyed regularly and for cheap in Brazilian culture.

Most of the locals drink their coffee black with a lot of sugar- the sugar is to combat the bitter taste produced in most lower quality beans grown in lower altitudes, like those used in mass market coffee from Brazil. If you must add creamer, the most accepted one is milk (called média).

Brazilians prefer their coffee as pure as possible; this is perhaps why some are wary of coffee made with machines, like espresso, and stay away from coffee drinks that require extra ingredients and fuss (like frozen coffee smoothies, macchiatos, mochas, etc). In many common places like gas stations and restaurants (or other places where you can pay for a meal/service), coffee is often offered free of charge.

“Cafezinho” is the most commonly served coffee drink; it is traditionally a small cup of filtered coffee served at boiling hot temperatures with an ample amount of sugar added. However, do not confuse cafezinho with an espresso- it is not the same thing!

Traditional Brazilian Coffee Recipe

The recipe for a cafezinho is rather simple- it is similar to making an espresso (but again, not the same thing!).

Traditionally, all you need is:

  • 1/3 cup finely ground coffee
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 cups hot water
  • Scalded milk (optional)

Then all you have to do is put a filter over a pour-over device, add sugar, then coffee; pouring the boiling water over the top. If using, heat milk until scalded, adding to the coffee until your preferences are met.

Here is a slight variation on the traditional Brazilian cafezinho recipe:

What you’ll need:

  • Scale
  • Burr grinder (we like this one from OXO)
  • Electric kettle
  • French Press
  • Large spoon
  • 1 oz. coffee (fine grind recommended- at least to start)
  • 2 Tbl. granulated sugar (this can be tweaked according to your preference)
  • Steamed milk (optional)
  • 2-3 cups water
  • Demitasse cup or coffee mug


  1. Weigh and grind coffee if not already ground.
  2. Add coffee to French Press.
  3. Add sugar on top of grounds.
  4. Boil water. Let rest for 30 seconds, then pour over contents of French Press. Stir to mix.
  5. Put lid on French Press and wait 4 minutes for coffee to brew.
  6. Steam milk (if using) while coffee is brewing.
  7. Press the coffee slowly.
  8. Pour steamed milk into cup first and then fill with coffee.

Other tips when brewing Brazilian coffee:

  • A fine grind is traditionally used, but a coarse grind can also be used (especially if using the French Press method above).
  • A dark roast is best.

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