Brazil the Indispensable

Candy in a Cup

When I first started learning about coffee origins, and competing in barista competitions in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I chose Brazilian coffee for my blend. I wanted to include every coffee under the sun, because I found them all so endlessly interesting, but the most important thing was that my espresso actually tasted good, so I went with Brazil.

A few years later, I was working for a well-known specialty company in New York City. Our most-valued wholesale client came to us asking for a new espresso blend. “Make it taste like ‘Snickers-in-a-cup,'” he said, using the name of a popular American candy bar made of chocolate, nuts, nougat and caramel.

Coffee that tastes like Snickers candy

We messed around with as many different coffees as the buying and roasting team could provide. We knew we wanted some Brazil coffee in there. But what to blend it with?

We tried Brazil with Ethiopia. Brazil with Guatemala. Brazil with Sumatra. They were all pretty good. But nothing tasted like what the client requested: a liquid candy bar.

Finally we thought: What if we just mixed the Brazil with … Brazil? So we did that. And then we added another Brazil. And for variety, we added a fourth Brazil. All were from different estates, all harvested, processed and roasted in different ways; and yet they turned out to mix incredibly well.

The result was amazing: sweet, sugary, caramel, chocolate, nuts. A candy bar in a cup.

The client was happy. His customers were happy. I was happy.

Big Daddy Brazil

third of all coffee in the world comes from Brazil. Brazil is to coffee what Saudi Arabia is to oil. They dominate the market; they have a massive influence on its price. When something happens in Brazil coffee, the effects are felt everywhere throughout the world of coffee.

If Ethiopia is the Motherland of coffee, Brazil is coffee’s Big Daddy.

And although Brazil produces coffee on an industrial scale, not all coffee in Brazil is an “industrial” product.

In fact, there is probably more specialty coffee growing in Brazil than in any other country. It’s incredibly variable and interesting, as my experience with creating the “four-Brazil blend” shows.

Brazilian coffee can be very versatile — good for light roasting, good for full city plus roasting; good for filter coffee, excellent in a French press; and it is the totally indispensable coffee to have on hand for making espresso.

It’s possible to make great espresso blends without Brazilian naturals and pulp naturals. But it’s also possible to play basketball with one hand tied behind your back. The natural sweetness, full body, and flavor-rich character of Brazilian coffee makes it a natural candidate for espresso.

But you don’t have to choose “just another Brazil.” I’ve been to Brazil before, as a consultant to a coffee cooperative there, and now I am going back with OCN, to find unique coffees we believe in: from stand-out farms, with unique cup profiles, and full traceability.

We will be traveling a triangle of micro-regions around the larger Sul de Minas and Cerrado region of Minas Gerais.

The Cerrado biome has higher elevation and more high-end specialty coffee production

The Cerrado biome has higher elevation and more high-end specialty coffee production

We will be cupping dozens of different lots, then visiting one-on-one with the farmers to find the lots that we will bring back. There’s a huge range of flavor profiles to choose from — fruity, mellow, chocolatey, nutty, bright, soft, rich, full-bodied, all the way up to tropical fruit flavors like mango.

We’ve spoken with Developers who have shared their preferences for what they want from Brazil. I also have my own personal preferences, of course. If you’d like to put in your opinion, or if you have any questions, send an email to, or leave a comment on this entry.

We’ll be hosting cuppings in the future with some of these coffees — including, probably, samples of the lots we didn’t buy, in addition to exploring the best roasts for them. If you’d like to be a part of that process, or be a part of the decision process on what coffees to select, check out our concierge service and drop us a line.

Harvest is wrapping up in this region of Brazil right now. The drying styles there take a few weeks to complete, and fresh coffee is already available. It should be peaking on the cupping table by the time we get down there. I can’t wait to go find that next beautiful cup … or liquid candy bar.