Generation after generation, coffee is not only part of Brazilians everyday life, but also an essential part of their history and economy.

After lunch, dinner, in a business meeting or even waiting to be seen by the bank manager, having a “cafézinho” (little coffee) is part of a big tradition in Brazil.

Drinking coffee is a way to relax, celebrate, do business, meet friends, and a synonym for “welcome”. Where you go, someone will certainly ask you: “would you like a cafezinho”. They usually don’t take no for an answer.

A cup of cafezinho is a small, intense, and most of all, very sweet shot of pure black coffee. The most modest bars and shops in every corner of the country serves cafézinho. It sometimes comes in a small plastic cup and, in more upmarket locations, in a fancy glass or porcelain cup. In the breakfast, it is often consumed with milk, the famous “café com leite” (coffee with milk). But generally Brazilians don’t do coffee variations such as iced lattes or frappuccinos. Coffee in Brazil is kept simple and uncomplicated.


Coffee is not only an old tradition in Brazil that has been followed by generations and generations, but also an essential part of its history.

The plant, originally from Ethiopia, was first brought to the country by French settlers who established themselves in the state of Pará in the early 18th century. Thriving in the ideal conditions provided by the climate, the coffee fields spread from the North of Brazil along the country, concentrating in the areas along the shore. During this period, sugar plantations represented the primacy economic activity in the country and coffee was merely a luxury.

However, by 1820, coffee represented the most exported product from Brazil. The production peaked when the coffee plantations gained the fertile soils of Vale do Paraíba – a region that makes up part of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states.

By the 19th century, the Brazilian coffee was the number one export product filling up the European and American markets. In 1840, Brazil became the largest coffee exporter of the world. The country was greatly enriched by this and a new society was formed, ruled by the so-called “coffee barons”, the wealthy owners of the grain’s plantations.

Not only did these “coffee barons” detain the economic power in Brazil, but they also wielded significant political power, first contributing to the Proclamation of the Republic and then strongly influencing and even determining the direction of the country’s future presidents’ elections.

But the industry saw periods of ups and downs. It relied almost entirely on the working of slaves. Thus, after the abolition of slavery in 1888, the coffee production industry almost collapsed. A solution for the lack of labour was soon found with government programs that encouraged European immigrants to work in the Brazilian coffee fields.

Largest Exporter

Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world and controls more than 30% of the international production. The coffee harvest may reach 47.51 million bags of 60 kg this year. If the value is confirmed, the country will have accounted for 31.3% of global output. In 2016, exports of Brazilian coffee amounted to approximately US$ 5.4 billion or 6.4% of Brazil’s total agribusiness exports for the year (of US$ 84.9 billion). If this value is indeed reached, gross revenue with coffee will be at around R$ 22.2 billion. The performance reflects in part the size of planted coffee area in the country, which totalled 2.23 million hectares this year.

Investments in technology also helped boost the harvest. “This result is mainly due to the recovery of productivity in the states of Bahia and Rondônia, as well as the more widespread use of technologies such as clonal coffee planting and great investments in crops,” the National Supply Company (Conab) said in a statement released recently.

The six Brazilian states with the largest acreage for coffee are Minas Gerais (1.22 million hectares); Espírito Santo (433,000 hectares); São Paulo (216,000 hectares); Bahia (171,000 hectares); Rondônia (95,000 hectares); and Paraná (49,000 hectares).

The major continents that imported Brazilian coffee last year: Europe, with 18.42 million bags; North America, with 7.60 million; Asia, with 5.95 million; and South America, with 1.17 million. Africa, Oceania and Central America together were responsible for importing about 860,000 bags of coffee from Brazil in 2016.

You Need to Know

• Cafézinho vs Espresso: Don’t confuse “cafézinho” with espresso, yes they’re both small coffee, but they’re made differently. If you want an espresso, ask for one.

• Milky coffee: If you prefer to have milk in your coffee, order “café com leite”.

• Cappuccino: Most cafes and restaurants will serve cappuccino as we’d expect a cappuccino. Some places though, especially in the larger cities, add chocolate to their cappuccino, so you might get a little sweet surprise.

Curious Facts About Coffee:

1. Coffee is a fruit. In fact, it’s a cherry.

2. From all the beverages taken during breakfast time, 65% contain coffee.

3. Coca-Cola is considered the most sold product around the world. However, while 1.6 billion cokes are consumed every day, 1.7 billions coffee are also consumed.

4. Coffee is the second most sold primary product in the world, just after oil.

5. In 18th century, drinking too much coffee was considered a huge social issue.

6. Men reveal they drink coffee for their working benefits, while women say they have it just for relaxing.

7. Coffee is more than just a drink. It can be used as a fertilizer.

Source:, Brazilian Coffee Industry Association & Littlegate Publishing

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