Brazil has been the world’s number-one coffee producer for more than 150 years, turning out 3,019,051 tons in 2016. That’s 30% of the global total. Eighty percent of that is arabica beans, which are native to Ethiopia. Coffee was first introduced to Brazil in 1727. It was originally cultivated in the state of Pará in northern Brazil, but the climate was inhospitable and production was moved to the state of Rio de Janeiro about thirty years later. It took off from there, eventually spreading to the states of São Paulo, Paraná, and Minas Gerais. By 1850, the country had become the world’s top coffee producer—so it makes sense that when people think of Brazil, they think of coffee.
Coffee is also the most-consumed beverage in Brazil after water, found in 98% of Brazilian households. Most of it is in the form of grounds used to make regular coffee. Different states have their different preferences, however. Regular coffee is the favorite in Rio de Janeiro, while the people of Ceará like a beverage called Chafé. The term is a combination of the word for tea (chá) and coffee (café), and refers to a weak, tea-like coffee brew. Meanwhile, those in São Paulo prefer espresso.
Most of the coffee products you see in these supermarkets are grounds used to make regular coffee. You can also find instant coffee grounds and capsules used to make espresso.
The liquid coffee that’s common in vending machines overseas hasn’t caught on here. Neither will you find coffee in cans—whether hot or cold. People always ask me why the Brazilians don’t drink iced coffee given the fact that it’s a tropical country, but I guess they’re just so used to having it as a hot beverage that it doesn’t even occur to them. That said, more people are trying iced coffee now that chains like Starbucks and Nespresso are starting to open up here. Even the famous coffee shops of São Paulo have to urge people to try iced coffee in the summertime.
Another recent trend is the appearance of different varieties and flavors of coffee on the market—gourmet coffees and organic coffees, for example. Imported coffee dripper sets and coffee cups are starting to become available as well, allowing people who are particular about their coffee to make it at home as well.
Brazilian coffee shops have also become quite chic. Some of them will explain the different coffee types and brew methods to customers, so going there is always lots of fun.
Another interesting thing is that you’ll never see coffee jelly or coffee rolls offered for dessert at a typical restaurant like you would in Japan. And only a few places offer coffee-flavored ice cream. If you get a craving for coffee desserts, you’ve either got to go to a Japanese restaurant or make them at home.
If you order a coffee or an espresso at a coffee shop in São Paulo, you may get a small cookie, bit of ice cream, or a chocolate along with it—depending on where you go. You’ll definitely get a shot glass of sparkling water with it, though. Apparently if you drink the sparkling water first, it cleanses your palate so that you can appreciate the flavors of the coffee better. It’s their way of ensuring that customers enjoy their coffees to the fullest.
The actual Portuguese word for coffee is café, but the Brazilians refer to it as cafezinho, since it’s served in such a small cup.
The phrase Vamos tomar um cafezinho! can of course be used when you want to go get a coffee, but it’s also a way to let someone know you’d like to have a chat with them.
Meanwhile, the phrase Tome um cafezinho (have a coffee) is said when giving someone a little tip to thank them for a favor they did for you.
So there you have it! Vamos tomar um cafezinho!