When I say "Brazilian coffee," what flavour note(s) first come to mind? Chocolate? Nuts? I was the same until about a month or two ago when I tried a Brazilian coffee which knocked my socks off (metaphorically, of course). This coffee changed my perspective on what Brazilian coffee could be and, more broadly, made me think about how we talk about coffee, collectively.
I was kindly given a roast sample of a new Brazilian coffee about to be roasted and I was asked to give my thoughts. So, I had no tasting notes to go on and had to taste the coffee blind. The coffee was unlike any Brazilian coffee I had consumed before. While I cannot remember the exact flavour notes, I know the coffee was incredibly fruity. Today, that coffee features "pineapple" on the tasting notes. A Brazilian coffee? With pineapple tasting notes?
Was this an isolated coffee? No.
A few weeks ago I was also in a cafe and ordered an espresso. The coffee was chocolatey but had a funkiness that I associate with natural coffees. The espresso was absolutely delicious, so much so that I now feel much more comfortable ordering espressos in cafes (which, until recently, I would never do). This coffee even sparked a discussion between myself and the barista on bar about Brazilian coffees and the sorts of flavour notes we're seeing pop up in the region.
The punchline is that Brazilian coffee is not just about chocolate and nuts, even if those are the tasting notes that seem to come on a lot of Brazilian coffees. The truth is that I like Brazilian coffee for these flavour notes because often I just want a coffee that's nice without having to think too much. I love well-processed chocolatey coffees. So if I want a chocolatey coffee Brazil comes to mind. But that's not all that Brazil is capable of producing.
I think general classifications for flavour notes associated with a region are a good thing to have so that you know where to go to get coffees that you will most likely enjoy. I like floral and fruity coffees so Ethiopia is my go-to if I want coffees with those flavour notes. But every coffee region is diverse. In fact, coffee is different in every harvest so it's hard to say exactly what you can expect from a country. Sure, Brazil may produce some excellent chocolatey coffees, but that's not the only reason you should look at Brazilian coffees.
Now that I have tried two excellent Brazilian coffees with flavour notes that don't meet the traditional "Brazilian cup profile," I know that I'm going to look to this region for a lot more. I shall try to do the same with other regions too. I don't know enough about most other regions to make generalisations but as I learn more I am going to try to come back to the point that every country is capable of producing a varied range of coffees.
Why did I write this post? To start a discussion. I want people to know that Brazil is producing some amazing coffees that exceed expectations in terms of the diversity of flavour notes. And these are not upper-echelon coffees. These are coffees I have tried as regular offerings available on retail from roasters. What about other regions? I cannot say Brazil is alone. Every region is probably producing some stand-out coffees that will blow your socks off.
The bottom line is keep your eyes open to new coffees. Coffee is an agricultural product. It changes all the time. Farms change. Yields change. New farms open. There's so much coffee for us to try and to try the coffees that surprise and delight you most you'll probably need to leave your comfort zone a bit to find out exactly what's out there.
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