An Overview of South American Coffee Production

South American coffee beans

Beans / December 28, 2018

When I'm feeling a bit randy for a taste of true Brazilian coffee, I brush up on my Portuguese and head for exotic, sexy Rio de Janeiro... to Carnival, one of the greatest shows on earth. When they're not prancing around in sequins and feathers, these lively people are hard at work producing thirty-five percent of the world's coffee. They are the world's leading exporter. No wonder these lovely people have so much energy! While much of this coffee is low grown, blended and used in massed consumed brands, perpetuating the notion of quantity over quality, do not fear, high quality coffee can be found.

Specialty coffee roasters have discovered and developed close relationships with a number of sensational Brazilian farms that truly stand out and that are worthy of our love and accolades. Many single origins from Brazil can be sweet, complex and rather mind blowing. Ruvaldo Delarisse runs his family farm, Chapadao De Ferro. He inherited it from his beloved mother, Amelia and produces Micro-lots grown on an extinct volcano in Patrocinio that has flavors of Butterscotch, Dutch Cocoa and dried fruit.

Another notable farmer, Luis Pascoal's obsession with progressive farming techniques and research pays off. His Daterra Sweet Blue brings about flavors of Nutella, Vanilla, Chocolate candy and root beer. Other notables such as Joao Souza's family farm, Fazenda Esperanca and Nazareth Dias Pereira's farm, Fazenda Do Sertao are part of a growing group devoted producing a superior quality Brazilian product using the best ingredient of all... love.

Ranked 1st in the world for exports. *
Cup of Excellence Country
Best known varietals: Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Catimor, Maragogype.


Following in the footsteps of the legendary Juan Valdez, I too have traversed the steep slopes to pick these sun-drenched Arabica beans by hand. My perspiration and patience always pays off, the coffee ranges from flavorful and mild to exceptionally bold, like the famous Columbian Supremo. It may be Columbia's access to two major oceans that makes it the world's second largest coffee producer, but it is the ideal combination of tropical temps and high altitude that when combined with good farming, gives its coffee such character.

While it is true that many farms have begun to sacrifice quality to focus on more on highyielding varieties, there are still many wonderful sweet, bright and rich coffees and special lots to be found.

Ranked 3rd in the world for exports.*
Cup of Excellence Country
Best known varietals: Columbian Supremo, Medellin.


The conditions here are perfect and coffee is grown on some of the highest growing slopes in the world. Still, Ecuador has yet to crack the primo markets and most of its low-grade coffee goes for blending.

Best known varietals: Bourbon, Caturra, Typica.


South of coffee dynamo Columbia is the huge expanse of Peru. Coffee regions are accessible only to intrepid souls like myself - and my lovely assistants carrying my packs. Peru has been somewhat of an underdog in the coffee market, mainly because of political strife. Recently the Peruvian coffee industry has made headway by seeing a trend in organic and fair trade coffee buyers and jumping on it, knowing they could produce it cheaper.

However, cheaper is not better, like Vietnam, Peru is producing low quality beans and flooding the market with it. In order to compete with the sheer volume and cheap price, the high quality organic growers in Peru and other countries are forced to lower prices on their superior Arabica beans just to compete and survive. Cost conscious buyers put this inferior product on their shelves with fancy labels knowing the public will buy it, and they do. The public sees the Fair Trade and Organic label and assume they are helping the farmer and that it is quality coffee.

It is important to reiterate, that there are a number of quality farms that exist in Peru but it is not the coffee you see on shelves everywhere and find for $4 a pound at Cost Plus or Trader Joe's. There are some notable coffees that are sweet and bright from the Chanchamaya and Cuzco regions.

Respect should be given to all farmers; Peruvian included, who grow with a focus on quality. Finding quality beans in Peru is not always consistent... But give it time - Machu Pichu was not built in day!

Best known varietals: Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Pache.


Oil is now king in Venezuela and that means the coffee industry has suffered, dropping it to one of the lowest ranking coffee producers in the world. Still, the regional favorite Merida is a delicious, light and sweetly acidic pure bread that makes it a favorite underdog for those lucky enough to find it.