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Brazil v Ethiopia: Two of coffee’s top players

Brazil and Ethiopia are two of the biggest coffee-producing countries in the world, with the former currently exporting the highest volume of beans out of any nation across the globe and the latter being the birthplace of the beverage itself.
But how do these two origins measure up in comparison to each other?
Here, we at DRWakefield have taken a look at each country's coffee-cultivating history, as well as their harvesting and processing methods, recent export volumes and cupping profiles.
Coffee history
Ethiopia is where it all began, back in the 11th century AD, when people living in and visiting the nation's mountainous areas discovered the energy-boosting properties of a certain type of berry, passing on these stories to other travellers and their own people when they returned home.
With the wakening powers of coffee's caffeine content discovered in Ethiopia, surely Brazil's bean-growing history cannot be quite as impressive, one might think.
Despite not arriving in the South American country until the 18th century, farmers soon realised the nation's topography, climate and market was perfect for the growing of green coffee, leading its bean production to accelerate significantly – so much so, that Brazil is now the world's largest coffee-cultivating location.
Harvesting methods
The way in which green coffee beans are harvested in both Brazil and Ethiopia varies not just depending on the country, but also depends on the size of the farm or estate where they are being cultivated.
Larger farms are in a better position to take advantage of the latest technologies to enhance their harvesting methods, meaning they can get more done, in less time.
Smaller growing lots tend to use more traditional processes, drying their beans on flags in the sun, for instance.
Different methods can result in variations in cupping profiles as well, but as we mentioned earlier, this is not just country-specific, but more centred around the size of the farm.
Export volumes
The most recent export volumes relating to Brazil and Ethiopia show the countries performing relatively well.
However, this year, the Brazilian harvest has suffered somewhat, due to severe drought in the country.
Despite this, the latest figures analysed by DRWakefield's traders in their weekly coffee market reports predict that Brazil could produce between 44 and 47 million 60 kg bags overall this season, but this is slightly below the official estimate published in September, which forecast that between 48.8 million bags would be shipped overseas to companies like ourselves.
Coffee production in Ethiopia has been much less dramatic during the current season, as the country continues its usual successful performance with regard to Arabica growth.
Cupping profiles
Brazilian coffee tends to be low in acidity, providing the beans with more of a creamy-bodied cupping profile. Common notes detected in the country's coffee include chocolate tones, milky flavours and hints of cherry. Beans from Brazil can also be quite nutty in taste, meaning they can provide a strong base for merging with other coffees to create rich blends.
Chocolate and fruity notes can also be found within the cupping profiles of beans sourced from Ethiopia, particularly within the country's Harar coffee variety, which is famous for its blueberry tones, as well as apricot and wine-like notes.
Ethiopian Yrgacheffe coffee is slightly more floral, citrus-like and much sweeter than the Harar variety, with the fruity and flowery notes balancing each other out to create a tempting flavour.
DRWakefield's conclusion
Here at DRWakefield, we have been sourcing quality green coffee from both Brazil and Ethiopia for more than 40 years, with both origins proving popular among our roasters and blenders.
Each coffee variety has its own unique features, taste and back story, meaning we'll leave the result of the battle between two of the coffee world's greats down to you.
Photo credit: Thinkstock/ToniFlap