There’s An Awful Lot of (Awful) Coffee In Brazil

The following song was a big hit more than once as sung by Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Prima and others. Read the lyrics and we’ll discuss all the awful coffee in Brazil down below.

The Coffee Song
Written By: Bob Hilliard / Richard Miles

Way down among Brazilians
Coffee beans grow by the billions
So they’ve got to find those extra cups to fill
They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil

You can’t get cherry soda
Cause they’ve gotta sell their quota
And the way things are I guess they never will
They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil

No tea or tomato juice
You’ll see no potato juice
Cause the planters down in Santos
All say no, no, no

A politician’s daughter
Was accused of drinkin’ water
And was fined a great big fifty dollar bill
They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil

When Brazilian ham and eggs need savor
Coffee ketchup gives ‘em flavor
Coffee pickles way outsell the dill
Why they put coffee in their coffee in Brazil

You date a man and find out later
He smells like a percolator
His cologne was made right on the grill
Hey they could percolate the ocean in Brazil

Don’t ask for hot cocoa there
They’ll say you’ve gone loco there
But say caffeine or coffee bean and they’ll say ay ay ay

So you’ll add to the local color
Serve some coffee with a cruller
Dunkin’ doesn’t take a lot of skill
They’ve got an awful lot of coffee
A great big pot of coffee
They’ve got an awful lot of coffee
In Brazil, Brazil, Brazil
Cafe olé

Yep, Brazil produces a lot of coffee—the most recent figures I looked at show Brazil produces four times more coffee than any other producing region, except Vietnam, which produces half as much, but ALL that coffee is of the Robusta variety, read: Folgers quality.

Coffee in different stages

But the fact is that, most of Brazil’s coffee is also Robusta, though, increasingly, the producers of the higher quality Arabica varieties are quickly gaining ground. Unfortunately for Brazilians, most of the really good coffee seems to be exported. (Why? Brazilians themselves are not demanding better quality, so, the producers go the where the demand is.)

Ripe coffee “cherries”

 Brazilians reading this are going to scream and disagree with me. So be it. Just realize that I think American coffee is still worse, in general, than Brazilian. That doesn’t make Brazilian coffee good. In time, maybe the demand in Brazil for better coffee will grow. But, in my limited experience during my last two trips, I couldn’t find even ONE coffee specialist that offered properly roasted and brewed coffee. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I didn’t find any. 

Thirty years ago, when American coffee was 99% crap, Brazilian coffee appeared to me, and other visitors, to be mostly uniformly better. And, possibly, it was. Our coffee was mostly so awful, almost anything else would be an improvement.

However, in the following years, the state of coffee in the USA has improved greatly, at least for those who chose to choose better coffee. Boutique roasters offering amazingly good beans from all over the world seem to be located on every corner, and I’m not talking about Starbucks, though, I have to offer that company some of the credit for helping to raise the overall awareness of the availability of better coffee options.

My Behmor Coffee Roaster

Personally, I have been roasting my own green coffee beans to guarantee absolutely fresh coffee for my morning and afternoon vice. I also have invested in a beefy Italian espresso machine and a commercial style grinder. I am now convinced that, even it Portland where local think coffee was invented, I have a better cup of coffee than any of the very pricey hipster coffee joints. Yes, I’m very spoiled.

My Macap M4 coffee grinder

That my home-brewed coffee is better than anything I can get in Brazil is an understatement. I think that, over the last 30 years, coffee in Brazil has gotten worse. Much worse. Now, part of this is my personal standard has risen dramatically. And I still think that coffee in the average American restaurant or cafe is undrinkable. I don’t even bother and can’t understand how anyone can possibly drink such bad fluid—I can’t even call it coffee really.

My Bricoletta Espresso Machine

 But the average coffee served in Brazil is only slightly better, if at all. It, like most commercially served coffee in the USA, is old, brewed long before serving, is made with old—far from fresh—coffee beans, and is brewed with less-than-satisfactory methods.

I had coffee made in many different ways on this trip: home-style Melitta drip, espresso machines, commercial drip, cloth filter brewed. It was all pretty bad, sometimes really bad, sometimes actually approaching decent. One problem with the espresso machine coffee is that the vendors insist on filling the little cups to the very top because, if they don’t, the exigente Brazilian customer will complain that the cup isn’t full. Too bad, if they stopped the extraction at half or less of the cup’s volume, they could actually produce a decent espresso in most cases. Over-extraction produces a very bitter brew, as does under-extraction. I finally started asking for a half-cup and was proven correct: the coffee was  uniformly better. Not perfect, but far more flavorful and less biting. But no way the average Brazilian would accept this partial cup. “Você está me roubando, filho da mãe!,” they would say.  Their loss is their loss.

All I can say, that one of the best parts of getting home is the ability to drink good coffee again. I roasted a new batch within an hour of arriving from the airport, and I’ve been in coffee heaven ever since. Yum.

Here are some links to the some of the folks I like for consistently good coffee, machines, green beans, grinders, roasters, etc. Not cheap, but if you roast your own, you easily pay for the roaster in a year or so, depending on the volume of your habit. If you regularly consume a cappuccino or “latte”, then your savings by NOT going to Starbucks or similar will likewise cover the cost of a good machine and grinder. And the coffee you drink at home will likely be better, certainly fresher, than about anything you can get commercially.

For green beans and roasting supplies:

For fair trade and organic Brazilian coffees imported into and roasted in Austin:

For family grown boutique coffees from Minas Gerais in Brazil, Cup of Excellence winners!!!

For very good espresso machines, grinders, etc:

For very good, actually, the best, variety of freshly roasted coffee in Austin:

Coffee can be great! Try some of these places and you’ll see what I mean.

In the meantime, Brazil, and the USA, continue to have an awful lot of awful coffee.

1 comment on “There’s An Awful Lot of (Awful) Coffee In Brazil

  1. Have you checked out this great place to buy coffee beans online? They are called got your 6 and all proceeds go to military!


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