Coffee Break


Samba for the next millennium won’t be restricted to the borders of
Brazil. Thanks to the Internet, sambistas from around the world have organized
themselves and will form the first International Samba School to Parade in Brazil: Unidos
do Mundo (United of the World). They will parade in Rio’s Sambadrome with the government’s
blessing to help celebrate the 500th year celebration of Brazil’s discovery and
the beginning of a new millennium.
By Brazzil Magazine

Coffee beverage, a widely consumed beverage around the world, is derived from processed
coffee beans (green beans). While the cultivation of coffee trees and production of coffee
beans is spread among sixty countries worldwide, there is an increasingly smaller number
of buyers and roasters of green coffee. Brazil and Colombia are the largest coffee
producing countries, while over 70% of all coffee contracts are traded in Switzerland.

The production of coffee beans is a labor intense industry since it requires
handpicking of ripe beans. The production of coffee is also highly correlated to weather
conditions, since the coffee tree is sensitive to low temperatures. Therefore, annual
production of coffee is unpredictable until the end of the harvest season. In addition,
production is characterized by the presence of many small familial businesses with
traditional means of production that depend heavily on coffee prices in the world markets.

There are currently six intermediaries in the distribution channel between the farmer
and the end consumer. In the last decade there has been a trend toward consolidation and
globalization, and it is expected that during this decade the number of intermediaries
will decline to just three.

The coffee industry is becoming more competitive as bigger players (roasters and
manufacturers) are attempting to have predictable margins and stable coffee prices. On the
other hand, there is a trend toward consolidation on the production side of the equation;
this trend is still very slow but widely expected by analysts of the coffee industry.
Besides a trend toward initiating bigger coffee plantations, there is also an obvious
preference toward a more technologically advanced forms of coffee culture over the
traditional means. This is clear by efforts of the Colombian Institute of Coffee to
utilize genetically engineered coffee plants and the initiation of large coffee
plantations with state-of-the-art irrigation and support means in the state of Bahia in


Brazil is world’s biggest producer of green coffee beans with approximate market share
of 30%. Depending on weather condition, approximately 30 million bags of coffee beans are
exported annually from Brazil while domestic consumption is approximately 9 million bags,
which makes Brazil the world’s third largest coffee-consuming country. Approximately 85%
of Brazilian coffee exports are Arabica coffee, which is considered to be of higher
quality than Robusta coffee and which demands higher prices. Coffee exports are the third
largest Brazilian exporting product, which generated $2.74 billion dollars in 1997. It is
estimated that 3.5 million hectares (1.3 million acres) are used for the production of
coffee by 320,000 coffee farms (fazendas de café), 75% of which are less than 10
hectares (25 acres) in size. (See The Holland Company,,
March 19, 1999.)

Brazilian coffee is characterized by diversity in tastes depending upon geographic
regions of the coffee’s origin. Arabica coffee from Santos is considered to be the top
grade Brazilian Arabica coffee and therefore there is brand awareness and increased demand
for this grade. Overall though in the international coffee markets, Brazilian coffee is
considered of lower quality than the Colombian coffee which is preferred for its aroma and
flavor. Although each coffee producing country exports certain brands that are of the
outmost quality, such as Java coffee from Indonesia, when comparing generic Arabica
coffees, Colombian coffee has a higher demand in the market place. In addition, Colombian
coffee is more recognizable than Brazilian coffee partly because of the orchestrated
advertising campaigns the Colombian Coffee Institute undertakes from time to time.

Retail Market

The United States and Germany are the world’s largest coffee consuming countries, while
Brazil in the third place, consumes 20% of its own domestic coffee production. In the
United States the average coffee beverage market has been declining steadily. Per
capita coffee consumption dropped from 3.2 cups per diem in 1962 to 1.4 cups in
1998, according to the National Coffee Association (See "US regular coffee
consumption near 50-year low-NCA; Reuters,,
February 28, 1999.) However, within the coffee market are niche markets that are growing
significantly higher. Demand for organic coffee (coffee producing without the use of
insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, cleaners, etc) has been increasing since 1991 at
10-15% annually. However, the organic coffee market is less than 10% of the overall

Certain specialty and gourmet coffee blends, such as Indonesia’s Java, are also growing
at more than 10% per annum. Overall, the International Coffee Association (ICO)
(See  March 7, 1999) has
projected a 5% annual increase in worldwide coffee consumption, a view that has been
shared by many analysts. On the other hand, this slightly increased demand will be met by
oversupply, reflecting modern cultivation techniques and recuperation of the Brazilian
coffee plantations from the 1994 frost . Plantations that had to be replaced then are now
reaching their production years and are expected to reach maximum productivity within the
next three years.

At least in the United States, the price elasticity of demand for coffee should be
close to zero (by empirical data) since in 1997 and 1998, when coffee prices skyrocketed
due to low supplies because of inclement weather conditions and the El Niño effect, both
manufacturers (Maxwell House and Folger’s) were able to pass to the end consumer most of
the price increases and coffee retail shops (i.e., Starbucks, etc) increased prices
accordingly without reporting loss of sales. It is especially noteworthy that Starbucks
increased prices despite the fact that they had already entered long term agreements and
had arranged other financial instruments (hedging, etc) and they were buying coffee at the
old lower prices, so they were not affected by the new higher prices.

In Brazil, however, there is obviously a positive elasticity of demand for coffee.
According to Nathan Herszkowicz of the Trade Union of Coffee Industry of São Paulo
(Internal consumption: 15 million bags/year are the goal, Coffee at the turn of the
millenium, p 45, Associação Comercial de Santos, May 1998.), since the Real Plan was
implemented in Brazil in 1994 and as a result boosted the purchasing power of the average
Brazilian consumer, thirteen million new consumers entered the market increasing domestic
consumption from 3.2 to 8.2 million bags in 1997.


The world coffee bean market is characterized by the presence of sixty coffee producing
countries. Brazil and Colombia together command approximately half of the world market
while the remaining countries have small market shares. In addition to the wide
distribution among coffee producing countries, there is also a wide disparity of coffee
producing farmers who are on average small familial businesses with relatively traditional
means of production. Only recently efforts have been made to bring the coffee agronomy to
state-of-the art technological standards, especially in areas where there are new coffee
plantations such as the Bahia area in Brazil. The Colombian Coffee Institute has also
taken organized efforts to introduce genetically engineered coffee plants that are not
only disease resistant and less sensitive to weather conditions but they also yield higher
rates of annual harvest.

In contrast, the demand curve is characterized by the presence of a relatively small
number of significant buyers of coffee beans in the international markets. These buyers,
also known as manufacturers or roasters, are processing coffee beans usually for their own
account as subsidiaries of multinational companies. The most notable North American coffee
roasters are Procter & Gamble and Phillip Morris which sell their coffee products
under the brand names of Folger’s and Maxwell House, respectively. In Continental Europe,
two Swiss companies, Nestlé and Jacobs Suchard, are the biggest buyers and Swiss
companies trade 70% of the world’s coffee production.

In the last decade, a noticeable consolidation and globalization has taken place in the
roaster industry where the top five global buyers have increased their market share from
40% to 52% of the world market from 1988 until 1998. This trend is even more obvious in
the coffee dealer market where the global ten dealers in 1988 were commanding 55% of the
market while in 1998 the top five dealers had a cumulative market share of 45%. There is
also a trend toward reduction of the intermediaries between the producer (farmer) and the
end consumer. For example, eight intermediaries were involved in 1988 between the farmer
and the end consumer while this number has decreased to six in 1998 and it is expected to
further decline to three intermediaries in the year 2008.

Tariff and

The coffee bean market is relatively a low tariff industry since most importing
countries impose none or minimal trade barriers. In particular, the United States does not
impose taxes on any form of coffee imports (See US Code, Title 19, Chapter 4, Subtitle II,
Part III, Sec. 1356 k.: Importation of coffee under International Coffee Agreement, 1983;
Presidential powers and duties) except for "coffee substitutes containing
coffee" which has $0.021/Kg. (See US Customs, Department of the Treasury;,
March 19, 1999.) However, the European Union (EU), in an effort to assist South and
Central American countries to combat drug trafficking problems has imposed since 1991 a 9%
tariff (10.1% since 1997) on Brazilian instant coffee. (See "Commodities: Brazil-EU
Dispute over Instant Coffee Goes to WTO," InterPress Service, February 16, 1998;,
March 4, 1999.)

As a result, Brazilian instant coffee exports to the European Union have declined from
12,000 tons in 1992 to 5,800 tons in 1998. Consequently, Brazil has been losing market
share in the instant coffee market in Europe in favor of tariff-exempt instant coffee from
Colombia and Ecuador. The issue is even more important for Brazil since domestic
consumption of instant coffee is minimal and 95% of its production is intended for
exporting. Currently, the Brazilian government, under the pressure of the Brazilian
Instant Coffee Association (ABICS), is considering requesting from the World Trade
Organization (WTO) that a special panel examines whether such policy involves
discriminatory policy by the EU.

Coffee exports are financially significant for the Brazilian economy since they
represent Brazil’s third largest group of exporting products (3.6% of all exports in 1996)
while generating $1.7 billion in revenues. In addition, the coffee industry is labor
intense and employs approximately six million workers. However, the Brazilian government
has been following a haphazard policy toward the coffee industry. While it gives generous
subsidies to coffee farmers—approximately $800 million in 1998 ("Government
keeps up flow of financing to farmers";,
February 3, 1999.) at a time when the country’s foreign reserves were as low as $10
billion— and has lifted exporting taxes on coffee since 1995, it is now considering
the re-activation of coffee export taxes to alleviate lost revenue due to its domestic
currency’s (Real) steep depreciation and overall economic deterioration in 1998.


In 1998, Brazil collected the biggest coffee harvest ever of 36 million bags. This was
partly due to favorable weather conditions and partly due to the new plantations replaced
after the frost of 1994 that now are reaching harvest time. For 1999, the projections are
less optimistic. Coffee as a commodity is traded in USD, although domestic farmers and
suppliers are getting paid in local currency (Real). However since Real’s steep
depreciation in 1998, the amount of money that farmers are actually collecting for their
harvests has been declining in absolute terms. Also, the oversupply of coffee for the
first time in many years, has also pushed lower the prices for coffee.

The current speculation that the Brazilian government will impose exporting taxes on
coffee will reduce even more the purchasing power of local farmers, the majority of whom
are small operators. The government should need a more comprehensive approach toward the
coffee industry, especially given the importance of coffee exports in steadily generating
hard currency revenue year after year.

Direct subsidies might not be the most responsible approach of supporting the coffee
industry, but the Brazilian government will need a well rounded program to assess the
coffee industry as an agricultural commodity business that is heavily dependable on
weather conditions. Instead of direct subsidies, the government should establish funds to
support farmers who have been inversely affected by inclement weather conditions. Also,
the Brazilian government should encourage and fund organizations similar to the Colombian
Coffee Institute which has sought in coordination with several North American universities
new improved species of coffee and modern techniques of cultivation.

The fruition of a new plantation takes at least five years, and therefore considerable
market research is required in order to predict market trends. The majority of the coffee
market is dominated by Arabica and Brazilian coffee production is approximately 85%
Arabica coffee. However, given the slow growth rate of the coffee market internationally
and the expected oversupply of coffee over the next five years, it should be appropriate
that Brazilian farmers diversify their plantations to incorporate new species of coffee,
namely coffee plantations for production of gourmet and specialty coffees. These coffees
not only demand a premium in the market place, but also the market is growing at 15%.
Brazil with its diverse geography is especially suited for cultivation of specialty

Finally, the Brazilian Federation of Coffee Exporters and the local coffee industry
should promote Brazilian coffee abroad (especially in the United States and Germany) with
the same zeal they promoted Brazilian coffee in the domestic market with the Purity Stamp
Program of 1989. The Colombian Coffee Association offers a unified effort by the local
coffee industry with its widely publicized farmer and his donkey ("Juan Valdez y su
burro"). No Brazilian coffee association or other organization has undertaken any
efforts to promote a national and well-positioned image for the Brazilian coffee. As a
result, consumers prefer the brand they are aware of, although Brazilian coffee can be as
of high quality as Colombian coffee, and on certain occasions could be cheaper than
Colombian coffee either because of financial events in Brazil (i.e., 1998) or lower labor
cost and higher yields from certain plantation houses.

Basil M. Karatzas is graduating in May 1999 with an MBA degree in
international Business from Rice University, in Houston, TX. Basil also serves as
President for Platinum Holdings International, an international management and capital
consulting firm, and can be reached at


B.M. K.

Coffee belongs to the botanical family Rubiaceae and it has approximately 500 genera
and 6,000 species. The most commercially important species are Arabica Coffee
(Rubiaceae Coffea arabica), Robusta Coffee (Rubiaceae Coffea canephora) and to
a lesser extent Liberica Coffee (Rubiaceae Coffea liberica) and Excelsea Coffee (Rubiaceae
Coffea dewevrei). Since Arabica and Robusta coffees consist more than 70% and
25% of the world’s coffee production, respectively, any discussion on production of coffee
is limited to only these two species without losing its practicality.

Soil, temperature, rainfall, sunlight, wind and altitude are important factors for
growing coffee plants. The coffee plant (biologically a tree) can grow to 4.6-6m (15 to 20
ft.) height, but to facilitate harvest by labor workers it is deliberately groomed to
approximately 6 feet. The coffee plant grows optimally in tropical environments under the
shade of taller trees where abundant rainfall conditions are followed by high
temperatures. However, modern coffee plantations are grown under artificial canopies, or,
even more recently, new genetically engineered species can be grown successfully under
direct tropical sunlight.

The coffee tree is sensitive to low temperatures when it can be totally destroyed and
need replacement. Damaging frosts occurred in Brazil 31 times during the last 172 years,
with the most recent "serious" frost occurring in 1994. There is more frequent
occurrence of frost in the latter part of this century, which are attributable to the
movement of the coffee culture to southern regions of São Paulo and Paraná. However,
since the devastating frost of 1975, which decimated the coffee culture in Paraná, there
is again a movement of coffee plantations to northern regions, especially Minas Gerais and
even more recently to Bahia and Rondônia. In particular, the western Bahia highlands with
altitude of 700-1,000m offer an ideal environment for coffee plantations. The topography
along modern irrigation offer an ideal place for modern coffee plantations of low cost,
high yield production of quality coffee where mechanization and new planting techniques
can be employed.

It usually takes 5 years to bring a young Arabica tree to fruition while the time
required for the Robusta is slightly shorter. The tree thereafter produces fruits for 15
to 20 years bearing a yield of 0.9 to 1.3 kg (2 to 3 lb.) of marketable beans, but 0.45 kg
is considered an average annual yield. It takes approximately 4,000 handpicked green
coffee beans to make one pound of coffee. The majority of Arabica trees are grown in
altitudes between 2,000-4,500 ft. while Robusta trees are grown from near sea level to
3,000-ft. altitudes.

The first coffee trees were brought to Brazil by the French immigrants in the early
eighteenth century. Coffee is today grown in Brazil in many states, most notably in
Paraná, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo and
Bahia. These widely diverse geographic regions, from the high plains of Cerrado to coastal
mountains of Espírito Santo, permit the growing of coffees with a wide range of tastes.
Brazil represents 30% of the world coffee production and coffee from the Santos region
with its mild, extremely rich and unique smooth taste and striking flavor is considered
the top Brazilian Arabica coffee.

The tree produces white flagrant flowers that blossom for only a few days and the
following six or seven months the fruit develops changing in color from light green to red
and ultimately to deep crimson when ready for harvesting. The mature fruit grows in
clusters attached to the limb by very short stems and it usually contains two seeds, or
beans, surrounded by sweet pulp. Coffee beans are surrounded by a red skin (exocarp) under
which lies the pulp layer (mesocarp), which is over the endocarp. Below the endocarp lies
a silver skin (seed coat) which includes two coffee beans. The beans (cherries) do not
come to fruition at the same time and therefore cannot be picked mechanically. As a
result, the production of coffee is a labor-intense industry since it requires each tree
to be visited on average three times for harvest.

Once harvested, coffee beans must be removed from these layers before they can be
roasted. There are two such methods: the dry and wet method.

This method is the most traditional and least evolved process of removing the coffee
beans from the fruit. The coffee cherries are cleaned and left in the sun to be dried for
about four weeks until they reach their optimal content of moisture content (about 12%).
During this period, the cherries are raked and turned by hand to ensure an even drying.
The drying process is very important in the sense that moisture in under-dried cherries
will permit fungi and bacteria to grow and therefore destroy the taste. Over-dried
cherries will be more prone to break and therefore reduce the rate of usable coffee beans.
The dried cherries will be sent to mills for hulling, sorting, grading and bagging. The
removal of the cherry skin is done by the hulling machine.

Under the wet method, the cherry skins are removed mechanically while the cherries are
still fresh. This is achieved by forcing the cherries between moving and fixed metallic
surfaces which gradually peel off the cherries. The residue skin on the beans is further
removed by soaking them in huge tanks where enzymes will break down the mucilage. Then,
the beans will be washed thoroughly with clean water and in order to reduce their moisture
content to 12% from a current 57% be dried up either in the sun or by mechanical means.
The washed and polished beans (green coffee) are ready for blending and roasting. The wet
method entails the use of machinery and substantial quantities of water; however, it
yields coffee of homogeneous moisture and better taste and therefore it commands higher
prices. The occurrence however of over-fermented beans ("stinker beans") that
have remained trapped in the machinery or went undetected will contaminate any coffee
ground and will make coffee foul and extremely bitter.


Acidity: main characteristic of coffee tasting and evaluation; sharp, dry, clean
taste like a typical white wine.

Arabica Coffee: coffee produced by Arabica coffee trees Coffee (Rubiaceae
Coffea arabica), grown at altitudes between 600 and 2,000m mainly in Latin America and
East Africa; it represents approximately 70% of the world coffee production and is
considered of higher quality than Robusta coffee.

Aroma: main characteristic of coffee tasting and evaluation; odor of coffee that
can range from acidic or sharp through spicy or sweet to earthy, musky and smoky.

Body: main characteristic of coffee tasting and evaluation; heaviness or
richness of taste comparable to characteristics of a typical red wine.

Dry Processing: coffee bean processing method involving spreading of cherries
out on the ground to dry under sunlight and heat for two to three weeks and mechanically
removal of outmost pulp (mucilage) to yield clean coffee beans (green beans).

Finish: main characteristic of coffee tasting and evaluation; the coffee
aftertaste in the mouth; it can range from no aftertaste from light coffees to sweet,
pleasant and bitter.

Flavor: main characteristic of coffee tasting and evaluation; the taste that
ignites in the palate; a rather subjective characteristic based on individual taste and
perception; can take characteristics of the soil of origin as well as plants grown in the
same region (cocoa, etc.)

Gourmet Coffee: Arabica coffee that is grown in certain elevations and specific
climate conditions, that was hand-picked and batch roasted.

Organic Coffee: coffees certified to have been grown and processed without the
use of insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, cleaners, etc.; there is an
increasing awareness of North American consumers in the last two years toward such
coffees; the fastest growing niche in the specialty coffee market with 5-7% current market
share and projections of 10% by the year 2000.

Robusta Coffee: coffee produced by Robusta coffee trees (Rubiaceae Coffea
canephora) grown at altitudes of up to 800m in Indonesia, West Africa, Brazil and
Vietnam; represents approximately 25% of the world coffee production and is considered of
lower quality than Arabica coffee.

Wet Processing: coffee bean processing method involving soaking
("fermenting") of ripe cherries in tanks with enzymes, mechanical removal of
pulp (mucilage) and finally removal of parchment ("pergaminho") before coffee is
ready for roasting and blending.

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