World top coffee producer Brazil is imposing legally binding standards on the quality of ground, roasted coffee sold in its shops in a bid to help encourage consumption.
Agriculture minister Wagner Rossi chose Monday, Brazil’s “National Coffee Day,” to sign a regulation which from Feb. 1, 2011, will do away with products that consistently score less than four out of 10 on a specified set of industry criteria.
“Now this is a regulation everyone has to meet … It will make Brazilian coffee better,” Rossi said after signing the law, which even apply to coffees that are imported, usually for the purpose of bringing a certain taste to a blend.
Laws prohibiting impurities in coffee above 1 percent already exist but the new rules add standards for criteria such as taste, aroma and acidity that can only be determined by the highly sensitive palettes of professional coffee tasters.
“What we hope … is that the better quality will increase consumption,” said Manoel Bertone, head of production at the agriculture ministry. Local coffee industry association ABIC, says studies show people are more likely to become coffee drinkers if they start out drinking better quality brews.
Teams of inspectors around the country will carry out spot checks on coffees taken from supermarket shelves, and roasters flouting the rules will be fined. Persistent offenders could be banned from selling their brand altogether.
Almost all of the coffee exported from Brazil is raw or “green” produce. Preferences for darker or lighter roasts differ around the world and roasters can do this fine-tuning
more accurately when closer to the end consumer or retailer.
But the government and Brazilian roasters want to ensure that, as living standards rise, the local population will not overlook home grown produce because of a perception that Brazil is better at producing quantity rather than quality.
“Those products of lower purity will have more difficulty competing,” Bertone said.
Asked whether relying on human taste buds could lead to bad coffees slipping through the net or good coffees being failed, ABIC executive director Nathan Herskowicz said tasting methods were thorough and virtually infallible.
“Sensorial evaluation is not subjective but objective because it is done by highly trained technicians. It is totally reliable,” he said.
Coffee quality is susceptible to alteration at any stage of its journey from the tree to the jar. It can be damaged by adverse weather during the beans’ development, and also
requires skilled processing after harvesting and when being roasted.
(Editing by Raymond Colitt and Lisa Shumaker)