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Cassava Flour Mill (Casa de Farinha)

he flour mill is the place where cassava is transformed into flour, an ingredient used in the production of many foods, including beiju (tapioca), known to the Indians as mbyú, which is very much appreciated in Northeast Brazil.

Cassava Flour Mill (Casa de Farinha)

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Last update: 04/09/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

The prime material to make cassava (jatropha manihot) flour is a plant from the Euphorobiacea family, a well-known and widely cultivated tuber used by Indians in alimental products, as the Portuguese found on their arrival to Brazil.

The Indians called their plantations, or cassava gardens, mandiotuba. The softened, fermented or rotten cassava produced for the manufacture of cassava flour or starch extraction was called mandiopuba, and the flour mixed with water, known today in Brazil as “pirão”, was called uypeba.

In Pernambuco there were several types of cassava: branquinha (little white), cruvela, caravela (caravel) or mamão (papaya), engana-ladrão (thief-trick), fria (cold) or da mata (forest), landim, manipeba, vermelha (red), among others, besides the very poisonous mandioca brava (wild cassava).

The flour mill is the place where cassava is transformed into flour, an ingredient used in the production of many foods, including beiju (tapioca), known to the Indians as mbyú, which is very much appreciated in Northeast Brazil. In 1551, the Jesuit priest Manoel da Nóbrega mentioned beiju and the flour made by the indigenous people when he wrote about his visit to Pernambuco.

During the colonial period, cassava flour was used to feed slaves and servants on farms and plantations, as well as serving as a food supplement on the travels of the Portuguese (farnel de viajantes – traveller’s scraps).

In some regions, to make food less perishable, cassava flour and dried fish flour were grounded together with pestle and mortar.

The production process of cassava flour begins with the planting of the cuttings. After harvesting the roots (tubers), the cassava is taken directly from the plantation to the mill, where it is peeled and placed in water to soften and ferment (or pubar). Then it is either grounded with a pestle and mortar or grated in a grater (caititu). Grated cassava is put in a trough and then pressed by a tipiti (tipi = squeeze and ti = liquid, in the Tupi language) to remove a poisonous liquid called manipueira (anhydrous acid). After being sifted and toasted, the flour is ready to be consumed.

The liquid left over from the process has high alcohol content. In Pará, the liquid, after undergoing heat treatment from the sun or fire to remove its toxicity, is used in the preparation of tucupi, a type of sauce used in Amazon cuisine in such dishes as the famous pato no tucupi (duck au tucupi).

The cassava pulp, which decants during the process, is used as a starch for clothes or the manufacture of foodstuffs, such as oatmeal, porridge, biscuits, cake and tapioca.

Inside the flour mills, the tasks are divided: some men are responsible for the process of yanking the cassava from the ground and transporting it to the flour mill; women and children peel the tubers and extract the starch or powder. Work carries on into the night, when the so-called farinhadas take place. Accordionists, guitarists and dancers show up and in between swigs of cachaça, coffee, tapioca and much fun, while the work continues for the whole night.
Cassava flour is used widely for making various kinds of flour, pirão, tapioca and is in a large number of recipes in Brazilian cuisine.

The flour mill helped to bind the people to the land, transforming cassava into an important food resource, responsible for the reduction of hunger in some Brazilian regions.

Recife, 24 July 2003.
(Updated on 25 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.


sources consulted

ARAÚJO, Alceu Maynard. Brasil: história, costumes e lendas. São Paulo: Ed. Três, 1982. p. 170. v. 2.

CASA de farinha. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 25 jun. 2003.

DIAS, Celina Silva Paiva de Mello. Casa de farinha. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 26 jun. 2003.

PAIXÃO, Ana Rita; LEMOS, Fernando. Casa de farinha. Rio de Janeiro: Secretaria de Estado de Ciência e Cultura. Instituto Estadual do Patrimônio Cultural, 1986.

PEREIRA DA COSTA, Francisco Augusto. Anais pernambucanos. 2.ed. Recife: Fundarpe, Diretoria de Assuntos Culturais, 1983. p. 398-401. v. 6. (Coleção pernambucana, 7, 2ª fase).


how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Cassava Flour Mill (Casa de Farinha). Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.