I was in Sao Paulo last week and while there, I adventured into various espresso shops to give Brazilian coffee a try. If you are going to try a country's coffee, you have to do it the espresso way. Brewed coffee simply wont work (topic to be discussed later). So while there I made some time to visit fancy espresso bars in the nearby mall walking distance from the hotel I was at, stand alone shops that sell small pastries and espresso based drinks, and even local fast food chains such as BC Express, that sell stuff from magazines, to coffee.
It was interesing to note the price of espresso and espresso based drinks. One thing is certain, espresso is not cheap. The price of a 60 ml (about 2oz) shot of espresso was on average in the city of Sao Paulo, Rs.4 (taxes included). Or approximately $1.8 US dollars. About the same as in the US, but where salaries are almost a third. Quality varied, but overall, the shots presented a full body and had great acidity. People are used to drinking their coffee and espresso with lots of sugar or sweeteners in Brazil. So the sweetness that an espresso should have was not there. But the light sourness that comes along with a heavy and full body coffee bean was evident. One issue I noticed in a couple of places, was that the crema that develops on top of the espresso, vanished after a few seconds of leaving the coffee sit. Which does not necessarily mean anything bad. But I did notice that. So yes, Brazilians are used to good strong coffee.
I have to say that the espressos and espresso drinks were far better than the regular drip coffee served at the hotel for breakfast, which for a 5 star hotel, was dismal in quality. In Brazil you will find a dominant use of espresso machines and espresso based drinks all over the place. Even fast food and convenient stores had full blown manual espresso machines with the grinder for the portafilters right next to it. This compares drastically to the US and North America in general, where cheap brewed coffee is more dominant in these types of locations.
In short, I enjoyed my espresso drinks at the different locations I tried them. Maybe they were not as sweet and complex as espresso drinks can be, but they did the job for me. And the atmosphere, well, thats something unique in Brazil. No matter where you end up walking for a fix, there will always be a good barista/server serving your espresso with a smile.
Want to try some of the top quality Brazilian coffee from Southern Minas Gerais? We carry these arabica beans (green and roasted) at Cervantes Coffee.