By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Cidade Maravilhosa can be a place of contradictions, including what many visitors find as a seeming shortage of quality coffee shops in the city, given that the country has a world wide reputation as being a coffee nation. Yet for those who long for a barista crafted gourmet coffee experience, there are a handful of cafés to enjoy.
Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and in 2013, it exported 1.6 million tons of coffee, mainly to the United States. There is also a huge appetite for coffee, with Brazilians second only to America in terms of the amount of espressos, medios and macchiatos consumed each year.
However, it’s not uncommon to hear visitors and those recently arriving here to comment that they find it hard to get a decent coffee in the city. José Antonio Bautista García, originally from Spain has been living in Rio for four months but dislikes the standard preparation here which sees the coffee and milk stored in heated vats, which can affect the flavor. “I’m crazy about coffee but it’s so difficult to find a nice coffee here. The coffee is good but the way they prepare it is awful.”
The Third Wave Coffee Movement that has been championed by Antipodeans and hipsters in Europe and the states in the last ten years means that today’s coffee drinkers look for much more than just a caffeine hit. They are used to being able to grab an organic, single origin, locally sourced, barista-made coffees whenever the mood takes them.
The global presence of Starbucks has made it to Rio, but as in many cultural centers, a little research reveals a counter movement and some excellent independent coffee shops as well. A great example is Curto Café in Centro (Rua Sao Jose 35, Mezzanine, Kiosk 47 / Terminal Menezes Cortes) opened in 2012 and is taking the alternative approach to coffee in more ways than one.
The cafe focuses on gourmet, high quality coffee at low prices and encourages a community approach. Customers pay what they think their coffee and the experience is worth, the ‘menu’ chalkboard has a break down of the costs involved and price raw materials needed to get the cup of coffee into your hands. Customers are also encouraged to participate in the process, from learning to make their own barista coffee to helping out in the café.
On the border between Ipanema and Leblon, Café La Furgoneta, creates a sustainable coffee, using products from local farmers and the owners are constantly improving their menu to serve the community’s diverse palate. With a great selection of barista made coffee, their wider mission is to contribute to Rio’s local environment by partnering with and inspiring the surrounding community to be innovative and sustainable.
Originally serving coffee out of a customized VW camper van, now you can enjoy a coffee at Café La Furgoneta’s stationery base within the design boutique Q•GUAI (Av. Henrique Dumont, 65).
With a tagline of “For those who are passionate about coffee”, Grão Café offer a range of drinks, including Chemex coffee, which will appeal to real coffee connoisseurs interested in the science behind the perfect brew. Opened since 2002, Grão have a strong following of fans and now have three branches in Rio.
Over at Gaia Art & Cafe in Leme, the focus is not solely on coffee as they also serve a range of healthy, organic and natural foods. That said, it is a good place to find barista made coffee and a welcome change of pace for those staying in the area who want a change from the hotel buffet.