By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Coffee is a daily ritual for a large majority of cariocas. After all, the Portuguese word for ‘breakfast,’ ‘café da manhã,’ can be more literally translated into ‘morning coffee.’ Here are a few suggestions for finding the best cup of coffee in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) and Centro (city center), whatever your taste.
Those looking for an innovative approach to the whole process of coffee production can look no further than Curto Café, suggests Barbara Rosa, a nutritionist from Botafogo, “With its innovative pay-what-you-want pricing, it is absolutely brilliant value for money.”
She adds, “But it also means there is a real relationship of trust between the customer and the café. They also regularly have incredible, handcrafted produce, such as cheeses and cakes.”
Curto Café has gained plaudits for its honest approach to pricing, where customers can pay as much as they think is fair, while at the same time learning how much it costs to get their coffee from the plant to the cup.
“My favorite coffee is definitely at Curto Café, because I just think their whole idea is incredible, and it’s a really, really cool place.” comments Dominic Parry, English co-owner of wine bars Winehouse and Cru Natural Wines.
However, that’s not to discount the high-quality coffee on offer at both of his own spots, “We have coffee at Winehouse and Cru which is Hario method, with selected beans from Espirito Santo, and we grind each cup to order.”
Tom Le Mesurier, who runs Eat Rio food tours, offers two starkly contrasting places at which to enjoy a truly carioca coffee experience. “My favorite spot for coffee is hidden down a little alley just off Largo do Machado, the aptly named ‘Café Secreto.’”
He continues, “As well as really excellent coffee and tasty snacks, I just love how calm and quiet it is, even though it’s only a two minute walk from the chaos of Largo do Machado.”
However, for a more traditional cup of coffee, Le Mesurier adds, “The classic place to go for a coffee and some Portuguese pastries is Confeitaria Colombo in Centro. The main room is reminiscent of a grand salon in Paris, complete with marble counters and huge mirrors.”
Often maligned by tourists and expatriates, but a point of a local pride among cariocas, is the cafezinho. Constantly brewing for the whole day, and served piping hot with sugar sometimes already added, it is an acquired taste. However, the experience of standing around a counter while sipping on a cafezinho can be worth the price alone.
For a truly authentic cafezinho, they don’t get much more traditional and beloved than ‘Café e Charutaria Lollo’ (Lollo Café and Cigar Shop) in Copacabana. Francisco, one of the baristas, explains the store’s popularity, “The cafezinho here is always top quality. We’ve been in existence for more than sixty years, and this remains a very traditional place. This sense of tradition, the same great quality, has meant that we’ve always been popular with people from all walks of life.”
Finally, for perhaps the most picturesque stop for a cup of coffee, there is Cultivar Café, up in the charming hilltops of Santa Teresa, where Canadian expatriate Bindu Mathur runs the ‘pousada’ (bed and breakfast) Casa Beleza, “My favorite coffee place is here in my neighborhood of Santa Teresa. It’s called Cultivar Café, and they have the most wonderful cappuccinos.”
She adds, “But the best thing about it is the open front, where you will always catch a friend or neighbor walking by to join you in another coffee and share a basket of their most delicious homemade ‘pão de queijo’ (a popular savory snack of cheesy dough balls)!”