I am here in Brazil to judge which coffee deserves to have the title Best of Brazil's Cup of Excellence. My journey started at 1139pm on Thursday 10/4. Yet so many times when I travel to origin, I can't find a well-made cup of coffee to save my life! In Sao Paulo, I found two places, Suplicy and D’O Coffee. Suplicy roasts their own coffee and, in a way, so does D’O Coffee (see below.) Sao Paulo is a HUGE city and getting around without a car was tough even for an L.A. native like me who grew up riding the RTD and/or a bike everywhere. Both of these places were tough to get to if you were in a different part of town.
Forget coffee in the hotels, well…except for the one I stayed in Friday night in Pocos de Caldo (more later on that place...looovvveeeddd it!) Hotel Coffee is typically bad; no secret, right? There are a few out there that try to do it right and, doing a respectable job of it, should be commended. Because origin countries often save their best coffees to export and keep the left over beans for in-country consumption, it is quite possible that hotel coffee at origin could be WORSE than at a US hotel. Right, now sit down, take a deep breath...how are ya’ feeling? I know. It's awful trying to imagine what that coffee would taste like. Don’t do it. I am a trained professional and have been trained for scary coffee situations. But it begs the question: Why doesn't more US Foreign Aid focus on improving the quality of coffees served at origin? “More,” you ask? Yeah, “more;” some, moving through organizations like US AID, goes to helping farmers learn to farm better, maintain heirloom seed banks, etc. Clearly, the powers that be don’t understand the power of a good cup of coffee. In the words of the sage old javalosopher, Sammy Davis Jr.:
Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in some coffee and make a groovy mocha pie?
The Coffee Guy can, the Coffee Guy can
The Coffee Guy can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.
Well, those were the lyrics the way I originally wrote them back in the day but the candy lobby has their talons deep into everyone everywhere. What can you do?
Back to the point.....Obviously not enough of those dollars are allocated to makin’ the world taste good, if you get my meaning. Can you imagine how much more successful peace negotiations might be if the participants didn't have to suffer through a cuppa’ defective swill? Who can blame those guys for diving across conference tables and trying to choke out another diplomat. Yeah, right... probably the fastest way to World Peace: good coffee before negotiations. You listening White House? UN?
Anyway, the point of this posting is to introduce you to Unique Cafes in Sao Laurenco, Carmo de Minas -Mg Brazil. Why? Because they do Coffee right. No, that's not a capitalization mistake: coffee with a capital "C." When a café does coffee right, not capitalizing the "c" doesn't do justice to the effort that these guys expend to brew coffee at this level. Unique Cafes does not hold back! In Brazil, as in most coffee producing countries, forget about bringing in green coffee from somewhere else; even getting coffee from a different state within that country can be a major effort. Don’t ask, because no one’s been able to explain it to me yet. Picture, if you can, the challenge of painting a life-like representation of a rainbow and only being allowed to use one color. Sound fun? No, didn’t think so.
So what do you do? Well, if you’re the owners of this café you would also be the owners of a coffee export company called Carmo Coffee. Jacques Careiro and Luis Paolo Pereira have the knowledge and access to the sorts of coffees that are needed to make a serious and successful run at a café with these restrictions.
What they ended up doing is to offer coffees by flavor profile rather than origin. All the coffees come from farms in Carmo, but by blending different varietals (i.e. several Bourbon lines in the Citrico Blend) and different processing techniques on those varietals they were able to come up with four blends that highlight what the coffees and farmers in this region can do. On top of this mix of varietals and processes, the café offers different ways you can enjoy those coffees: Aeropress, Hario V60 pour-over, Bunn’s air infused Trifecta and (of course) as espresso.
So, in this is going to be my café away from my cafés. While my days this week are going to start at 530 am with spoons hitting the cups at 8am, I am going to be sipping some good finished product right there at the table against the wall on the left at every opportunity I get.