Quintessentially Brazilian: Coffee
Although coffee is not a native Brazilian crop, it spread rapidly across the country’s accommodating tropical climate from its introduction in 1727, and today the country is the world’s largest producer of coffee. It has been such a successful Brazilian export that it has become ubiquitous in both every day life and pop culture: fuelling early-morning office workers and late-night student deadlines, and providing a backdrop for about 90% of the action of sitcoms like Friends and Gilmore Girls.
With mammoth quantities produced to satisfy demand, Brazilian varieties sometimes suffer from the effects of industrial large-scale production, focused on quantity over quality. In recent years though, Brazil has turned to artisan, small-scale production methods, and begun to export its attitude to coffee along with the beans themselves.
One such outpost is Brasilia on the French Riviera, with a typically Carioca atmosphere – laid-back and welcoming. Strolling from Nice’s buzzing Place Garibaldi through to Rue Bonaparte’s trendy Place du Pin, your attention is caught by the unassuming little café terrace that spills out of a rustic white doorway. It is a melange of simple, 1950s style steel and wooden tables and chairs in an assortment of colours, each carefully accented with flowers arranged in carafes.
We caught up with co-founder Mariana, who explained the location was chosen for its lively ambiance, diversity, and the fact that “we’re Brazilians, attached to the sun, heat, and the beach…”
The simple furniture, playful colours, and smooth bossa nova soundtrack are in contrast with the slick, regimented terraces that flank the streets of the Riviera’s old towns, but Mariana and her partner Victor find more in common with their neighbours than one might think “they’re warm and welcoming, a bit like in Brazil,” she explains, “beach life always gives people a certain lightness. Of course we still miss a lot – family, friends, and the gastronomy, we can’t do everything at Brasilia.”
They certainly come close enough though, with offerings from coffee to tapiocas and traditional pão de queijo – which I am assured is the perfect match for Brazilian coffees – as well as catering to private clients and events putting their signature light, elegant touch on traditional dishes and ingredients.
Across the bare wooden floor, past two small alcoves of cushioned seating and wooden crates filled with mangoes and bananas, the coffee itself is expertly prepared behind a narrow wooden comptoir festooned with confections and café paraphernalia. Coffee is available in blends from all three major coffee regions, but the Brazilian blend is undoubtedly the star of the show. Higher quality Brazilian coffee is typically full-bodied with soft, chocolatey flavours, and this is a perfect example: well balanced, smooth and light-bodied with a sharp grapefruit flavour developing into dark chocolate. And yes, it is perfect with the homemade pão de queijo.
As independent coffee shops continue to grow in popularity, the world is introduced to this new wave of Brazilian coffee: just as intense as its predecessors, but flavourful, balanced, and versatile, equally suited to a concentrated espresso or a long French press. Forget bitter, mass-produced instant blends, this is the real deal.
8, rue Bonaparte