Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Straight up, no chaser

I like my coffee like I like my men: strong and dark. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) In this case Brazil is a good place to be (on both counts). Brazil has a reputation for very strong coffee and people drink coffee daily, several times a day.

But I think Starbucks would have a hard time getting a foothold here, with their US$5.00 coffee drinks and such. Maybe not, so many Brazilians seem to fall for all things American, but the sheer size of US coffee mugs (let alone the super-sized grande/vente drinks at Starbucks) is mystifying to most.

The coffee ritual here includes a small cup/glass in the morning with your toast and butter. Generally it is sickening sweet to my taste, and often it is cut with some milk. If you are on the street there are vendors on every corner and many riding around on bikes (or with other contraptions) trolling for workers on the go. It is ubiquitous. Luiz tells me his grandmother used to mix coffee, milk and sugar (mostly milk and sugar) for him in his baby bottle when he was tiny.

Then at several hour intervals throughout the workday people will sip teeny tiny cups of this national beverage to keep the motors running. Most places of employment provide free coffee to their workers. It is set out, often presweetened, in a thermos and refilled throughout the day.

After work and getting on to the 7:00 p.m. dinner hour another batch is prepared, traditionally using the drip method, strained through a fine weave cotton sock made for this purpose.

Me – I’m a drink a pot in the morning kind of guy. The size of my typical US coffee mug alone gets some people pointing and exclaiming. Then when they learn I can drink nearly a full pot (we brought a 12 cup Mr. Coffee drip machine with us) without thinking they blink in disbelief. Pile on that I do not use milk, sugar or artificial sweetener and they shake their heads, it’s simply incredulous.

Coffee, I thought when I moved here, would be one area I had in common with my Brazilian friends. Well, sorta. But the ritual is completely different. One thing I have learned is to enjoy several small cups in the morning when waking up at a friend’s house. If I just pour myself a big glass (they usually do not have a good size mug) I just come off as the gluttonous American.

Excuse me while I go refill my mug.


The Reader said...

So, only just jumping on the coffee bandwagon (but sticking with my American mug, though The Chemist has become Brazilian in using the tiny cups, all throughout the day...), BUT a question - what is your favorite coffee??

Right now I'm using cafe de ponto (from the mall), Tradicional. What should I try next??

(and I like mine with sugar, no milk) (and I love your "dark and strong, like my men" designation. Me too, Jim; me too).

Jim said...

Hi Heather. For me there is one brand that stands above the rest. Café Pilão. It comes in a red, white and dark brown package, both in a bag or vaccuum packed into foil wrapped bricks.

It tends to be the more expensive by 75 centavos or so, but every time I try another brand just to save a Real I am disappointed.

It is dark roasted, very finely ground and has chocolaty-raisin undertones (or so it is described by coffee reviewers).

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

The Reader said...

Okay, Jim, adding it to my shopping list! Sounds yummy!

Also, what is this cotton sock thing instead of a filter?? Is that what I will be faced with when I run out of US paper filters? and, if so, is it easy to find one of these?? Thanks so much!

Jim said...

You should be able to find Milita-type cone paper filters everywhere. Finding the square bottom round Mr. Coffee type has proven impossible. We get them from our Paraguay "importer." Also, we recently got one of those tiny gold screen "permanent" filters, which is still holding out.

The cotton sock thingy is very reusable and over time the cotton gets seasoned by the coffe so the flavor is richer. Here is a photo:

You can get one at any grocery store and certainly from street vendors at farmers' markets, etc. They also sell filter holders. You just boil the water and then pour it little by little through the coffee/filer. Very old school. LOL!

The Reader said...

thanks for the help! I've ordered the Cafe Pilao in my grocery order, which will come tomorrow. I brought 400 Mr Coffee paper filters, so I'm good for a while and will figure out what's next when I get there. The cotton sock thing sounds intriguing!!

Thanks again for all your help; I'll let you know what I think of your coffee after I try it this weekend.