(Coffee Brazilian Style)

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One could sit here and write volumes about coffee in Brazil, but if you want to read a good book about it, go to your local library and look for a copy of Vassouras: A Brazilian Coffee County, 1850-1890. The Roles of Planter and Slave in a Changing Society. Stanley J. Stein. New York: Atheneum, 1976. Instead, we'll tell you a little about cafezinho, a word that more than being a diminutive for café is almost a synonym for "welcome" in Brazil. (The antique coffee maker pictured here comes from Minas Gerais.)

Wherever you go, the minute you walk in the door, someone will pop the question "você toma/aceita um cafezinho?" (do you want a cafezinho?) and they won't take no for an answer. Or maybe they won't even ask and the cafezinho will soon materialize on a dainty tray brought in by a maid. In offices, someone will come by and serve cafezinhos to you at your desk, so don't be surprised if, smack in the middle of a business discussion, your Brazilian counterpart offers you a cafezinho too. And, at that point, the conversation may well switch to a non-business topic while you sip away at your coffee. Or you can "belly up to the bar" at any botequim with a counter in Rio and enjoy your cafezinho in a traditional botequim cup...I recently got one as a present from a botequim owner in Leblon and now use it at home in Miami. Here's a traditional recipe passed on from generation to generation in the interior of Bahia. I have a friend in Miami Beach who still makes coffee just like this. 

Espressos have become so common now in Brazil that you have to specify "carioca," if you want a traditional cafezinho in Rio de Janeiro. At the padaria or bakery, you can still order a cafezinho the old way...Who knows for how long, though!

Cafés are meeting points for business discussions, birthday celebrations, and plain kaffeeklatsch in the afternoon. People, especially those who live alone, are also in the habit of having breakfast in a bakery or café. And entire families go out to these places for breakfast on the weekend; they're the IN place to meet your friends to chat and read the Sunday paper together.

Recipe for traditional cafezinho:

For each cup of water, use a heaping Tbsp of GOOD coffee ground for espresso. Add sugar to taste. This is how it's done. You'll need a saucepan that you'll promise to use ONLY for making coffee. Add water to the pan, add the sugar and dissolve well. Bring to boil over medium heat. When the water and sugar mixture boils, add the coffee powder, stir well and remove from heat immediately.

The next thing you'll need is a traditional cloth coffee strainer. These can be found in any market in Brazil or in Latino markets in the US. If you don't have the real thing use a paper filter or a Gold filter. Pour into a tiny cup. A demitasse will do in the U.S., but if you go to Brazil, buy the real thing there; they're usually really small. Ah, if you can find the microspoons decorated with Brazilian stones - Brazilians usually find them the epitome of kitsch - you'll wow your guests every time!

The hottest (literally!) cafezinhos in Brazil now come flavored with everything from cachaça to you-name-it. My favorite, named "imbricata" after a turtle, comes from the island of Fernando de Noronha: a short espresso to which you add Cointreau, condensed milk, and milk foam.

More on Brazilian Food & Eating Habits.

Maria's Cookbook