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Brazil's Barista Boom

By Harry C. Jones

A flavor revolution is changing the coffee drinking habits of many Brazilians. The typical “cafezinho” - a demitasse sized cup of strong black coffee served at all hours all over Brazil from stand-up bars and bakeries to Five Star hotels and restaurants - is now increasingly being replaced by the espresso cup. The movement began in the 1990s with the introduction of various-sized espresso machines from Italy among the more advanced trade leaders with selected locations in the principal cities. This coincided with the growth of higher quality Brazils stimulated by the work of the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA) and coffee quality awards to growers initiated by the Italian espresso coffee specialist, Illycaffe s.p.a. and expanded by the large cooperatives and principal producing States. Brazil is the second largest consuming country in the world, and now Brazil has the machines and it has the coffee - and the popularity of the espresso drink has spread all over Brazil. It is estimated to represent about 7% of domestic consumption and growing by about 10% every year.

Coffee brewing outside the home previously required no special training for the job. The growth of espresso created a new standard and trade leaders realized the necessity of training personnel in all the facets of preparation and machine maintenance to guarantee uniform drawing and quality. This resulted in the creation of barista courses sponsored initially by the BSCA and also by the Sao Paulo Roasters Association (Sindicafe). Later, some of the large roasting firms and cafe chains created their own training programs for selected employees. In addition, the more advance hotels and restaurants introduced training programs for their espresso service.

This training, in many cases, upgraded the normal coffee preparation employee to a skilled barista level - something never before experienced in Brazil - and has refined the profession.

Barista contests are now held annually in many locations within the country and Brazilians also participate in international contests and events.

A recent article in the Sao Paulo weekly magazine VEJA reported on the growth of espresso coffee in the city. In interviews with baristas in some of the more select locations, they found that some baristas with a college education preferred their profession to other areas of employment. Espresso flavor with all the extra perks has changed consumer habits. Many Brazilians are now enjoying better quality coffees, which researchers believe will eventually lead to increased consumption and capture some of the youth market, which had drifted to soft drinks.


Tea & Coffee - June/July, 2004
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