Coffee culture in Brazil has long been defined by carioca—the local name for a brew that's diluted with a splash (or more!) of hot water, served throughout the country. But in Rio de Janeiro, this iconic drink is slowing being replaced by expert pour-overs and AeroPresses, made possible thanks to a recent influx of new quality cafes. Now, Rio's coffee shops offer a range of brew methods and beans to suit all tastes. With the Olympics approaching, here's a cheatsheet on where to find great coffee in Rio.Read More
Where to Drink Coffee in Rio de Janeiro Right Now
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Coffee has always been the perfect fuel for cyclists. And at Bastarda, riders can find a place to rest, buy bike gear, and, of course, have a full cup. Located in the Horto region of the Botanical Garden (where most cyclists in Rio train daily), this modern coffee shop serves a roast blend of Yellow Catuaí and Yellow Bourbon from a farm in Patrocínio, Minas Gerais (north of Rio). Extraction methods go beyond espresso, from Clever Dripper to syphon and AeroPress. One can also find cold brew bottles, ice cold mate (a yerba mate drink made with lime juice), and a variety of local craft beers. To kill the munchies after pedalling, grab a salad or sandwich.
Located within a deli and grocery store in the Botanic Garden region, Café Carandaí serves six types of coffee—all made with beans from São José do Vale do Rio Preto, a city located in the mountains of the Rio de Janeiro State that's not traditionally known for coffee production. The local carioca cup is brewed in a paper filter, with a bit of hot water added. One will also find French press (which serves three to five cups), and espresso that's prepared via a La Cimbali machine. Also on offer, assorted Brazilian cheese and sandwiches made with homemade breads.
Run by Gabriela Ribeiro, a filmmaker turned barista, Café Secreto, as its name suggests, is a well-kept secret for coffee lovers in the Marvelous City. Located in Largo do Machado, a small, quiet area between Flamengo and Laranjeiras neighborhoods, the coffee shop serves cups made with a variety of beans. As for prep, expect to find espresso-based drinks, in addition to AeroPress and pour-over. The drink menu also has cold beverages, like iced coffee with lemon juice. Which, by the way, pairs well with pão de queijo (cassava bread with cheese).
At Curto Café, customers pay what they want for a cup of coffee. Enter the shop and note the chalkboard that calls out from where ingredients are sourced, how much they cost, and also offers suggested retail drink prices. Here, coffee comes from small farmers in the State of Espírito Santo. To make the experience even more democratic, Curto Café is located on the mezzanine of a downtown bus terminal—expect a line of men in suits.
Located just a block from Ipanema Beach, this coffee shop is run by an Australian expatriate, Duncan Hay, who decided to pay homage to his country’s specialty coffee culture. Kraft Café is a small spot for crafted coffee beverages (such as espresso and its variations, i.e. cappuccinos, mochas, and a perfect flat white) and raw, vegan, and vegetarian food, as well as burgers and sandwiches. Kraft Café's beans are roasted by Hay himself and, after many attempts, he has finally created a coffee that suits cariocas’ taste: lighter and sweeter, with low acidity. Protip: Kraft also offers a great chai latte (that can be made with vegan cashew nut milk) and kombucha.
Mônica Pondé Café Etc.
Jewelry designer Mônica Pondé decided to add a coffee shop to one of her stores in the Ipanema neighborhood. And she did it with care. Here, all coffee is served via the Hario brew method in four different varieties, such as Bonjour (light and fruity coffee beans from Minas Gerais State), and Petit Noir (a special Jacu bird coffee, where the beans are picked from the Mata Atlantica rainforest’s native bird droppings–yes, the coffe is collected from bird poop). All beans are organic, come from different regions of Brazil (from Bahia to Espírito Santo), and are ground and brewed to order.
With this carioca branch located in Copacabana, Diego Gonzales broadened his scope beyond São Paulo, where he already runs four Sofá Cafés, in addition to an outpost in the U.S., in Boston. Here, beans are roasted in-house and divided into five different sensory profiles, from “comfort” (moderate acidity and balanced sweetness) to “cult” (floral and nutty notes). On hot days (after all it’s Rio), ask for a cold brew with coconut water and make yourself comfortable on the couch (sofá, in Portuguese).
The Slow Bakery
At this micro-bakery in the hip neighborhood of Botafogo, loaves are the real stars: sourdoughs, ciabattas, and baguettes are nabbed straight out of the oven. Recently, management decided to add an area where customers can sit, drink a cup of coffee, and wait for the next batch of fresh bread. Slow Bakery's coffees are made via AeroPress, with beans sourced from different local farmers.