Great coffee, thousands of entrepreneurs and a fresh, modern, café scene: Dubbed ‘the city that never stops’, Latin America’s largest metropolis welcomes coffee lovers seeking new coffee experiences and business opportunities alike.
By Caio Alonso Fontes and Mariana Proença*
São Paulo, Brazil. Brazil is the largest market for coffee as a hot beverage worldwide, consuming 1.2 million tons in 2019 - 15% of global consumption
A vast metropolis of more than 21 million people, São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil and ranked among the 11 most globalised cities in the world according to the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network (GaWC). Coffee is a huge part of the city’s prosperity and diversity and has played a vital role in the city’s social fabric since the 19th century.
In 1867, São Paulo Railway Ltd built the first railway connecting the state’s coffee producing heartlands with the Port of Santos, which remains Brazil’s primary coffee exporting hub. Some 35.2 million 60-kg bags generated revenues of US$5.1bn in 2018 according to the Coffee Exporters Council of Brazil (Cecafé), with the Port of Santos handling close to 90% of this volume.
"As the city hosted the first national Barista Championship in 2002, professional baristas began capturing the public’s imagination as never before"
Today, São Paulo’s coffee legacy is evident in the city’s diversity, with more than 200 nationalities living in dozens of neighbourhoods, each with their own culinary, cultural, and musical identities. This veritable melting pot has earned São Paulo the moniker ‘the city that never stops’ – and the consumption of coffee doesn't either. It is evident in the millions of espressos, or pingados (coffee with milk), often with a slab of buttered toast from one of the city’s many traditional padoca bakeries. In fact, Paulistanos spend around R$155 (US$38) a year on coffee, around 25% higher than the national average.
The 2000s ushered in yet another new era in São Paulo’s hallowed coffee history with the arrival of third wave café culture. Pioneering coffee shops such as Suplicy Cafés Especiais, Santo Grão and IL Barista Cafés Especiais championed single origin, roasting profiles and different brewing methodologies. As the city hosted the first national Barista Championship in 2002, professional baristas began capturing the public’s imagination as never before.
"Today, São Paulo continues to set the standard for Brazil’s coffee shop market, blending world-class service, equipment and products to consistently offer new and unique experiences to customers"
Over the next two decades, buoyed by growing consumer awareness and demand, São Paulo’s specialty coffee market has continued to thrive with new waves of coffee professionals, innovative baristas, entrepreneurs and businesses setting up in the city. Hugely popular premium and specialty coffee chains, such as Suplicity Café, Il Barista, and Santo Grao, founded by Marco Suplicy, Gelma Franco, and Marco Kerkmeester respectively, have all made Sampa, as residents call the city, their home.
An international coffee destination
Today, São Paulo continues to set the standard for Brazil’s coffee shop market, blending world-class service, equipment and products to consistently offer new and unique experiences to customers.
It is unsurprising, then, that domestic and international coffee lovers alike flock to Sampa’s specialty café-lined streets. Today, there are around 1,000 coffee shops and micro-roasteries to explore scattered across diverse neighbourhoods such as Vila Madalena, Pinheiros and Vila Mariana.
With coffee trading roots that go all the way back to 1890, Octavio Café is one of Brazil’s oldest proponents of premium and specialty coffee. Today it operates five stores in the city alongside its wholesale green coffee sourcing and roasting business. In 2007 Octavio opened its grandiose flagship store in São Paulo’s financial centre.
São Paulo, or Sampa to the locals, boasts over 1,000 coffee shops and micro roasteries scattered throughout its diverse neighbourhoods
Airplane pilot; barista; Q Grader; café entrepreneur; Isabela Raposeira’s illustrious career saw her establish Coffee Lab in 2009. The multi-award-winning roastery and coffee education hub has since garnered an international reputation for its efforts to promote coffee excellence from farm to cup.
Established in 2011, Sofá Café is renowned for its coffee training and consultancy courses that are empowering São Paulo’s next generation of café entrepreneurs. For those seeking a slice of cutting-edge minimalist design with their immaculate latte art, Takkø Café has been trading downtown since 2014.
In 2016 Brazil’s current National Barista Champion, Boram Julio Um, founded his own coffee business. Um Coffee Co. delivers a holistic coffee experience through its roastery, coffee academy, and three cafés. Cold brew and dessert specialist Pato Rei Coffee Brewers opened its doors in 2018.
Sao Paulo’s coffee shops cater for all. There is always a place to sit and work, grab and go, hold brisk business meetings or enjoy leisurely lunches. There are a thousand coffee choices for São Paulo’s many millions – but there is no São Paulo without coffee.
*Caio Alonso Fontes is founder of Café Editora and Espresso magazine, in Brazil. Mariana Proença is journalist and Director of Content. Translated to English by K.J. Yeung.
This article will appear in the upcoming third issue of 5THWAVE magazine. Issue 2 is available to read online.