The city of São Paulo is riding a new wave of good coffee shops and small roasters who are beginning to create a specialty coffee scene in the country’s business capital. The latest cafe is Isso é Café (This Is Coffee). The cafe sits inside an iconic urban space called Mirante Nove de Julho, which has just been revitalized by São Paulo’s nightlife entrepreneur Facundo Guerra into a gathering place that includes a kitchen with monthly rotating chefs, an art gallery, live music events, outdoor movies, and a beautiful view. Once a famous hot spot for intellectuals in the 1920s, the place had been abandoned for almost eighty years, forgotten behind the São Paulo Museum of Art and alongside Paulista Avenue, a busy financial center once dominated by legendary coffee barons in the nineteenth century with their aristocratic mansions.
The Isso é Café project was developed by the Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza team. With its roots at the FAF farm, a fifth-generation coffee farm in the interior of São Paulo state, this marks their first store under their roasting brand, Isso é Café. Felipe Croce, son of FAF owners Marcos and Silvia Croce, is spearheading the project together with two culinary trained professionals, Fabio Nakasato and Wagner Figueira.
I asked Croce what his goals were for the cafe: “We want to provide a new context for coffee,” he said ambitiously. “It’s the product that most helped develop the country financially and has suffered 200 years of devaluation through commoditization—and today in São Paulo, the city that was founded on the coffee trade, there is still not much pride [in] our product. We want people to come by, take a pause from their busy Paulista lives and enjoy surprising sensory experiences.”
Besides serving fully seed-to-cup coffees from his parents' farm and other farms in the FAF network, Croce wants to pay tribute to a Brazilian tradition: the habit of millions of people around here who drink our everyday cup of joe in a glass cup, known as “cafezinho” in Brazil. In common practice, the drink is prepared with dark roasted beans thrown over hot water and sometimes sugar. Then it is filtered by a cloth into an urn that is kept hot until served into a classic glass cup called an ‘American Cup'. Croce wants to dress this classic Brazilian beverage in modern clothes and help to reeducate this “enfant terrible”.
Inspired by Australian barista Matt Perger’s “coffee shot”, the Isso é Café cafezinho is made by grinding 23 grams of coffee through an EK 43 and extracted on a La Marzocco Strada to 80 milliliters. The result? A drink with similar intensity, but including the clean and floral notes of higher-quality coffee and preparation.
As well, Isso é Café has plans to promote a true international exchange program of beans and baristas. Beginning with an espresso roasted by longtime FAF partners Coutume, the idea is to provide Brazilians with the opportunity to taste beans from other producing countries and international roast styles. The cafe currently has an opening for a traveling barista who wants to spend some time in the South American capital.
At Mirante Nove de Julho, one can drink a coffee with an eye over the town and another into the past—and the experience can set us into a zeitgeist.
Paulo Pedroso is a regular contributor to Brazilian newspapers Folha de São Paulo and Valor Econômico, as well as Revista Espresso, a Brazilian specialty coffee magazine. Read more Paulo Pedroso on Sprudge.
Photographs by Renato Kerr unless otherwise noted.