Sometimes, a multipurpose cafe gets that way one step at a time. When Brasília's Objeto Encontrado opened in 2008 it was an antique shop, but it soon joined forces with an art gallery located in its building. At some point, the owner at the time, Bebel Hamu, purchased an espresso machine for the shop. But when Lucas Hamu (Bebel’s brother), Luciana Araújo, and Lussifer Silveira took over in 2013, Objeto transformed again: into a specialty-coffee shop/art gallery/whisky bar.
I sat down at Objeto one fine Saturday morning recently and had a beautiful macchiato made by Lucas Hamu using Sítio da Pedra beans from Pereira Villela. Hamu has really mastered the craft of latte art. Araújo and Hamu are at the shop every day and are the only ones who operate the La Marzocco FB80; Silveira takes on more of the business side. (For the record, I am later told that “Lussifer” is not his real name.)
Objeto hosts art exhibitions in its gallery underground, but also ranges far outside normal cafe territory with occasional afternoon pool parties. When Brasília faced one of its longest drought seasons in 2013, the owners decided the best response was to host a pool party, hiring a water truck to fill a plastic pool. The afternoon was spent swimming, drinking coffee, eating, dancing, and eventually, diving into the artisanal beers and whiskys available at the bar. It was such a success that pool parties are now on the list of regular events at Objeto, along with the Auto Mar, a whisky/bourbon tasting event. “Objeto is more than just a business for us,” Araújo tells me. “It’s also a way through which we can create a sense of community in Brasília, [putting a spotlight on] good art and making friends.”
The menu emphasizes the seasonal and local, sourcing from organic suppliers whenever possible. Objeto offers a homemade coconut-milk alternative and uses sustainable Brazilian cocoa in the coffee drinks. One highlight of the menu is the cheesecake, made entirely from scratch—even the base of Breton shortbread cookie is made in-house under Araújo’s supervision. The fruit on top varies by season (at the time I visited it was guava). And more is coming: a kitchen renovation is underway so that Objeto can expand its menu, especially the vegan offerings.
At the coffee bar, the filter coffee options are Bravilor and Hario V60. When ordering an espresso drink, the question is: espresso or longo? Apparently, new customers would occasionally feel they were being “cheated” when they got their 30-milliliter espresso—Brasílienses being used to long, overly extracted espressos. To those who ordered the longo, Hamu and Araújo would explain the coffee-to-water ratio—and also offer their traditional espresso in addition to the long one, served side by side, so that customers could study the difference. This tactic has been working: traditional espresso now brings in the majority of Objeto's coffee sales. As Araújo explains, “It would be a pity to spend so much time and effort tasting various shots and adjusting dose and grinder to then serve something you know isn’t going to taste [as] good, and worse, knowing you can do better.”
This approach is being used for other coffee beverages as well. For instance, many people will order a plain café com leite (coffee with milk), a common staple in Brazil—but which can be different things in different parts of the country. So Hamu and Araújo will dig deeper and ask if the customer wants it with espresso or filtered coffee, with just a dash of steamed milk, or half coffee/half milk, and so on. Making these connections with customers slowly brings them into Objeto’s coffee world.
The beans at Objeto are usually from an assortment of roasters: Terroá Cafés Especiais, Pereira Villela, 4 Beans Coffee Co., and Wolff Café. The variety is intended to always present something new and unique to customers.
With all these things taken together, it's not surprising Hamu defines Objeto as “not a mainstream coffee shop.” It's true. Where else could you choose from more than 60 whiskys, have beautiful espresso beverages extracted from a La Marzocco FB80, visit an art exhibition, and maybe even go for a swim?
Juliana Ganan is a Brazilian coffee professional and journalist. Read more Juliana Ganan on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Lucas Hamu.