In roughly 1.1 miles—or a 23-minute walk—you can find six specialty coffee shops in the Vila Madalena neighborhood in São Paulo. If you live in cities like London, New York, or Seoul, that might not astonish you, but in the most populous city in South America, specialty coffee shops are not that easy to find. There is a joke going on in the city: the city council will only allow new cafes or roasteries if they are located in the Pinheiros-Vila Madalena stretch. Truth or not, let us take you to our delicious little coffee walking guide in the Vila area.
Let’s start with the pioneer Isabela Raposeiras' Coffee Lab. The coffee school is also home to a coffee shop, where baristas in colorful jumpsuits will take you through a comprehensive coffee experience. The coffee rituals that are listed on the menu are a fun way to discover her lineup of in-house roasted blends and single origins, as well as to try tasteful combinations (coffee paired with chocolate or cheese, for example).
Weekdays are always calmer to visit, as weekends tend to get busy. There is no table service; you choose your coffee—or ritual—from the menu and go to the barista station to order. I recommend one of the Espírito Santo beans on pour-over, and an arroz doce (rice pudding). You won’t be disappointed.
Academia do Café
Bruno Souza, owner of Academia do Café, is also a celebrity in the Brazilian coffee scene. He opened Belo Horizonte’s Academia in 2011 first as a coffee school, and then in 2014 they inaugurated the coffee shop. They expanded to this São Paulo coffee shop in 2017, also bringing their SCA-certified courses to the city.
Academia works with coffee from farming and roasting to exporting/importing, so it is a reliable source of knowledge on any of those fronts. At the shop, all espresso orders are made with a double shot, their own Fazenda Esperança farm beans are served throughout the year, and cheese from Minas Gerais award-winning regions is served to pair with coffee. Souza is a genuine and accessible character; if you have the luck to find him there, don’t miss the opportunity to chat with him over some well-brewed coffee.
Rodolfo Herrera, Flávio Seixlack, and Rogério Tarantino, the fine folks behind Takkø Café, finally opened their second location. The newest location is at the front of an art gallery managed by Flip (Felipe Yung), a well-known graffiti artist and also a friend of Takkø’s owners. This spot is a more compact operation, focusing on batch-brew offerings and to-go options. The idea is to have more accessible coffee available for the many people who work in the nearby offices.
The owners are rotating behind the counters at the two shops, but you will always find one of them at the Vila Madalena location. Takkø serves a top-notch cortado made with Wolff Café beans, and delicious pastries from local bakeries.
Nano Cafés Especiais
Robin Kimura and Lívia Scudeller started Nano Cafés Especiais as a coffee and pastries truck. Scudeller is famous for her cookies and coconut cake recipes, and Kimura is a skillful barista. They brought their coffee truck operation to the back of a spacious house in a Vila Madalena hilly street, which is also home to local handmade shops.
During São Paulo’s high-temperature wave, their baunilha ice coffee comes handy: a delicious concoction of sweetened condensed milk, cold milk, vanilla, spices, and a shot of espresso. And to eat, don’t even try to get away: order Scudeller’s world famous cookies.
Less than two blocks from Nano, you will find our next stop. Gabriel Penteado’s Cupping Café is the result of a extensive project. Penteado, an architect who fell in love with coffee some years ago, designed the entire renovation of the front of his parents’ house so that it would accommodate the coffee shop of his dreams. On the shop walls, you will find a lot of information on coffee methods, and the menu always offers three brewing options (AeroPress, Hario, and French Press) besides espresso, along with a fourth rotating method each week.
The food menu has just been renovated and the best-selling items are the pão de queijo (cheese bread), the Belgian waffles, and the slow-fermentation bread toasts.
Isso é Café
The next—and last—cafe is located downhill—which is a blessing: Vila Madalena’s hills can be incredibly steep. Isso é Café’s second São Paulo shop is located at the picturesque Beco do Batman, a graffiti-filled alley located at the end of our walking tour. Home to Brazil’s first Modbar, they share the space with Vivei.ro, a social innovation agency/coworking space.
Like Academia do Café, Isso é Café is also well-managed by people who master the many activities in the coffee chain, from farming to exporting. Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) is a model farm for many producers in the country and also acclaimed for its innovative and sustainable initiatives in the Mococa region (interior of São Paulo). Ask one of the skillful baristas at the coffee bar for a cappuccino and a croissant, while you sit down to digest this quick but intense coffee walk. From here, another walk shall begin, if I may suggest: the cocktail bar walk. But that is a subject for another article, I suppose.
Juliana Ganan is a Brazilian coffee professional and journalist. Read more Juliana Ganan on Sprudge.