Neon signs, cigarette smoke, booze, and hordes of young São Paulo night cats; this atmosphere inspires one of the legendary streets in town. Augusta Street has long been the heart of the underground culture and the neighborhood is dotted with nightclubs, galleries, indie theaters, and one of the city’s hippest coffee shops, Urbe Café Bar. Founder Fabio Pereira—who also runs his family’s farm, Fazenda Realeza—created Urbe to fill a niche he thought had yet to be explored in this bustling after-hours district.
It was four years ago, during a coffee tasting course at Isabela Raposeiras' Coffee Lab that I met Pereira, a fellow classmate. Despite producing and exporting his family’s coffee for the past 15 years, he believed in setting up a coffee shop to serve the bohemian crowd and introduce good coffee with trendy cocktails. He believed that although the specialty coffee scene in town was on the rise, the players were late to the night party. “Every day there are a lot of people coming out of the theaters, movies, and nightclubs, and they find it difficult to find a good coffee,” says Pereira, who started out serving coffee roasted by Raposeiras.
Recently, Pereira has brought Fazenda Realeza’s beans onto the menu. The estate is located some 300 kilometers from the capital in the Cajuru, Alta Mogiana region. “Our farm had been built with a focus on producing just to carry out the international market contracts, fast harvesting, and medium-quality coffee,” said Periera. “Urbe led us to invest in the improvement of our product. We are practicing selective picking and all samples are tested one by one in our lab.”
In April of this year, the winner of the first Brazilian AeroPress Championship, Edgar Martins, came from Urbe. Martins started working there three years ago and learned everything he knows about coffee at Urbe. Pereira considers Martins and all his employees part of a larger team, a collective coffee company. Two of his brothers are also partners in the business, and he's matched in longevity by a young barista by the name of Carolina Aboud, who has been with him since the first day of operation.
When you walk into Urbe, you can sense its new-generation energy. It has nice graffiti on the wall and young professionals and students drink AeroPress coffees and caipirinhas alongside espressos and cachaça. Pereira presents his espressos in two versions: chocolate to appease classic tastes, or more acidic ones with a citric twist. Both of them are roasted by local micro-roaster Hugo Wolff of Wolff Cafe. Today, Urbe operates solely this store in São Paulo, and beyond a plan to introduce new retail packaging, Pereira has not indicated any plans of expansion. For now, he'll focus on the farm and the shop alongside his family and collective team, staying quality-minded and evolving organically, from farm to Augusta Street.
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 morePaulo Pedroso on Sprudge.
Photos by Lufe Gomes.