April 21, 2011
The growing gourmet coffee trend in Brazil is being spread one delectable cup at a time by coffee shops such as Santo Grão. With four branches in São Paulo, Santo Grão sweeps a grand arc of select Brazil blends and serves them, freshly ground and roasted, with an easy-to-like food menu in an ambience that invites you to linger.
Santo Grão founder Marco Kerkmeester, a New Zealander globetrotter with a Brazilian wife, has the social art of coffee drinking down pat. On a Sunday morning, the beautiful café - or meeting point, as Santo Grão branches are called - on Rua Oscar Freire is filling up with groups talking over plain coffee, late breakfast and lunch. The area is divided into the terrace up front, the main room and a lounge.
According to one of the waiters, the open terrace, with rattan furniture and a vine crawling over the awning, is a favorite with internationals. Sure enough, American English is being spoken at one of the nearby tables. Among the other customers is a young couple with a well-behaved dog sitting quietly by the sidewalk.
The lunch specials sound great - tomato bruschetta (R$20), steamed common snook (R$54), mil folhas (a phyllo dough pastry, R$17.50) for dessert. But after pulling an all-nighter ending in a lavish breakfast and just taking a shower before visiting the Emiliano across the street, without even a brief nap, nothing but coffee will do for me.
The steaming, bold espresso (R$6, with service tax) hits the spot. Without hogging the table, I take a few minutes to soak in the vibe and admire Edifício Azul e Branco, or Blue and White Building, directly across from the terrace. Note the wavy balconies and the blue and white mosaic of this early 1960s residential charmer (where a three-bedroom, 1,637-square-foot apartment with original parquet flooring and newly remodeled porcelain tile bathrooms was selling for US$768,000 as of this writing).
Moving on through Santo Grão's main dining room and lounge, with a high ceiling, comfy seating arrangements and broad windows, one reaches the counter behind which coffee is ground and roasted in a beautiful piece of equipment manufactured by Lilla (founded in 1918, www.lilla.com.br).
"Some customers call to find out when the next grinding is going to be," says Robinho, the barista on duty. Among the kinds of coffee available are the house's own blend, a certified organic selection, Mogiana, and Cerrado de Minas, Robinho's favorite. "It's an intense, full-bodied coffee, with the feel of a liqueur," he says.
Santo Grão is also helping form new connoisseurs and professionals, with barista, tasting, and latte art courses and consulting for new coffee businesses.
Hours:Mon 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., Tue-Thur 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., Fri-Sat 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sun 8 a.m. to midnight.
Address & Contact Information:Rua Oscar Freire 413
São Paulo - SP
See all locations under "Pontos de Encontro" on www.santograo.com.br