West Village eatery Casa hosted a kickoff event for Cafés Do Brasil Week, a celebration of Brazilian-grown coffees throughout the city. Cafés Do Brasil runs until November 19, with over twenty restaurants participating. The sponsors of the event provided us with a brochure detailing all of the coffee-growing regions in a country nearly the size of our own. While most of us tend to simplify Brazil as the land of rainforests and festive street carnivals, it is in fact a land of diverse culture and geography.
Factors such as climate, altitude, and geology all impact the flavors of regional coffees, much like with wine. Of the twelve regional specialties listed in the brochure, we were given the opportunity to sample three of them, each boasting its own distinct characteristics in terms of smell, flavor, and aftertaste. Each was served with our vivacious hosts sharing the different ways they enjoy coffee. Two recommendations stand out: one involves freezing brewed coffee to use as ice cubes to make an iced coffee that loses none of its flavor. The other is a blended drink recipe consisting of equal parts coffee, orange juice, and condensed milk. I have yet to try either, but I have no doubt they are awesome.
Brought out in order of mildest to strongest, our first coffee was from the Mogiana region of the Sao Paolo state, on Brazil’s southeast coast. With just a subtle hint of cocoa (as opposed to chocolate), this coffee had a delicious natural sweetness to it. The second was from the Cerrado region of Minas Gerais in Central Brazil. This was the most complex of the three, with tastes of nut, citrus, and chocolate, especially in the aftertaste. My favorite – as a fan of exceptionally bold coffees – was our final sample, from the Planalto region of Bahia. Bahia is famous for its variation of the Brazilian Carnaval, as well as being the birthplace of samba music. As zesty as the images it conjured in my head, our host said it works best as a breakfast coffee, saying, “You drink this, and the coffee says to you, ‘Good morning!’”
Quietly nestled away in one of the oldest areas of the city, Casa was a perfect venue for the coffees, which were paired with an authentic Brazilian breakfast. Our two-course meal started with a basket of mini-doughnuts, a heaping piece of yucca-coconut cake, and a delicious cheese bread called Pão de Queijo. Following up the sweet and savory goodie basket was a dish of Eggs Florentine, with a side of roasted potatoes and a Brazilian sausage called linguiça. The entire meal was terrific, and the folks behind Cafés Do Brasil have made a solid case that they truly do make the best coffees in the world!
For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.cafesdobrasil.com
Photos: Chelsea Herman