A history of coffee in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the best cafes to get some for yourself

Want to know where you can find some of the best coffee in the world? While your local coffee shop probably has some decent brews, you can find the really good stuff in São Paulo, Brazil.

Introduced by Francisco de Melo Palheta in the eighteenth century – from seeds smuggled in from French Guiana – coffee was Brazil’s greatest economy booster from the early nineteenth century until the 1930s. Concentrated in the Paraíba Valley between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and later around the red soil areas of the countryside of São Paulo and Paraná, it was the country’s main export for almost 100 years.Large coffee plantations

In the beginning, coffee plantations were small, isolated worlds of their own. They sat on expansive properties and incorporated slave work, which was later replaced by regular employees and immigrants. Today, coffee is produced in more factory-type farms, and these traditional plantations are no longer operational. They can, however, still be visited in the São Paulo countryside. The visits can provide a trip back in history, as traditional architecture, machinery and slaves’ barracks can still be seen on the properties.

One important aspect in coffee production was the size of the available workforce. To help create a higher output, the administration of the state of São Paulo made the immigration issue the focus of its activities, establishing a program that supported European immigration. Advertisements were run all over Europe, and immigrants were brought from their homes to the coffee farms. This allowed for rapid development in São Paulo.

With immigrant labor, the culture of coffee gained momentum and – for three quarters of a century – almost all of the country’s wealth was concentrated in coffee agriculture. Coffee farmers became the social and political elite and the new aristocracy in Brazil. This helped industrialization and allowed for the construction of large and beautiful farm houses and mansions in São Paulo.

The crack of 1929

The international crisis of 1929 had an immediate dual effect in the Brazilian economy: while it reduced international demand for Brazilian coffee and pushed prices down, it prevented the Brazilian government from borrowing international funds to absorb the surplus stocks of coffee. However, the government could not abandon the vulnerable producers and, from this period on, the Brazilian government began to play an active role in the economy. Coffee was something so important to the Brazilian economy, many began to call it the “green gold.”

Brazilian coffee today

Currently, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, accounting for 30% of the international coffee market. This is equivalent to the production of six other major producing countries. The coffee grounds are concentrated in four major producing states: Minas Gerais, Paraná, Espírito Santo, and, of course, São Paulo. So where can you get a little sip of heaven for yourself? Here is a list of the city’s top coffee shops and padarias (bakeries) where you can get the best brews that São Paulo has to offer.

Coffee Shops:

  • Arábia Café (pictured)- Opened in 2007, they serve coffees, sandwiches, and Brazil’s famous esfihas, savory pastries filled with meat, vegetables, and spices.
  • Coffee Lab– This roasting lab focuses on micro brews and features coffees with unique characteristics.
  • Nespresso (Nestlé boutique)– This famous brand developed exclusive capsules called Novo Dulsao do Brasil, which combine tastes of honey and malt.
  • Octavio Café & Bistrô– An official coffee evaluation done by the Universidade de São
    Paulo revealed that this venue serves some of the highest quality coffee in the area in terms of a full sensual experience.
  • Santo Grão– Here you will find select Brazilian blends, which are served fresh ground and roasted. You can even call the shop to see when the next round of coffee grinding will be, so you can watch the process for yourself.


  • Bella Paulista– This fusion bakery combines fresh coffee and baked goods with a pizza and snack bar, fulfilling every craving you may have.
  • Benjamin Abrahão Mundo dos Pães– This very traditional padaria has been open since 1952, and serves some of the best coffee in São Paulo.
  • Di cunto– Also very traditional, this padaria has been open since 1935 and has been developing their product over time.
  • Dona Deôla– This venue was opened in 1948 by Mrs Dona Deola, a Portuguese immigrant. Her hard work over the years has paid off, and her successful products have allowered her to open four bakeries.
  • Galeria dos Pães– If you want delicious coffee and great service at any time, this bakery has over 200 employees and 24 hour service.

[photos via anthony_p_c, DrikvdM, andybullock77, Arabia Cafe]