October 27, 2017

A Specialty Coffee Shop Tour of Belo Horizonte, Brazil


No doubt you’ve already tasted Brazilian coffee: this is a country responsible for around 30% of the world’s green beans. And Minas Gerais, where Belo Horizonte sits, produces half of that.

Yet this isn’t just a coffee-producing region: it’s also a coffee-consuming one. As specialty coffee and experimental fermentation become more common, so too do Belo Horizonte’s third wave coffee shops.

If you’re coming to this coffee capital, whether for holidays, a business trip, or the Brazil International Coffee Week (Semana Internacional do Café – SIC), I’ve created a specialty coffee shop tour that will allow you to taste some of the city’s best coffees.

SEE ALSO: Interview With James Tooill: Brazil Is The Future of Specialty

belo horizonte

Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Belo Horizonte: A Must-Visit Coffee Destination

Belo Horizonte is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, the world’s largest-producing region. With a 2016–2017 projected harvest of 31.5 million 60-kilo bags, this state produces more coffee than the entire country of Vietnam, the world’s second-largest producing nation.

Minas Gerais sits in the southeast part of Brazil, with Belo Horizonte nestled between the very mountains that help it to produce high-quality coffees. In fact, this state is the birthplace of several award-winning coffees that have been recognised both in Brazil and internationally.

There are five different producing regions within the state: Cerrado Mineiro, Sul de Minas, Mantiqueira de Minas, Chapada de Minas and Matas de Minas. Together, they make up more than 300 producing municipalities and over 150 years of coffee history.

What’s more, Belo Horizonte is the location of the fifth Brazil International Coffee Week (Semana Internacional do Café – SIC). Last year, the event saw over 14,000 visitors, over 30 cupping sessions with 2,250 cups tasted, 68 workshop speakers, and more. Commerce worth R $25 million (nearly US $8 million) was started during the exhibition. The event includes educational programmes for producers on specialty farming and processing methods, a Re;verb symposium, and more.

And then, of course, you have the city’s coffee houses, where you can try all of the wonderful coffees from across the country. So let’s take a look at them.

Belo Horizonte Coffee

Busy day at Noete Café Clube. Credit: Noete Café Clube

Why These Five?

There are so many great third wave coffee shops in Belo Horizonte, so I want to make one thing clear: these aren’t necessarily the “best” five (because that’s an extremely subjective decision), and I haven’t tried to rank them in order of quality.

Instead, I chose my five personal favourites that, as a local to this city, I think make for a great introduction. Everything from the coffee to the staff and the atmosphere makes these five coffee shops stand out.

Belo Horizonte Coffee

The view from behind the bar at OOP. Credit: Tiago Damasceno for OOP

1. Noete Café Clube

Begin your afternoon at Noete Café Clube, and you won’t just get a great coffee: you’ll also get a passionate explanation of the story behind the cup. Just ask your barista and they’ll happily explain why they picked that coffee, how they roasted it, and more. Don’t turn up too early, though: they roast during the mornings and only open the café at 2 pm.

WhereRua São Domingos do Prata, 475.
AtmosphereHomely – like a large farm kitchen, where the smell invites you in
Espresso MachineAstoria
GrinderAstoria, Hario V60 Electric coffee grinder
Brew MethodsKalita Wave, Hario V60, AeroPress, Chemex, French press, presca (a Brazilian method), siphon, Clever, cold brew, and espresso
Must-Try DrinkThe Lemon Cold: Tahiti lime, ice, cold brew, and sparkling water
FoodSandwiches, bread with eggs and ham, pão de queijo (baked cheese rolls), types of bread, cheeses, omelette, and more
Retail OfferingsOwn-brand roasted coffees, brewing devices, artisanal cheese direct from the producer Armazém São Roque
Belo Horizonte Coffee

The café area of Noete Café Clube. Credit: Priscila Pinho

2. Intelligenza

Personal relationships, great sensory experiences, and technical excellence: Intelligenza works to blend these three characteristics into one great coffee shop visit. They have a variety of stellar coffees and their space is also a comfy place to spend an hour or two.

WhereRua Paraíba, 966
AtmosphereModern and comfortable
Espresso MachineAstoria two-group
Brew MethodsAeroPress, Hario V60, French press, Chemex, and espresso
Must-Try DrinkCocobrew: cold brew with coconut water served in a coconut
FoodCakes, pies, and pão de queijo (baked cheese rolls), with vegan options available
Retail OfferingsRoasted coffee, brewing devices, filters, mugs, tea, t-shirts, and more
Belo Horizonte Coffee

Get comfortable in Intelligenza. Credit: Priscila Pinho

3. Academia do Café

Academia do Café is more than just a coffee shop. It’s also an SCA-licensed school and coffee roastery (and it even has some coffee plants growing out the back). They work to not just sell coffee but also demonstrate what it represents to both consumers and producers. And their final goal is always to provide the best possible cup.

WhereRua Grão Pará, 1024
AtmosphereIt feels just like home, even down to the coffee shop’s dogs
Espresso MachineLa Marzocco Linea two-group
GrinderMahlkönig and Vitoria for espresso, Bunn for manual brewing
Brew MethodsHario V60, Clever, Chemex, French press, AeroPress, cold brew, and espresso
Must-Try DrinkA latte or cappuccino; prepare to be impressed by the latte art
FoodCakes, sandwiches, cookies, and pão de queijo (baked cheese rolls)
Retail OfferingsRoasted coffee, brewing devices, mugs, t-shirts, filters, grinders, and more
Belo Horizonte Coffee

Step inside Academia do Café. Credit: Priscila Pinho

4. OOP

Step outside OOP and you’ll be met with street noise. But step inside and you’ll feel like you’re walking into a new dimension. In fact, it’s like stepping into an art gallery that plays with the senses. And the coffee? Well, they like to experiment with that, too. Come here for a new experience, whether it’s the delicious drinks or the unique conversations.

WhereRua Fernandes Tourinho, 143
AtmosphereUrban, cool, and artistic
Espresso MachineLa Marzocco FB80
GrinderBunn and Casadio
Brew MethodsHario V60, AeroPress, French press, and espresso
Must-Try DrinkManually brewed coffee – it’s like a work of art
FoodCakes, cheesecakes, jam with canastra cheese (from Brazil), pão de queijo (baked cheese rolls), and sandwiches
Retail OfferingsOwn-brand roasted coffee and brewing devices
Belo Horizonte Coffee

Slow down with a coffee in OOP. Credit: Priscila Pinho

5. Café Américo

If you want to come in, call through the window – your voice is the doorbell. But even though the door might seem closed, you’ll find that this place is open to a wide variety of people. You’ll meet producers, baristas, roasters, investors, coffee lovers, and more. Café Américo is less a coffee shop and more a coffee factory, with people coming together to share experiences. Not only will you get to drink freshly roasted coffee and build new relationships, but you’ll also experience the jeitinho mineiro, the Mineiro way of life.

WhereRua Silva Jardim, 389
Espresso MachineNone
GrinderBaratza and Bunn
Brew MethodsKalita, Clever, V60, AeroPress, French press, and Chemex
Must-Try DrinkCold brew
FoodCookies, cinnamon rolls, cakes, cheese, and jams
Retail OfferingsRoasted coffee, cold brew, and cookies
Belo Horizonte Coffee

Warm welcomes and warm furnishings in Café Américo. Credit: Priscila Pinho

And now we come to the end of our coffee shop tour of Belo Horizonte. You’ll have tried a wide range of amazing Brazilian coffees, food, and brewing methods. But if you find yourself with more time in this city, or just incredibly thirsty for great coffee, don’t be afraid to step off the beaten track. New third wave cafés are opening all the time – get out there and explore. Who knows, you may find your new favourite spot?

All views within this opinion piece belong to the guest writer, who is a local of Belo Horizonte, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance.

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