Drinking Coffee, Brazilian-style

Coffee breaks are a part of many office cultures. If you don’t have the luxury of having a coffee shop in your lobby, you go into the break room, pour yourself a cup and bring it back to your desk. Maybe you have a chit-chat with a colleague, maybe you just fill your mug and go. Someone inevitably leaves a bit left in the pot so they don’t need to be the one to start a new brew, but the whole process functions pretty well by-and-large.

Not in Brazil.

First off, a full cup of Joe is pretty nonexistent, or at the very least super recent (in the past 5 years or so – I remember when the first Starbucks opened in my neighborhood! Exciting that I could order a Café Americano without getting strange looks). The coffee that is served is 100% in the form of “cafezinho” which translates to “little coffee.” For the common employee, it is dispensed from a big vending-type machine into tiny tiny plastic cups (think: between the size of a Dixie cup and thimble) from one of SEVERAL machines on each floor of the office building. If you don’t take it black, you input the parameters into machine and it spits out your coffee customized to the levels of sugar (or sweetener) of your liking.

It’s basically a shot of coffee, and it is NEVER taken back to your desk, and rarely taken alone. Colleagues will often meet up to “take” a little coffee together and shoot the breeze for a few minutes before returning to their desks.

Now, the exception to this is when there are more formal sit-down meetings. Here, coffee is served. And this doesn’t mean placing a carafe and stack of cups in the middle of the table. No, no. The coffee is carried in on trays by a uniformed server and espresso cups and saucers. There isn’t even a communal sugar dish. Before “serving,” the server will discreetly ask if you want sugar or sweetener, and then just as discreetly place said packet onto the saucer before placing it before you. If anyone needs a refill through the course of the meeting, you just pick up the phone, call the coffee department, and ask for X more little coffees.

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