Rio de Janeiro: Friendly people in a brutal city.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the more iconic city’s in the world. Corcovado (the statue of Jesus Christ), the Copacabana beach and the Sugar Loaf mountain are three things that easily pop into your mind when you think of this magnificent city. The beautiful scenery, however, hides a society of poverty and criminality. A society where life is as good as the amount of money that you posses, but also a society with kind and caring people as well.
Playing by the rules
What a lot of people don’t know about Rio is that it can be a brutal city; a city with people so poor that robbing is their only way of making a living. A city where favela’s are sometimes run not by local governments but local drug-gangs. I always travel through Rio de Janeiro in a taxi, never on my own and always vigilant of my surroundings. But even playing by these rules, I once got in a situation were I was held at gunpoint just outside of my hotel. A ragged young boy started to talk to me in a menacing way, his hand gripping his gun inside the hem of his jeans. I could not understand what he was saying, but the intention came across just fine. At the exact moment that I was fumbling for the little money that I had hidden away, the hotel-security stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. The boy got spooked and ran away as fast as he could and no-one in the street even batted an eye.
Nervous for nothing
It was by these rules that I travelled to the Botanical Gardens in Rio de Janeiro to visit a coffee hotspot: Bastarda Cafe. When the Uber-driver dropped me off at the wrong place, a gloomy looking fellow stepped up to me and started talking to me in Portuguese. My vigilance rose and I started to take note of my surroundings. Where there any shops I could step into? Any people I could walk up to? What would I hand over if the guy pulled a gun on me or something? Now, I don’t speak Portuguese but I do speak Spanish. This guy wasn’t asking me for my money or phone, he was asking me what I was looking for. In Spanish I answered that I was looking for Bastarda Cafe and instead of robbing me, he gestured me in the right direction. The guy must have felt my unease and clearly noticed my pale face because he then smiled and nodded as he walked on again. It appeared that Bastarda Cafe was just around the corner and that I got nervous for nothing. Experiences from the past do influence your future actions, and this was a perfect example.
Tour de Rio de Janeiro
When I entered Bastarda Cafe I was surprised to see the interior. Bastarda Cafe is a cafe that mixes cycling with coffee. A race-bike hanging at the wall, books of famous cyclists and bicyling-routes littered the place. You could even buy yourself repair-tools for your bicycle in the cafe. Bastarda Cafe is a meeting place for cyclists in Rio de Janeiro who, during their cycling, often drop by for a cup of quality coffee.
Everything in Bastarda Cafe is cycling, even the names of the dishes and drinks are named after Indurain, Froome and other legends. Who would have thought that The Tour would be present in Rio de Janeiro
A Brazilian welcome
Once inside the shop I started chatting with the two guys behind the counter: Daniell Nogueira and Igor Miranda. Daniell doesn’t speak English very well, but it doesn’t hold him back in his passion to talk about coffee. Igor, speaking English pretty good, soon joined the conversation. Together we spoke about Bastardo, the beans they use and what specialty coffee’s they serve. Before long Igor started making his specialty coffee-cocktails, whipping out one after the other. Each cocktail was even tastier than the one before. After what seemed like forever it was time for me to go, but Igor and Daniell thought otherwise. They needed to show me one more coffee-cocktail, and so I had to stay a little while longer. There was no room for discussion. After a espresso-mandarin cocktail and a espresso-lime-sparkling-water cocktail, I now got to try the Espresso-tonic cocktail. What a easy going combination of flavours; tonic and espresso really compliment each other very well.
When I wanted to pay for my drinks, Igor and Daniell didn’t allow me to pay. As a matter of fact they would not hear of it. We had a good time sharing our passion for coffee and that didn’t include paying for the drinks. They even made me take a bag of free beans (Obatã) when I left the shop. With a big smile on my face and a warm feeling inside, I left Bastarda cafe in my search for the next hotspot. Of course I was vigilant when I walked to the end of the street to grab my Uber, but I did not consider each and every person as a potential threat any more. I think that this is what the people in Rio do as well; they enjoy their daily life and don’t think about what can go wrong 100% of the time. Instead they go about their business, enjoy their day and still manage to keep a vigilant eye.
It’s the people that make it so
Earlier I was talking about Rio de Janeiro being a brutal city and I still stand behind my words. But on this day I got reminded of something else: that while this city can be harsh and brutal, the people living in it are kind, open and friendly. Eventhough Rio is iconic because of Corcovado, the Copacabana Beach and the Sugarloaf Mountain…it should be about the people that live there. People who enjoy life as much as they can without letting the brutal city claim their happiness. .
(PS: When my website www.coffeeattendant.com is fully working I will put Igor Miranda’s recipe’s online so you can all enjoy his creations!)