Tag Archives: Santos

Bolsa Official de Cafe (Official Coffee Exchange), Santos

The Official Coffee Exchange

The Bolsa Official de Café, or Coffee Exchange, is a magnificent building built to showcase the wealth and influence of coffee trade.   The Exchange was inaugurated in 1922 as part of the celebrations for the centenary of Brasil’s Independence.  It continued in use until its functions were transfered to São Paulo in the 1950s when the building gradually fell into disrepair.

By 1996 the tower was nearing collapse with the rest of the building not far behind.   The State stepped in and with the support of private enterprise the building was saved.   It became home to the Coffee Museum in 1998 and was declared a Heritage Site in 2009.

Before we visited, Valeria’s niece Mel, had told me about a coffee which is made from bird droppings.  It is very exclusive and very expensive so obviously I had to try it.  It is called Jacu Coffee.     The Jacu bird is an endangered species and suddenly took a liking to organically grown coffee on a plantation in Espirito Santo state.  And not just any of the ‘cherries’ either, the Jacu only went for the ripest ones that even experienced coffer pickers couldn’t identify.

Long story short, the plantation owner discovered that Indonesian growers had a similar problem with cats and had found that the beans could be recycled from the cat shit and produced fine coffee. So the plantation workers in Espirito Santo were issued with ‘pooper scoopers’ and Jacu Coffee was born.  Obviously it is eye-wateringly expensive as once the droppings are collected each bean has to be individually, lovingly cleaned by hand before it can be used.  Sounds like a marketing strategy to me, but it is obviously working so I gave it a go.

Now, I have had some shit coffee in my time, but I have to say this was the best, strong, flavoursome, slightly acidic and it didn’t seem to leave the aftertaste other coffees do.  It was nice, I have tried it, but I think that at R$22, that is about £6, for an espresso that will be my only taste of Jacu Coffee.  No coffee is worth that amount of money, but, box ticked, and where better to tick it?

Trading Floor of the Ex hange

The actual building is huge and located close to the railway station where the coffee arrived and opposite the, now derelict, dockside warehouses from where it was exported.   The major feature is the Trading Floor,  an impressive stone floored ‘arena’ enclosed by a ring of Brasilwood seats for the brokers and traders.  These seats on the Exchange were massively expensive, apparently costing as much as a house, and were passed down from father to son, but the profits to be made were obviously worth the cost.

Behind the Floor is a huge mural by Benedito Calixto, a famed artist from Santos, which depicts Bras Cubas founding Santos in front of the church he built, the Holy House of Mercy.   Calixto also created the stained glass  ceiling above the Floor which gives a very stylised representation of the three periods of Brasilian history from Colonial, through Imperial to the Republic.

The central ‘Colonial’ pane shows, amongst other things, flames on the waters which apparently was a trick the settlers used to scare the Indians.  They used cachaça, the clear sugar cane alcohol, to make it look like they had the power to make water burn!   His depiction of the period of Imperial abundance, from 1822 to 1889, shows the various crops grown in Brasil.   It has been noted that he only depicts European streotypes, completely omitting any reference to the slavery that existed throughout this entire period and which under pinned this prosperity. The third pane represents the industrial development of the Republic up to the centenary of Brasil’s Independence.

The building is impressive, more so because it has actually been preserved.  The Coffee Museum itself is also very interesting and I could have spent far longer there than we had.  The displays cover the entire history of coffee from its origins in Ethiopia to its arrival in Brasil and the relevance of the coffee trade to the political, social and economic life of the country.  That is in addition to an in depth exhibition on how coffee is actually grown and made. They have English and Spanish translations of the main features which was welcome, but half the fun is trying to understand the Portugese! Well worth the R$6 entry fee and after the museum I didn’r even begrudge the R$ 22 coffee!

New Year

The tradition is the wear white for New Year

We spent the New Year on beach opposite Ermida’s apartment with friends and family and a cool box of beer and Proseco … and when we ran out of the later it was only a 10 minute round trip to the fridge for a couple more bottles!

The rain had stopped earlier in the evening, it was warm and not a breath of wind to disturb the massive firework display launched from a series of barges anchored along the beach.    It was very crowded with people having set up gazebos and ‘fencing off’ areas of the beach but there was still plenty of room for the rest of us and by midnight the beach, which is something over 4 km long, was rammed full of people.   One more tradition is apparently to welcome the New Year by jumping 7 waves, well ripples really it was that calm, and making 7 wishes as you do so!

The fireworks lasted about 15 minutes and were really good, the scope and variety kept your interest and the timing and coordination of all the individual barges was excellent.   And as each of the barges were setting off the same displays it didn’t really matter where you stood, everyone got almost the same view.

Once midnight had passed the crowds thinned a little and many people stay on the beach until dawn to watch the sunrise, hence the gazebos I suppose!   We didn’t join them, missing the dawn and a portion of the morning as well!

New Year’s Day was hot and sunny, until we decided to go out.  Our friends came to pick us up in their car and a soon as we got in, literally, the skies opened.   We postponed our plans for dinner and sat and watched the rain from their apartment block and there wasn’t much else to see but the rain.   The beach is only 100 meters across the road and you couldn’t even see that.        It probably lasted an hour and then was gone.  When we got to the restaurant they we just mopping the last of the flood waters from their floor!

And so 2017 is under way.   In a week we set off for a fortnight of travels through Santa Catarina and Paraná States starting off with a few days with Sara and Joe (they sailed with us in Mallorca) in Florinanopolis.  Valeria has planned our route from there, by car, north to Cornélio Procópio to visit Dayse and Cleber.   This is a road trip of some 850 to 900 km via  Blumenau, Francisco do Sul and Joinville before we fly back to São Paulo from Londrina.



So far we have spent just over 2 weeks in Santos with Dona Ermida, staying in her apartment on the Avenida de Bartolomeu Gusmao right across the road from the beach.   Our first week was rather wet and over cast but suddenly, as the Christmas holidays approached, the rain receded and the temperatures rose and we now have afternoon temperatures in the low 40s and even over night it is in the high 20s!

Christmas Day

We spent Christmas in Sao Paulo with Valeria’s quite large family and we are spending New Year in Santos on the beach watching the fire works.  Unfortunately as New Year’s Eve progresses the rain has returned …. apparently a regular feature of the festivities, even here!

Santos from the ferry to Guaruja

Santos is the port for Sao Paulo  and as you would expect is busy; the entry channel runs along the eastern end of the sea front into the and is always busy with shipping.  The port was originally the main route for coffee exports but has the dubious claim to fame as the ‘port of entry’ for bubonic plague in 1899!

Pinocoteca Benedicto Calixto
Igreja de Santi Antonio

The city of Santos is on the eastern end of the large island of Sao Vincente which completely fills what would be a bay if the island wasn’t there; on the western end of the island is the city of Sao Vincente.   The port is on the sheltered north and eastern side of the island and that part of town, as you’d expect for a port, is not the most welcoming part of town; but as you move towards the beaches the buildings get taller and their density increases until you reach the sea front where almost all the buildings are apartment blocks, interspersed with the odd church and a few original buildings.


The sea front is the most attractive part of town and just behind the beach is the beach front garden which is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest such garden in the world.   Another interesting ‘architectural feature’ of Santos becomes apparent as you stroll along the beach front and it illustrates one of the perils of building on a beach …… there are a host of leaning apartment blocks.   Mercifully, despite the leaning they appear to have been stabilised.

One street back from the seafront the streets are a full of shops and are generally very busy.  Every Tuesday there is a huge fresh fruit and veg market a few streets from Ermida’s apartment and in contrast with many other prices in Brazil the market prices are refreshingly inexpensive!   Most staples are on sale for R$1 (about 25 p) for a kilo of any mix of produce.

Moving around Santos is easy as most places we need are within walking distance or a short cab ride away but the major factor in longer distance travel plans is the sheer volume of traffic, especially at this time of year.   A large proportion of Sao Paulo residents want to spend their holidays on the beach.   The ‘challenge’ is getting there as there are only two main motorway routes from Santos to Sao Paulo, Imigrantes and Anchieta (named for one of the original Jesuit priest who founded the mission at Sao Paulo in 1554).

Rodavia Immigrantes climbing through the Atlantic Forest

During busy holiday periods they operate a form of contraflow using these two roads; even then congestion is ‘impressive’ and journey times ‘extended’.   We have made the journey between Sao Paulo and Santos by coach a couple of times, in addition to being chauffeured there for Christmas,  and I have come across another interesting feature of travel in Brazil – you need photo ID to get on the coach.   Not sure why yet as the driver simply checks you have an ID document of some sort (UK Driver’s Licence in our cases) and checks something is written in the passenger information section of the ticket stub – he doesn’t check the ID against the bearer or against what is written on the ticket; sometimes they don’t check at all and sometimes, when the Gringo forgets his ID, they’ll let you on anyway.   I am sure there is a reason for this but it so far escapes me!

The Atlantic Forest

Another striking feature of travelling around here is the forest.  As soon as you leave the built up areas you are straight into the Atlantic Forest which carpets the coast and the Serra do Mar mountains immediately inland; these rise up to the Brazilian Highlands plateau some 800m above sea level where you very soon encounter the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

In the New Year we will be travelling south to Florianopolis, making our way back to Santos via Santa Caterina and Parana States; Valeria has been hard at work arranging car hire and hotels.   But that is next year, for now we are watching the old year being washed away, hoping the rain will run out before 2016 does!

Happy New Year!