A place that brings together tradition, architecture, history, flavors and aromas. Installed in an eclectic-style building, with an area of 6,000 m² and more than 200 doors and windows, the Coffee Museum, inaugurated in 1998, is much more than a tourist attraction that showcases the number one Brazilian export at the end of the 19th century. It is an experience of various sensations, from the cultivation of the bean to the consolidation of coffee as one of the national symbols. Permanent and temporary exhibitions, works of art, period furniture, themed shop and a café serving the best coffee beans – including the most expensive and rarest in the country – are some of its many attractions.
The place where negotiations fixed daily quotations of sacks of coffee, the Bidding Room boasts 154 items, among them 81 Brazilian walnut chairs positioned on a raised jacaranda platform. Of the geometric designs on the floor, made of marble from Greece, Spain and Italy, the Star of David, a Masonic reference, stands out. The arrangement of the furniture, in art-deco style, represents the hierarchy of the old exchange: 11 main chairs for the president, in the center, and the secretaries, to the side, and the other 70 surrounding chairs, for the coffee brokers. Producers and exporters watched the sessions from the mezzanine. Auctions were held until 1950.
Benedicto Calixto Triptych
The triptych painting in the Bidding Hall depicts the urban and economic transformations in Santos, as conceived by artist Benedicto Calixto – the foundation of Santos village, 1822 and 1922. The painting also shows three Masonic symbols. The Renaissance-style frames, depicting Brazilian fauna, are also the painter’s work.
The central triptych panel, “The Foundation of the Vila de Santos” – 1545”, represents the moment of the public reading of the Charter of Elevation of the settlement to the category of village. The painter portrays the social composition of Santos village and its families, singling out three buildings: The Igreja da Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia (Sisterhood of Our Lady of Mercy Church), still under construction; the Casa do Conselho (Council Chamber), to the left and the chapel of Saint Catherine, built on an elevation, to the right.
The triptych’s left panel, entitled ‘The Port of Santos in 1822’, shows a small village with few roads and many churches, and the population concentrated in the sugar-exporting port region. The panel is framed by images of Brazilian fauna and coats of arms of the Brazilian Colony and the Brazilian Kingdom, with mottos representing each period – ‘Work and Order’ and ‘Cultivation and Trade’, respectively.
The same central region, 100 years later, is depicted in ‘The Port of Santos in 1922’, on the right-hand side of the triptych. It focuses on the changes that resulted from the coffee trade: new port facilities, railway, urban development and architectural changes. Also framed by images of birds and fauna, the painting presents the coat of arms of The Brazilian Empire and Brazilian Republic, with such positive inspirational mottos as ‘Arts and Industries’ and ‘Evolution and Progress’.
Stained Glass Window
One of the first stained glass windows with a Brazilian theme ‘The Epic Feats of the Pioneers’, this is also the work of Benedicto Calixto. Made by Casa Conrado, the famous studio in the city of São Paulo, it depicts allegories and symbolic configurations to represent the riches of three periods in history. The central scene, ‘The Vision of Anhanguera: the Mother of Gold and the Mothers of Water’ focuses on the gold from colonial Brazil. The cultivation of coffee, sugar cane and cotton in the times of the Empire is represented in the scene ‘Cultivation and Abundance’, on the left, while the trade, exportation and modernization of the Republic are depicted in ‘Industry and Trade’, on the right.
The permanent exhibition ‘The story of Coffee in Brazil’, which shows the relation between coffee cultivation and the development of Brazil, occupies areas of the ground and first floors. Divided into sections: ‘Coffee and Work’, ‘Harvest’ and ‘Benefits’, the exhibition shows the arrival of the first plant cuttings in the country, and the Japanese and European immigrants working on the plantations. The wealth and progress stimulated by coffee are shown, in wall panels and models, through the expansion of the railway network in São Paulo state and the development of the Port of Santos.
A little history
The Bolsa Oficial de Café (Coffee Exchange) was one of the world’s main centers for coffee trading for more than two decades. Auctions were moved to São Paulo in the 1950s and, 20 years later, the building was abandoned and remained closed until 1998, when it re-opened after extensive restoration work as the Coffee Museum.
At around 40m tall – twice the height of the building – the clock tower, on the corner of Rua Tuiuti, boasts four sculptures symbolizing agriculture, trade, industry and the maritime explorers. Responsible for summoning people to the bidding sessions, the Swiss clock changed the routine of the population, who had hitherto relied on church bells as a time reference.
Stained glass window – main entrance
Above the main entrance door to the building there is a small stained glass window with the symbol of the ‘United States of Brazil’, the name of the country at the time of the inauguration of the building, which remained until 1967. There is also the Coat of Arms of Brazil, composed of a coffee and a tobacco sprig, representing the two most important crops in the country at the Proclamation of the Republic (1889).
To end your trip, it’s almost obligatory to stop by the museum’s café, whose menu goes beyond the traditional espresso. Inaugurated in 2000, it offers several options of hot and chilled drinks, and sweet coffee-based items, as well as beans from a variety of regional producers to enjoy there or take home.
No one who is enthusiastic about the latest novelty can leave the Museum’s Café without trying Jacu Bird, made from coffee beans produced in Espírito Santo, which comes second only to Kopi Luwak, produced on the island of Bali, in the five most curious coffees in the world. The only Brazilian coffee on this list, Jacu Bird is taken from the feces of the jacu, which swallows the bean whole, without chewing it. In the bird’s stomach, the coffee absorbs the acids and enzymes that endow it with low acidity and bitterness, and medium sweetness, rich in jasmine notes. Production is authorized by the state environmental organization, IBAMA, and a kilo can cost up to US$ 1,150.00.
Information and Document Center
The Information and Document Center houses a collection of 500 books, several publications, and hundreds of documents about coffee and its history, some dating from 1889.