Coffee with or without sugar? How to learn to drink neat? – 05/23/2023 – Coffee in the Press

Even in the face of all kinds of deprivation to which he was subjected in jail, when he was arrested by the Getúlio Vargas regime in 1936, the writer Graciliano Ramos did not forget a detail of the daily life of a prisoner that caused him nausea: the sweet coffee he was given. served.

“Nasty, with ant taste”, wrote the man from Alagoas in one of the several passages in which he complains about the drink in his “Memoirs of Prison”.

The same sweetened coffee that made Graciliano sick also disgusts many coffee growers. They argue that good coffee should not be bitter and therefore there would be no need to sweeten it. Furthermore, sugar masks the natural flavors of coffee.

But is it really inconceivable to add a little sugar? Not what some experts say.

Indeed, well-roasted specialty coffees have a natural sweetness. But they are expensive and inaccessible to most people, and it is estimated that around 95% of Brazilians consume traditional coffees (which are the most easily found in supermarkets).

Barista (specialist in coffee preparation) Boram Um, three-time Brazilian barismo champion, explains that, in general, these coffees tend to have an exaggeratedly dark roast, which leads to excessive bitterness, which is why people feel the need to sweeten the coffee.

Research carried out by Abic (Brazilian Coffee Industry Association) in 2021 shows that the majority of the population actually chooses to sweeten coffee in Brazil:

How do Brazilians drink their coffee?

  • 39% pure with sugar
  • 34% pure without sugar
  • 17% with milk and sugar
  • 10% with unsweetened milk

Source: Research carried out by Abic with people who claim to be coffee lovers. That is, if we consider that there are people who drink coffee even though they don’t like it very much (to wake up or socialize, for example), the rate of those who sweeten the drink must be even higher.

So, wouldn’t the ban on sweetened coffee be elitism? After all, it’s much easier to have a special coffee without sugar than that excessively roasted powder that rested on the supermarket shelf for months.

Besides, coffee owes sugar a debt. According to sociologist Carlos Alberto Dória, author of books such as “The Formation of Brazilian Cuisine”, coffee owes its mass production to sugar.

“Coffee, tea and chocolate enter the diet at the height of sugar. It is the sugar that introduces this into eating habits”, he explains.

Still according to Dória, the consumption of sugar in Brazil has to do with the cheapness of the ingredient and the consequent imposition by the food industry, and not because the country was a sugar colony, as some imagine.

He cites as an example a book on national confectionery from the 18th century – after, therefore, centuries of sugarcane culture in Brazil. In this book, he says, there are recipes with much lower amounts of sugar than the versions currently found on the internet.

“So this idea of ​​a propensity for Brazilians to eat more sugar because sugar was produced here is nonsense”, he says.


Baristas heard by coffee in the press they say sweetening coffee shouldn’t be a taboo. They are unanimous in stating that, in fact, there is no need to put sugar in lighter roast drinks, which tend to have a natural sweetness.

But they also don’t think that the consumer who wants to sweeten his drink should be judged for that, especially if the coffee has a darker roast.

Also, dear reader, as much as you are a great coffee enthusiast, answer me honestly: have you always drunk coffee without sugar? Since the first time you tried the drink? Your answer will probably be “no”.

Even the Norwegian Tim Wendelboe, one of the most acclaimed baristas in the world, confessed to coffee in the press who started drinking coffee with sugar.

“It’s an acquired taste. Most people don’t like coffee the first time they try it. Sweetening is a way to lessen the bitterness. But eventually, if you start drinking really good coffees, you stop adding sugar, is required.”

Barista Isabela Raposeiras, considered a reference in the specialty coffee market in Brazil, follows the same line. According to her, the person who tries to switch abruptly from sweetened coffee to sugar-free coffee will be very strange.

Wendelboe even says he uses sugar in some of the drinks he serves at his renowned Oslo coffee shop. “For example, when we make iced coffees, we usually balance the drink with a little bit of sugar, just a little bit, to bring out the fruity flavors.”

He concludes: “I’m not opposed to adding anything to coffee. If it makes the coffee taste fantastic, then do it. But for me, high quality coffee will always be more interesting when drunk neat, with nothing on it.” .

That is, you don’t need to drink a cloying coffee, with the taste of ant, as Graciliano used to say. But coffee time should be a moment of pleasure, so the drink shouldn’t have an excessive, unpleasant bitterness. As the saying goes, “life is enough of bitter”.

And you, do you drink your coffee with or without sugar?

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Did you know that the Sheet gathered specialists to taste coffees and choose the best labels found in the main supermarkets? check out here the result and see how the tasting took place in the gallery below. After all, buying quality coffee is the first step to start drinking it without sugar.

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