Brazil, Freshly Brewed
The recently opened O Café, located on the southeast corner of West 12th Street and Sixth Avenue — the former home of the beloved Joe Jr. diner — boasts an enticing selection of choice chocolates, coffees and pastries, presenting itself as a worthy opponent to established West Village java strongholds.
The cafe, an idea that has been brewing for nearly three years for owner Fernando Aciar, stresses a commitment to the environment and the highest quality ingredients, and serves up a satisfying cup of coffee at less than $2.50 (12 ounces) per cup. Cakes and pastries are made in-house or, according to Aciar, by “friends” elsewhere in the city — with the exception of the raisin scones, which are purchased from a second party.
The café’s interior feels rustic and open, almost industrial. Walls are covered with recycled wood, among other materials, and the resulting space is garnished with an attractive selection of plants — all of which are complemented by a calming spread of lamps and neat, functional seating.
While a cup of the house’s Brazilian roast french press is affordable, more extravagant espresso drinks run a higher tab: a 6 ounce cappuccino runs $3.75 and a 10 ounce latte is $4.25. The café’s specialty, however, and perhaps its selling point, is an intriguing selection of hot chocolate drinks, each differing in cocoa percentage and origin. The drinks are made with melted chocolate bars rather than a powdered alternative, gaining a rich consistency and smooth flavor due to the presence of cocoa butter. All of the chocolates are sent directly from farms in South America, ensuring the freshest product. During my visit, owner Fernando Aciar was displaying chunks of 100 percent Brazilian chocolate to customers, filling the room with a complex, earthy, aroma dancing with notes of bananas.
In addition to edibles, O Café sells goods from Los Angeles based design studio “Touch,” which focuses on sustainability and “works with companies that use design to enhance their business,” according to their website. An entire wall of the café displays a multitude of their products, many of which are crafted from recycled or upcycled materials. Brazilian bamboo salt and pepper shakers are available for $29 and a set of four coasters made from billboard scraps goes for $18. You can even purchase the smartly designed stools used in the café — which double as a doorstops or a bedside table — for a hefty $160 a piece.