It was with anticipation that we drove to Campo Maior to meet Adelino Cardoso. For 41 years he has tasted, tested and roasted the coffees made by Delta, a renowned Portuguese coffee brand.
When Adelino joined Delta, he first had to prove his worth by roasting humble ingredients like barley and chicory. It was only then that Comendador Nabeiro, the legendary founder of Delta, took Adelino under his wing and started introducing him to the secrets of coffee production.
Adelino speaks about coffee with great passion. “Every cup of coffee is a voyage,” he tells us. “To places like Brazil, Kenya and Vietnam where the coffee is cultivated. Every day containers arrive from faraway lands. We take samples that are visually inspected and analyzed in the laboratory. If these tests are satisfactory, we roast the beans, grind them and brew coffee. We taste the coffee in a quiet room where nothing distracts us from the appreciation of the aromas and flavors. When the coffee does not meet Delta’s rigorous standards, the container is returned to the seller. We stand by quality, we want our clients to love our coffee. Comendador Nabeiro’s motto is that every client is a friend.”
“What is the secret of producing a great blend?” we ask. Adelino hesitates because this is a naive question, one that takes a life-time of experience to answer. He finally tells us that “It is complex. At a basic level, the Arabica beans lend aroma and acidity and robusta beans lend the viscosity that we often call body or intensity. But there are many other important elements. At what altitude was the coffee produced, how and when was it harvested, how was it processed after the harvest. Then there is the roasting. How long did the roasting last, how quickly did the temperature rise, how high did the temperature get. The coffee beans have to be ground in a way that is appropriate to the method used to brew the coffee. The amount of coffee used has to be exact. The coffee cups have to be heated before the coffee is served. All these factors determine the quality of the coffee. A good espresso has a thick hazelnut cream that protects the delicate coffee aromas. As it comes out of the machine, the last drop should be white.”
“I would like to invite you for a cup of coffee.” Adelino says. We walk with him to the lab and watch the meticulous preparations. The way he measures the coffee and drains hot water from the machine before brewing. The way he heats the cups. Finally, the coffee comes out of the machine. “For me, the ideal espresso has 35 ml of coffee, not too short, not too long,” he says stopping the machine at the right moment. “You should not drink the coffee right after it is brewed. The coffee pours out of the machine like a wave crashing on the shore. We have to wait until it settles down.”
The coffee has a gorgeous hazelnut cream adorned by a white drop. We wait for a moment and then take a sip. It is fantastic. We enjoy it slowly aware of the length of the journey, the depth of the knowledge, and the strength of the passion that produced this perfect cup of coffee.
You can visit Delta’s Center for Coffee Science at Herdade das Argamassas in Campo Maior, tel. 268 009 630, email firstname.lastname@example.org. It is a great place to learn about coffee and to enjoy a perfect cup of espresso.