Sandra is a graduate in agri-food engineering, specializing in vegetables and fruit products technologies. She has a postgraduate degree in Food Quality and Safety Management. In 1999, she discovered her passion for specialty coffees. In 2011, she founded the Academia do Café, is is a company specialized in training and consulting. She was the first woman in Portugal to obtain SCAE certification and is one of the few in the world to be able to certify in six of the SCAE Coffee Diploma System’s modules: introduction to the coffee, green coffee, roasting, sensory perception, brewing and barista.
Grão Especial – How many years have you worked with specialty coffees?
Sandra Azevedo – For 19 years;
Grão Especial – When did specialty coffees come to your attention?
Sandra Azevedo – In 2011, I discovered SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association Europe) and was fascinated. I realized immediately that it was a new world, it was a giant door that would open. I wanted to become an AST (Authorized SCAE Trainer). I also understood that it would be a lengthy process, I would have to first certify my skills in the specialty coffee, but I also knew that I would learn a lot.
Grão Especial- Where did you work before opening the Academia do Café in Lisbon?
Sandra Azevedo – I first started my professional career in the tomato industry, at HEINZ Portugal, where I worked for a year and a half. Then I was invited to go to AZKOYEN, a Spanish coffee company with a branch in Portugal. I was appointed as quality director for seven years. In 2006, I accepted a new professional challenge, where I worked for seven years until 2013. Then, in 2011 I founded the Academia do Café.
Grão Especial – Tell us more about your business, the Academia do Café
Sandra Azevedo – Academia do Café is a company specialized in Technical Consulting and Certified Training in all segments related to coffee. It was founded by me in 2011 and is today the leading coffee training organization in Portugal. We offer high level courses, work with the best specialty coffees in the world and ensure a high level of knowledge and training for our students.
Grão Especial – Tell us a little about the specialty coffee market in Portugal. It’s recent, right?
Sandra Azevedo – It started about two years ago, when the first coffee shop opened in Lisbon. There are already some others, but it is a market in its beginning phase “crawling just like a baby”, as we say here.
Grão Especial – What are the peculiarities of this market? Does the Portuguese know how to enjoy a better-quality coffee? Do they pay more for it?
Sandra Azevedo – Portuguese knows how to appreciate a better-quality coffee, but not everyone is willing to pay the fair price for it. The robusta coffee and sugar culture is still very much rooted in the taste of Portuguese consumers.
Grão Especial – Recently, it seems that the world has discovered how charming Portugal can be (we already knew!). Do tourists demand specialty coffees out there?
Sandra Azevedo – Tourists look for the best we have to offer: lots of sun, friendly people, excellent gastronomy. Coffee is a “must have” if it is good, but most of them drink any coffee over here, to sense the country’s culture.
Grão Especial – Given that Africa is much closer than Brazil, I imagine you might consume more specialty coffees from the African continent than from Brazil. Is this true?
Sandra Azevedo – Not entirely true. The largest exports of specialty coffees come from Vietnam, followed by Uganda and, thirdly, from Brazil.
Grão Especial – In your opinion, which coffees are appreciated the most?
Sandra Azevedo – in Portugal, espresso, as in almost all of southern Europe. In the Nordic countries, they prefer filtered coffee, 100% Arabica.
Grão Especial – What about Brazilian specialty coffees? Do you work with them?
Sandra Azevedo – We are looking for Brazilian producers but, at the moment, we do not work with Brazilian coffees.
Grão Especial – Are you coming to Brazil to meet new specialty coffees producers?
Sandra Azevedo – Unfortunately, no. But producers easily come to us.
Grão Especial – Have you followed the Brazil’s specialty coffees scenario?
Sandra Azevedo – Not properly. I am following the Cup of Excelence results and some news, but nothing very concrete.
Grão Especial – We recently interviewed the staff from Combi Cafés, in Porto. What other coffee shops in Portugal do you think are doing a good job there?
Sandra Azevedo – Hello Kristof is the coffee shop that I consider to be doing an excellent job. the coffee, food and the service are fabulous!