Thursday, September 21

The good coffee of Badajoz

I write to dictation, but only sometimes. To be exact, I write at the dictation of some readers who, in the Letters to the Editor section, propose to deal with some issue that they find interesting. For example, Mr. Rogelio Antúnez Trigo, who a few weeks ago suggested that I write about the Portuguese roundabouts. And I did it. Last Sunday, March 20, another letter from Don Rogelio was published in which he lamented the closure of the Delta de Badajoz cafeteria after 34 years serving very good coffee. Later, he commented on the value of Rui Nabeiro, founder of Delta coffees, and he suggested that I dedicate this page to him.

To understand the history and the empire of the Nabeiro, it is convenient to approach Campomayor. In less than half an hour from Badajoz you can reach its factory (Delta), located on the Portalegre highway. There you have to visit the Coffee Culture Center, one of the most interesting coffee museums in existence, designed by the Badajoz companies Tecnología Creativa and Reina de Corazones.

This museum is the culmination of a story that begins in 1931, when Rui Nabeiro was born in Campomayor, the son of a humble family of farmers. In 1944, at the age of 13, his uncle Joaquín, who saved many Spanish refugees in the Civil War, calls him to help him in a coffee roaster, which he later sells contraband to Spain. Shortly after, his uncles Joaquín and Vitorino and his father set up a small roasting company.

But Rui was a restless young man, he became independent and founded his own company in 1961, creating the Delta brand to distribute coffee legally in Portugal and contraband in Extremadura. In 1984, the construction of the largest coffee roasting factory in the Iberian Peninsula began and in 2002, it already dominated the Portuguese coffee market, 48% of the market in Extremadura, it had a market share of 80% in restaurants in the city of Badajoz and a notable presence in Cáceres, Málaga, Valencia and Madrid.

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Half of the active population of Campomayor works in coffee or in businesses owned by coffee entrepreneurs. Several coffee companies have been created in the town. In chronological order: Camelo, Cubano, Cubana, Delta, Silveira, Camponesa and Nabeiro’s Coffee. Except Cubana, the origin of the others is in different branches of the Nabeiro family.

Rui Nabeiro met Alice do Carmo Gonçalves in 1953, married her and they had two children: João Manuel and Helena. He was mayor during the Salazar dictatorship, but he was not very well seen by the active forces, who considered him an upstart, and he left to return in style with the Carnation Revolution, becoming one of the Alentejo leaders of the Party Portuguese Socialist and return to the Mayor’s Office between 1974 and 1985.

On March 11, 2008, Radio Suisse Romande broadcast a program about Campomayor. After the report, Cyril Dépraz, the RSR announcer, wondered: «Is it that the Nabeiro are a mafia?». The response of the neighbors interviewed was: «No, we respect them a lot and nobody speaks ill of them. The Nabeiros are not a mafia. It is, simply, O Senhor Rui, like a father». The patriarch of the clan, Rui Nabeiro, makes it clear in his authorized biography (‘O homem. Uma obra’, by Tereza Castro): «I am a godfather, yes, of my godchildren».

Thanks to him, in Badajoz, when you ask for coffee, they ask you if it is Portuguese or Spanish. At the Delta cafe they always served it Portuguese style. But it has closed and Don Rogelio Antúnez is looking for another good coffee bar. He is lucky, in Badajoz it is easy to find him.

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