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Land of sad oranges

May 21, 2009

Along with manufactured goods and steel, coffee and oranges are Brazil’s biggest exports. But like the sad jokes I used to hear as a kid about Iran exporting its best tea and consuming the bottom dregs, I can’t easily spot a juicy orange or superior coffee anywhere. This is a little more disheartening than the regular (privileged) supermarket woe of overpriced quinoa/couscous/other whole food eminently more available and economical in an average U.S. grocery store. There’s poetic necessity to a basket of really orange oranges (I know, I know, most of them come green, but I just can’t find a green orange appealing). Orange oranges are more expensive here than in the U.S., and that can’t be just because Florida or California dye their fruit. And there’s an urgency, perhaps even an emotional one, to brew a robust cup of coffee that doesn’t smell or taste like it came from overburnt beans. I’ve gone through five brands: still no clear winner for fullness of taste without acridity. Most of the world’s coffee comes from an Arabica bean grown in Brazil, so why do I crave smuggling back the really good stuff?

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