The Portuguese are big coffee drinkers and there are bars and cafés on every street ready to serve up that bica or galao on demand. So why would a newcomer to the Algarve decide to open a specialty coffee shop… and right next to Loulé’s municipal market?
You would think that a professional barista from Holland would opt for a spot within the golden triangle and look to attract ex-pat clients, but no, Ilona van Meegen decided the bustling town of Loulé was ready for something different. And different her coffee shop certainly is.
Bean17, at the side of the market, sandwiched between local butchers, fruiterers, and piri piri sauce sellers, is something of a surprise.
“When I did my research, I found that no-one here sells fresh roasted coffee of the highest quality. What you can get is a very dark, almost bitter coffee that often tastes burned or ashy; the coffee beans themselves are not special – they are what chains like Delta, Costa and Starbucks use.”
A barista who takes huge pride in her work and the product she delivers, Iona explains that it is not just down to the quality of the beans, it is also the way they are treated. “Different beans, including green varieties, allow the professional artisan to modify flavours and to play with end results, giving the expresso, cappuccino, and latte macchiato their own distinct personality and turning coffee-making into coffee art, introducing new tastes like chocolate and caramel or blueberry and apple.”
Her own cappuccino is made of an espresso shot with freshly-steamed milk and a micro foam of milk – not a canister of whipped cream in sight! And her coffee has less than half the caffeine of the usual pastelaria coffee because it is 100% pure Arabica while others are Robusta or a mix.
From the start Iona wanted her venture to be an experience. The décor is refreshing, calming and cosy, a contemporary take on vintage. You can sit at a big table and chat to your neighbouring indulgers, or find a quiet cosy corner all for yourself, or you can, as the working locals do, stand and sip at the counter. That locals have adopted Bean77 as their café of choice is interesting, and they are not only there for the coffee either. Iona’s homemade Dutch apple pie is famous.
But it is not only the beans and the barista herself that make this place special; the roasting method, and the equipment used, play a vital part in the equation.
One of Iona’s key investments has been in the best possible kit; the expresso machine by La Marzocco is regarded by the cognoscenti as the Ferrari of coffee machines. The beans themselves are roasted by a contact in Faro with special equipment and ground by Iona as she makes each cup. Thirty seconds is the max, she says, from grinding to the finished cup.
No question, it is a long, long way from what you expect at your local café down the street.
Robusta or a mix.
Tuesday to Friday, from 9.30am-2.30pm
Low-carb option Greek yoghurt with homemade granola, fresh fruit and honey
The famous apple pie
Scones with jam and clotted cream
Torrades, sandwiches, salads, veggie soup Mixed platters with a good wine
And to drink?
Espresso, americano, macchiato, cappuccino etc and specials like café brûlée (cappuccino with a topping of
caramelised sugar and cinnamon) and café panna montata (americano with fresh whipped cream). Teas, including chai latte with Indian herbs. Hot chocolate from chocolate pastilles.
Most popular coffee
€1 for espresso,€2.20 for a cappuccino
Bean17 Coffee and more
Mercado de Loulé, Loja 11
935 795 858 / Facebook: bean17coffee