It's an "Amazonian power-berry" (whatever that means) with five million times the anti-oxidants of blueberries and guarana and other good things. I had it from roadside stalls, made into a grainy purple ice-slushy, and it was uniquely refreshing and energizing. It tastes like blackberries and chocolate, mixed.
All over, or ask for ah-sigh-ee
At the juice bars that line the beach, the most popular choice is açaí. It is the purple fruit of an Amazonian palm, and is served as a frozen slush mixed with banana, guaraná and – often – granola. The taste is unusual, like a chocolate-blueberry sorbet with a mildly medicinal aftertaste. Its high levels of antioxidants make it a "superfood" and it also gives you energy and (apparently) sex drive.
I see another poster has recommended this but I feel obliged to point out that Colombo is more than just tea and biscuits - it is salgadinhos - Brazil's equivalent of dim sum, which are an absolute must for anyone wanting a culinary experience in Brazil - try bolinhos de bacalhau (fried salt cod balls) or rissole de camarão (prawn rissoles). The only place that arguably does them better than Colombo is Bar Bracarense (also recommended by another poster, but note it is in Leblon, not Ipanema - although the address is right).
Colombo is wonderful, but I feel a need to enlist potential tourists to the sacred cause, which is to persuade a narrow-minded management that they need to keep the ground floor cafe, with its belle epoque mirrors, open as a cafe for the general public and not simply close it off to tourist groups (usually multinationals) - which they have a bad habit of doing. Give the maitre a hard time if you find them doing this. You may thus have to stand at the bar.
Rua Dias Gonçalves as above, in the Centro.
It's small and the decor's slightly suburban and anodyne, but for a proper education into the glories of the caipirinha there is no better place than the Academia. 500 varieties of cachaca from all over Brazil are available, as well as caipirinhas made with passion fruit, lemon and an assortment of fruits in addition to the traditional lime. (Do try the version made with Providencia cachaca and brown sugar.) Many of the brands are available to take home - the prices are higher than in the supermarkets, but still very cheap by our standards and the selection is hard to beat. The food's decent, too.
If you're strolling there from Copacabana or the area of Ipanema that abuts Copacabana, stop along the way at always-packed Bar Bracaranse for an icy chopp (draft beer and a plate of croquettes made with shrimp, manioc and a lovely, gooey Brazilian cheese called catupiry.
Academia da Cachaca Address: 26 Rua Conde de Bernadotte Phone: 021/2529-2680 Bar Bracarense Address: Rua José Linhares 85B, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Phone: 021/2294-3549
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