(Please click here to read about this series of reposts of original posts from May 24, 2010 to June 12, 2010)
In the most recent post here on Flavors of Brazil, I discussed Guaraná Antartica, a popular soft-drink everywhere in Brazil, manufactured by a multinational brewing consortium. It has a huge following in Brazil, but it is known outside the country only in expatriate Brazilian communities, and among travelers who learned to enjoy it in Brazil. But Guaraná Antartica isn't really what I mean when I mention very local cult brands or styles, because Brazil is a huge country with almost 200 million inhabitants.
Guaraná Jesus was named after its pharmacist-inventor, Jesus Norberto Gomes, of São Luís, Maranhão, who developed the drink at his pharmacy in 1920. He was trying to imitate a locally-popular medicinal concoction when he developed the soft drink, which he baptized with his own name. Ironically, although the drink has a Biblical name, Gomes was a fervent atheist, and was excommunicated by the Catholic Church for assaulting a padre.
The ironic part of this whole story, for me at least, is that this small soft drink company, which was a market leader for many years in its own little corner of the world, did too well in selling its product. Guaraná Jesus was just too-tempting a purchase for one of the big multi-nationals not to scoop up, and in 2001 Coca-Cola purchased Guaraná Jesus. Up to this point, however, they have left it a strictly local product, only manufactured in Maranhão. I hope they keep it that way forever.