Rui Nabeiro had two great passions: coffee and Alice, his wife. Every day he made a point of cultivating them. Upon entering Delta, he did not give up proving what he had to sell. Four to five coffees a day, even when the heart already called for caution. “I also taste the decaf, to see if the batch is good”. No sugar, unlike youth.
A youth of humble roots and work. At the age of 12, she began to work at her parents’ grocery store, at a time when the raia was a place for smuggling. After his father’s death at the age of 17, he took over the roasting business.
The smell of coffee permeated him and Campo Maior. It was uncle Joaquim who brought the idea from Spain. It was to “pay homage and honor” the uncle who kept the Camelo brand in the group until today.
“Sir Rui”, as he was called in the land where he was born, on March 28, 1931, in a lane that leads to Praça da República, where the City Council is located, always preferred this treatment. They called him Commander, but he preferred “Sir Rui”. “I was born humble,” he argued.
Evidence of the simplicity of a man who started as an errand boy and ended up creating an empire of millions. But that he got goosebumps whenever he ate rice, even in the best restaurants. It reminded him of other, tougher times when that was the only food.
a man of habits
Nabeiro was a man of habit. He got up every day at six in the morning. He would go to Delta, to monitor the progress of the exchanges and follow, in contact with the raw material negotiators, the evolution of the price of coffee. And still to negotiate with suppliers. Lately, with the “sick woman”, he would return home to have breakfast with her.
Over the decades, there were many who wrote directly to Nabeiro asking for his help. “I feel the lack of so many people knocking on my door”. Almost always asking for a job. And, whenever necessary, he returned with this job. He always made a point of answering everyone. And, perhaps for that reason, for that attention, in Campo Maior (and in the country) everyone saw him with respect.
He never thought only of himself or the company, he guaranteed in the many interviews he gave. “The human being, for me, is ahead of everything”. When the covid-19 pandemic affected the business, Delta did not go into layoff. Rui Nabeiro insisted on bearing the costs, to ensure that the workers maintained their standard of living.
Delta is your life’s work. He founded it in 1961, with three collaborators. The brand was a suggestion from a patent and trademark firm. “One of them was Delta, which has good acoustics and natural expression. Anyone says it, even the Chinese.” And the truth is that Delta’s coffee actually arrived in China. Today it exports coffee to more than 40 countries, including Angola, Cape Verde, Belgium or the United States of America, employing more than three thousand employees.
Rui Nabeiro made a point of never leaving the company’s routines, even when, in September 2021, passed the leadership of the company to his grandson, Rui Miguel Nabeiro, who inherited his name and the will to make the empire grow, which today tastes like coffee, olive oil, wine. But it also opens the door to leisure, by investing in tourism. “Appendages of the coffee industry”, he joked.
Family: by blood and land
They even called him “Dr. Nabeiro”. But he always refused the title, because he knew he hadn’t gone beyond the fourth grade. Hard times and the need to bring money home forced the training to be postponed. In many situations, he admitted that he wished he had gone further. And he deposited this will in his children and grandchildren. “A person without ambition cannot walk. One must be ambitious, but that ambition must serve to create. Creating is a gift of God’s providence.
On several occasions they tried to buy the business from him, but Rui Nabeiro always rejected it. He always wanted to keep the business in the family. This was already the case after the 25th of April revolution, when, at the time of the nationalizations, there were talks of occupying the factory in Campo Maior. The “constant presence” prevented this take. But also the respect he had on earth.
In 1986, he even fled to Badajoz after being accused by the Public Ministry of the crimes of tax fraud and criminal association, referring to the failure to pay the import tax on coffee from the Netherlands.
But, on earth, the population was always on his side, remembering his dedication and closeness as mayor, before and after the freedom of April. “I have shown resistance in many things, in socializing, in the way of being in life, because I am a man of hope, who always sees a light on”.
A journey that, in 1995, led the then President of the Republic, Mário Soares, to award him the rank of Commander of the Civil Order of Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial Merit Industrial Class, and, in 2006, Jorge Sampaio to distinguish him as Commander of the Order of Infante D. Henrique.
The heart ruled many decisions. And rest was not easy. “I don’t get to bed and sleep”. He took the tablet to read the newspapers and confirm the quotes, the same ones he woke up with. The woman, Alice, didn’t agree with the routine. But she accepted. Since 1953 they shared their life together, after a love born on the school benches, which generated two children.
Rui Nabeiro said he didn’t feel his age. Even after entering the 90s, he felt a lot of desire to do. “Even if the man disappears, the little job remains here. It is not advisable to stop”. The man died this Sunday, aged 91, following a serious respiratory illness. The legacy continues.