In Portugal, coffeehouses and pastry shops are an institution, not only for the specialties they serve but also for their history and decoration. And like many other metropolitan cities they once were the favourite haunt of some of the most famous literary figures in history.
The Portuguese are very serious about their coffee and buy only top quality. So a good idea for people staying in Lisbon would be to join the locals and have breakfast in a typical café or a “pastelaria”.
Once you enter a coffeehouse you’ll probably be overwhelmed with the wide choice of pastries on offer, but if you thought the coffee options would be easier, you were wrong! Coffee in Lisbon is a science and they have so many options you will probably be lost the first day. So after a year living in Lisbon I can tell you with good knowledge these are the options you are more likely to find. Don’t stay with espresso and enjoy them all:
Uma bica: a shot of espresso, similar to Italian espresso. Very tasty and perfect before a long walk through Lisbon streets. At the north of Portugal, in Oporto, is known as “cimbalino”.
Um café cheio/curto: um “café cheio” is an espresso filled with a bit of hot water. Still quite strong. The “curto” is a still more concentrated coffee. They are both served in espresso cups.
Um pingado: is an espresso with a few drops of milk. Also served in an espresso cup.
Um garoto: is a hint of coffee filled with milk and served in an espresso cup. Garoto means kid in Portuguese as this was the coffee kids drank before they were allowed to have a proper coffee.
Carioca: a coffee with a copious amount of water. In some places you can also find the carioca de limão, which is not a coffee but a lemon infusion.
Uma meia de leite: with almost equal portions of coffee to milk, this coffee drink is served in a standard coffee cup. If you want it a bit stronger, specify ‘escura’ when ordering it.
Um galão: Similar to ‘meia de leite‘, this coffee has a larger size and is served in a glass instead of a coffee cup. It’s ideal for breakfast, especially with a pair of the famous, ‘pasteis de nata’.
Café com cheirinho: Cheirinho means “smell” as it has a blend of “bagazo”, a portuguese liquor. It’s the perfect option after a hearty meal.
Um descafeinado: the decaffeinated option.
In some places the coffee is served with a cinnamon stick, which is used to stir the coffee or to drink it using the stick as a straw.
You are likely to find all these options in all the coffeehouses in the country but if you are looking for the most loved and popular option for your next visit to Lisbon you must go to the Cafe Brasilerira (rua Garrett, 120). Located in one of the most charismatic parts of the city, next to Praça Camoes, this famous café opened in 1905.
In one of the outside tables you will find the bronze statue of the great Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, sitting beside his inseparable cup of coffee. But don’t forget the inside of the bar, where you will be able to admire the magnificent art nouveau decor. They say and I can confirm the coffee here is the best in Portugal, so if you have the chance, you can miss it.
Thanks Marta! This post is a GREAT resource!
About the author
Marta Mir has a degree in Journalism. But tired of listening to the stories of politicians in power she decided to flee to distant lands to, like the ancient troubadours, come back and tell her own stories. Now she has less money but is much happier.
How about you? Have you ever tried any of these coffees in Portugal?