Just like any other European country with a long history of coffee, figuring out how to order coffee in Portugal can get confusing. 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 favorite haunt of some of the most famous literary figures in history.
Portuguese Coffee Culture
Coffee is an important part of daily life in Portugal but that doesn’t mean that everyone grabs a coffee-to-go on the way to work.
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Instead, it’s much more common to begin your day with a coffee or at least take an afternoon coffee shop break. Coffee is typically enjoyed at the cafe while catching up with friends or the news. Think of a coffee date as the equivalent of grabbing a beer to catch up with friends in the US.
Coffee has played a huge role in Portuguese history, with the Portuguese first getting coffee beans in 1727, thanks to Francisco de Melo Palheta. The coffee plantations were originally in Brazil, with the beans shipped to Portugal for roasting. Or so the story goes! There are, of course, many different versions of how exactly coffee came to Portugal.
The Portuguese are very serious about their coffee and buy only top quality. A good way to get up to speed is 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 variety of pastries on offer, but if you thought the coffee options would be easier, you were wrong! Coffee in Portugal is a science and they have so many options. You will need a bit of practice to figure out what you like and what you want.
Don’t stay with espresso try them all!
To order your coffee at a cafe, you’ll need to just a few words of Portuguese – bom dia (“good day”), the type of coffee you want, and por favor (“please)”.
For example, you might say: Bom dia, um cafe cheio por favor.
What Coffee To Order in Portugal
Here are some of the most popular Portuguese coffee drinks. Don’t stay with espresso try them all!
Um café/Uma bica
This is a shot of espresso, similar to Italian espresso. Very tasty and perfect before a long walk through Lisbon streets. In the north of Portugal, in Oporto (Porto), is known as “cimbalino”.
This is the closest you’ll find to a traditional Americano, with the same amount of coffee as a cafe that is poured longer and served in a larger cup.
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 café com elite / Um pingado
Pingado coffee is an espresso with a few drops of milk. Also served in an espresso cup.
Garoto coffee 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.
This is a coffee with a copious amount of water, resulting in a weaker coffee. In some places, you can also find the carioca de limão, which is not a coffee but a lemon infusion.
Uma meia de elite
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.
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.
This is the decaffeinated coffee option.
Um Café com Gelo
If you are looking for an iced coffee, this is likely the only version you’ll find outside of Starbucks. You’ll get a cup of coffee and a separate cup of ice to combine yourself.
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.
Best Coffee Shops in Portugal
There are many, many places to get your coffee but here are a few favorites in Lisbon and Porto. 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 check out these spots:
Best Coffee Shops in Lisbon
Located in one of the most charismatic parts of the city, next to Praça Camoes. This famous café opened in 1905. On 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 the coffee here is the best in Portugal, so if you have the chance, don't miss it.
Address: Cafe Brasilerira is located at rua Garrett, 120.
This is a popular spot among those who live in Lisbon, so you know it’s good! The perfect place to relax while enjoying views of the D. Pedro IV square. This is also the brand of one of the most popular Portuguese coffee brands!
Address: Café Nicola is located at Praça Dom Pedro IV 24.
Fábrica Coffee Roasters
If you’re looking for a flat white or cappuccino, this is the place to go as they have a very extensive menu with everything from Portuguese espressos to international favorites.
They also roast their coffee beans on-site.
Address: Fábrica Coffee Roasters has 2 locations in Lisbon: R. das Portas de Santo Antão 136 and Rua das Flores 63.
Copenhagen Coffee Lab
This is a franchise, but Mr. Misadventures and I had a lovely meeting with our friends, Mindy and Daryl, from the 2FoodTrippers and I had an excellent cappuccino (well 2 actually) there so I would be remiss if I didn't mention it!
Address: There are 6 in Lisbon, but the one on Rua de S. Paulo 62 is the one I had my coffee in. Other locations include:
- R. Nova da Piedade 10
- Escolas Gerais 34
- Campo de Santa Clara 136
- Rua Prior do Crato 1a
- Av. Álvares Cabral 13C
Right outside the apartment in Campo de Ourique we were staying in while visiting Lisbon for a month, was a really cool Jeronymo Café, it was huge and we started every day with a coffee from this Portuguese franchise.
There is also a good one at the Estação do Oriente train station which we stopped in at a few times.
Address: You can find Jeronymo Café all over Lisbon, check their website (in English) for a location near you during your visit.
Café Jardim da Estrela
For a quick coffee while you are waiting for Tram 28 near the Estrela garden, or if you just visited the Basílica da Estrela and want a breather then pop into the Café Jardim da Estrela or Banaba Cafe for a quick coffee.
Linha d'Água (My Favorite)
Not a coffee shop per se, but a great place to get coffee. Their coffee is solid, nothing to complain about, a good cup of coffee, but you cannot beat the view and the location in Jardim Amália Rodrigues. Nothing like chilling beside the water on the large terrace (or hanging on the lounge chairs) with a fountain and mini-lake. I recommend late morning or afternoon as it can be busy at lunchtime.
Address: Jardim Amália Rodrigues, Rua Marquês de Fronteira (not too far from El Corte Inglés department store).
A few other spots in Lisbon to consider:
- Bettina & Niccolò Corallo: R. da Escola Politécnica 4
- Buna Specialty Coffee Shop: R. do Poço dos Negros 168
- Give It a Shot (Time Out Market): Rua Dom Luís I 22
- Heim Cafe: R. Santos-O-Velho 2 e 4
- Hello, Kristof: Rua do Poço dos Negros 103
- Melbourne elouera: Rua do Possolo 52
- Milkees: R. Filipe Folque 7B
- Neighbourhood Coffee: Largo do Conde Barão 25
- Simpli Coffee Roasters & Bakery: R. Braamcamp 64
- SO Coffee Roasters: Calçada do Sacramento 30
- Tease: R. Quintinha 70B
- The Mill: R. do Poço dos Negros 1
- Wish Slow Coffee House (in LX Factory): Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103
Best Coffee Shops in Porto
Fábrica Coffee Roasters
This is the same roaster that is in Lisbon. The one in Porto is a very large space with old brick, vintage touches, modern decor plus gorgeous ceilings, and plenty of seating. You will love the natural light coming through the windows plus there is a really cute outdoor patio/hidden garden filled with plants. They do pour-overs which can be rare!
Address: Fábrica Coffee Roasters is located at R. de José Falcão 122.
Moustache cafe is located near the Lello bookstore and other shops and restaurants. People call it hipster, but judge for yourself! It has a nicely lit and spacious interior, with lots of outlets, comfy chairs, and big tables. They have four different seating areas including a lounge upstairs in the loft and outdoor terrace/patio.
Address: Moustache is located at Praça de Carlos Alberto 104.
Have you even been to Porto if you haven't visited the Lello library or had coffee in the Majestic Café? The Belle Époque cafe opened in 1920 its Art Nouveau style was fashioned after Parisian cafés. It is expensive and there will be a long wait so just like the Lello library it is up to you to decide if it is worth it!
Address: Majestic Café is located at Rua Santa Catarina 112.
A few other spots in Porto to consider:
- Café Guarany: Av. dos Aliados 85 89. Another Belle Époque cafe opened in 1933
- Café Piolho: Praça de Parada Leitão 45
- C’Alma Specialty Coffee Room: R. de Passos Manuel 44
- Combi Coffee: R. do Morgado de Mateus 29
- Confeitaria do Bolhao: Rua Formosa 339 – 100 years old!
- Mesa 325: Av. de Camilo 325
- My Coffee Porto: Escadas do Codeçal 22
- Nicolau: Largo de Alberto Pimentel 4
- Noshi Cafe: R. do Carmo 11 12
- Senzu Coffee Roasters: Rua do Rosário, 211
- So Coffee Roasters: Rua Sá de Noronha, 119
- Confeitaria Tavi: R. da Sra. da Luz 363. Coffee with an amazing view!
We stayed at this lovely hotel for the weekend on Rua das Flores and also had coffee at Jeronymo Café.
Technically not in Porto, but rather across the river in Gaia, this spot is too cool not to mention! 7g Roaster is a specialty coffee roaster and coffee shop with a beautiful terrace with an Insta-worthy vertical garden. I love the modern aesthetic and they have great coffee!
Address: 7g Roaster is located at R. de França 52 in Gaia.
I hope this little guide will help you with the ins and outs of ordering coffee in Portugal! Coffee has been part of my life since I was very little, and I share all the details in My Coffee Story.
How about you? Have you ever tried any of these coffees in Portugal? Do tell!
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I have spent a lot of time in Paris, my hubby even more, but despite that fact, ordering coffee in Paris can be daunting even for us! I put together a post on How to Order Coffee in Paris to help. And in case you need help ordering breakfast, here are all the details of a typical French breakfast.
Illustrations commissioned from Linden Eller.
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