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.
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.
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Don’t stay with espresso try them all!
Um café/Uma bica: 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, 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 café com leite/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 check out 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. 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.
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.
For a visual summary of this post, check out my coffee in Portugal web story!
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