How to order a coffee in Portugal

How to order coffee in Portugal

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. 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.

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”.

Uma-bica
Photo credit: Anna Kikia

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-pingado
Photo credit: Andres Alberto Moreira

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.

Um garoto
Um garoto

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’.

Um galão
Photo credit: mhamilton787

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.

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 and I can confirm the coffee here is the best in Portugal, so if you have the chance, you can miss it.

How about you? Have you ever tried any of these coffees in Portugal?

19 Comments

  1. OMG they all sound sooooo delicious!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      July 11, 2012

      @AndiP, I am sure that you have experienced a lot of great coffee in Latin America. I remember posts about you visiting coffee plantations…

      Reply
  2. Carolyn Jung
    July 10, 2012

    The closest I got to Portugal was Spain, where they also take their coffee and pastries seriously. Nothing better than taking a break in the afternoon with a foamy, dark cup of coffee and something sinfully sweet. 😉

    Reply
    1. Andi
      July 11, 2012

      @Carolyn, the coffee is amazing in a lot of places in Europe!

      Reply
  3. Kaitlin M
    July 18, 2012

    I would love to go to Portugal someday

    Reply
  4. Carlmel Joy Escuadro
    July 19, 2012

    Delicious!I love coffee and Portugal serves it nicely. 😉

    Reply
  5. Sherry Compton
    July 22, 2012

    Sounds like a place for my husband…he loves coffee and wants it strong! I never thought of drinking coffee through a cinnamon stick. Interesting!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      July 22, 2012

      @Sherry, I am thinking a piece of black licorice might be interesting too!

      Reply
  6. Martha F.
    July 23, 2012

    Thanks for sharing … Brings back fond memories I have of studying in coffee shops while studying abroad in Vienna, Austria 🙂

    Reply
  7. Betsy Barnes
    July 24, 2012

    I’m not a huge coffee drinker, however, I think I really want to go to Portugal and just drink coffee 🙂

    Reply
  8. vineet
    November 17, 2012

    Thanks for sharing. If you went to a cafe and wanted to order coffee ? How to talk in English when you are at a cafe. Watching this video and learn how to order a coffee. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyoDt3egGHg&feature=plcp)

    Reply
  9. nicolthepickle
    November 21, 2012

    Wow, they all sounds so tasty. I’ve never been to Portugal, but that looks like a good reason to go. The Carioca sounds amazing. Lemon and coffee is a very different combination to me.

    Reply
  10. Carlos
    September 4, 2016

    Congratulations, well done, but you forgot “the mazagran” also been known as sweetened “Portuguese iced coffee or summer coffee”.
    It is prepared with strong coffee or espresso served over ice with lemon.
    Sometimes rum is added, and it may be sweetened with sugar syrup.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      September 10, 2016

      @Carlos, thanks for the addition, I will have to update my post!

      Reply
  11. Love this comprehensive guide to coffee drinking in Portugal. Hopefully can put it to practice soon!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      April 10, 2017

      @Jessica, you’ll love Portugal, I was so surprised by how much I loved it!

      Reply
  12. Linda Manns Linneman
    July 25, 2017

    I would love to visit Portugal. What a great experience that would be. I also enjoy a great cup of coffee. Thank you so much for sharing

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      July 25, 2017

      @Linda, Portugal is an excellent place for great coffee!

      Reply
  13. Jeanne
    February 27, 2018

    We spent a month in the greater Lisbon area. At first, it was tough to not be able to just get a black cup of coffee that i could linger over. Nope. Too strong! I dealt with this by just doing what most Portuguese do. Espresso. My husband dealt with it by getting galao. I got used to it (and the high octane buzz!), and enjoyed it. So did he. Loved ALL the pastries from the git-go! Portugal is a treasure!

    do

    Reply

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