Different parts of the world favor certain beverages, and in Portugal the drink of choice is coffee. Specifically, espresso is found in just about every restaurant, cafe, and bar and the locals are passionate about their coffee being rich, flavorful, and delicious. If you plan to take a visit to Portugal, there are several things you should know about ordering coffee there.
Portugal’s Coffee Culture
Artisinal coffee is something that the Portuguese excel at making, and their coffee has a taste that’s distinguishable from espresso made in other regions. Espresso in Portugal is served in cups that are a bit larger than the traditional Italian servings and higher water pressure is used during brewing.
Whereas Sweden has its fika, Portugal has its own special coffee breaks that occur mid-morning and between lunch and dinner. It’s also common for friends to get together late at night for coffee instead of having a full out dinner party.
The Portuguese view drinking coffee as a way to bring people together, take a few minutes to relax, and catch up with friends. To give a comparison, dining at US restaurants and bars typically means eating and then leaving so the establishment can turn over the table for new guests. In Portugal, guests are welcomed to linger after eating, drink coffee, converse, and have a bit of down time. It’s the camaraderie that accompanies a cup of espresso in Portugal that really makes it special.
Ordering Coffee In Portugal
When you go to a restaurant or eatery in Portugal and look at the menu, you’ll notice many unfamiliar phrases such as um Italiano, um cortado, and uma bica — these terms describe different types of espresso drinks. To order one, greet your server with “bom dia” (good morning) or “boa tarde” (good afternoon) to be polite, and then request your preferred drink:
– Um Italiano is a ristretto espresso with a small volume that’s strong.
– Cafe cheio is a full cup of espresso. Those who want a large cup of coffee without the bold flavor of a double espresso seek this as an alternative.
– Tres-Quartas is a cup of espresso that’s three-quarters full.
– Uma bica (in Lisbon)/um cafe/um cimbalino (in Porto) is a smooth, long cup of espresso served in a Demitasse cup. It’s one of the most commonly ordered coffees in the country.
– Um cortado is a small cup of coffee that doesn’t contain milk.
– Um pingado is an espresso that has a small amount of milk added to it.
– Um garoto is a small cup of espresso that’s half coffee and half milk.
– Uma carioca is a cup of espresso without the initial expression of brew from the machine.
– Um abatanado is a large cup of straight black coffee with some water.
– Um cafe duplo is a double espresso.
If you don’t want your coffee piping hot, ask to have it nao quente, or not hot — the person who makes your drink will add a bit of cold water to bring down the temperature. If you prefer instant coffee to bold brews, ask for an um nescafe.
For a coffee that’s three-quarters milk and one-quarter espresso order an um galao, but be warned that locals usually order it for breakfast or at the meal between lunch and dinner.
To avoid strange looks at any other time of day, order an uma meia de leite instead, which is essentially a latte comprised of half milk and half coffee.
Savoring the Experience
The worst thing that you can do is rush through drinking coffee in Portugal. Not only will you miss the wonderful flavor but an opportunity to take in a unique experience. If you’re heading to Portugal, now you know how to order coffee while you’re there. However, even if you’re not taking a trip, you can still practice and honor Portuguese coffee drinking customs right where you are. Be sure to use a decent espresso machine.