You’ve arrived to one of the richest coffee drinking countries in the world. Cafés beckon at every corner in Portugal, the sound of the espresso machine greets your entry, and now the hard part…how to order the coffee?
The Portuguese are very serious about their coffee and buy only top quality. Forget about ordering your drink with soy milk or non-fat. They focus on the coffee itself, not the details that accompany it. Remembering that some of the richest coffee growing countries in the world are former ex-colonies of the Portuguese, it’s not a surprise that their culture is dedicated to consuming such serious quantities of this age-old world commodity. From East Timor to Brazil to São Tomé e Príncipe, quality is hardly ever in question. Nor is quantity in short supply. With over 40,000 cafes and restaurants in a country of only 10 million people, your coffee needs will never go unsipped.
There are a few basic Portuguese coffee terms you should know so you are sure to get what you really want. Consult this list for a mini course on Coffee Culture in Portugal.
(Listed in order of strength from high powered to mild mannered caffeine boost)
- Um café: Can’t get any simpler. Dark, rich espresso. Modest portion, usually consumed within three tiny sips. Only for the brave. Will cost you around .50 euro cents.
- Uma bica: Different name for the same thing as the above. The Lisboeta way of saying ‘um café’.
- Um café cheio: To take a bit of the edge off. Espresso filled with a bit of hot water. Still quite strong. Served in an espresso cup.
- Um pingado:Espresso with a few drops of milk. In Spain and some Latin American countries this would be called a ‘cortado’. Served in an espresso cup.
- Uma meia de leite: With almost equal portions of coffee to milk, this coffee drink is served in a standard coffee cup. The typical preparation is made with filtered coffee, but should you desire espresso, simply request ‘de maquina or directa’. If you still want your coffee on the strong side, specify ‘escura’.
- Um galão: The exact same as a ‘meia de leite‘, but served in a glass instead of a coffee cup. Try it with the national pastry, ‘pastel de nata’.
- Um garoto: Finishing off the list with the mild mannered garoto, this drink just gives you a hint of coffee, as the brew is made from the grounds that have already been run through with water on the last customer (think of it as coffee grounds recycling). Fill the espresso cup to the brim with milk and you have it!
To top it off, or more appropriately, double it up, you can double the quantity of espresso in your café or your café pingado by asking for a ‘café duplo’ or a ‘duplo pingado’. It will be served in a regular coffee cup and the caffeine will have you flying high for a day of sight seeing.
These terms are only your most common ways of ordering coffee. Spend an extended time in Portugal and learn the others.
Photo of breakfast coffee originally posted by McPig