coffee is not just coffee…

Café Portugal
now if you ever make your way to Portugal you’ll have to try ordering as a local your coffee at one of the typical street cafes or bakeries. It’s an art and much explanation necessary. I know of no other country in the world where coffee drinking is so picky and is taken so seriously. Forget Italy, Turkey an all other known coffee drinking countries!

The Portuguese have an extensive list of how to order their everyday espresso and Co.. Here are some:

In Lisbon, your espresso is known as “bica“, tale goes that this abbreviation comes from the famous coffee shop “A Brasileira” that at the beginning when coffee was introduced (around 1905),  the Portuguese where not too convinced that this new fade was drinkable due to its bitter taste – to overcome this, they posted “beba isto com açúcar” (drink this with sugar). It caught on and a bica has become the national energizer – a very strong creamy black bomb… Beware!

Now if you don’t want it so strong you should order a “carioca“, which is drawn from the same coffee powder in the machine that served a normal bica. Or another option is an “abatanado“, which is a espresso served in a large cup with the same amount of water as of coffee.

There are also the all time favorites of adding milk to espressos, such as “meia de leite“, large cup of expresso with hot milk”, a “galão” which is coffee with milk served in a large glass, a “pingado” which is an expresso with a drop of cold milk or a “garoto” which has a drop of whipped milk…getting confused? Well even the locals do, so don’t worry.

And a note: all of the above can be ordered in a “chavena excaldada” or “chavena fria“, which is to ask to steam heat the cup or use a cold cup to serve it in, otherwise the coffee will be served in a lukewarm cup. Oh, almost forgetting…you can order your espresso “cheia” or “curta“, which means to fill the cup with more coffee or make a very short espresso – a true caffeine shot!

For the bold, order a “café com cheirinhoand delight on a espresso with “bagaço”, Portuguese grappa.  Now this is a wake up and is very popular with the hard working class.

But curiosities apart, the most astonishing and endearing  part is that at most bakeries and shops where regulars go for breakfast every morning (also a very typical Portuguese habit), ordering is not necessary – the owner knows who wants what, isn’t that fabulous?

I cannot express how wonderful it is to not need to do pleasantries  to anyone before my first sip of coffee – no money can pay that!


4 responses to “coffee is not just coffee…

  1. Pingback: Friday Favorites | The Culture Monk·

  2. And I also discovered that the coffees are called by different names in different places! But going ahead and just ordering “coffee” let’s everyone know you are certainly a foreigner, and have no clue as to how to get your daily caffeine-fix. But a “meia de leite” works very well with a sandwich for lunch :)

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