In Portugal everything involves a coffee. From a serious conversation to a first date, going through any meal, every meeting has a cup of coffee, in such a way that, many times, we use the expression “drink a coffee” as a synonym for meeting. If we meet someone, we will drink coffee, if we haven’t seen someone for a long time, we have to arrange a coffee, if we arrange to go out with friends, we meet at the cafe, and if a friend is having a bad day, “Come on, I’ll offer to you a coffee”.
Coffee was first introduced as an important commodity by King João V in the Portuguese colony of Brazil, making Brazil the largest producer of Arabica coffee in the world at the time. Due to its historical relations with Brazil, Timor, Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe, all countries producing coffee, Portugal has been at the forefront of the coffee industry. The first public cafes were inspired by French gatherings and became privileged places for socializing and sharing for artists, politicians and writers. Figures such as Fernando Pessoa, Bocage, José Régio or Júlio Resende are easily associated with historic cafés, such as A Brasileira (Lisbon), Café Nicola (Lisbon) or Café Majestic (Porto).
How to order a coffee?
To order an espresso we usually order a coffee, but in Lisbona we have to order a BICA or in Porto a cimbalino (in connection with the Cimbali coffee machine). The story said that, initially, the bitter taste of coffee did not please the Portuguese and that, in the A Brasileira coffee, after the coffee owner tried everything to introduce this drink, he even managed to win the coffee for free, finally he decides to serve coffee with sugar. Served sweet, this drink started to be successful so he posted a sign outside the cafe saying “Drink this with sugar” (Beba Isto Com Açúcar) and this would be the origin of the expression BICA. There is no certainty and there is also a theory that the expression would be related to the way the coffee started to be made, referring to the espresso machine, where the coffee comes out of the spouts (Bicas).
But the task of ordering coffee can be very complicated in Portugal. Knowing how to order the right coffee requires some knowledge! After all, we are talking about a true national institution. So let’s see:
Café: Served as an Italian espresso and a half cup.
Bica: Synonym for coffee, but used in Lisbon
Café em chávena escaldada: In this case, serve with the hot cup.
Café com gelo: Very popular in summer. The coffee is accompanied by a glass with several ice cubes.
Café corto or “Italiana”: The coffee does not reach half the cup. In this way, the taste of coffee is more concentrated.
Café duplo: Unlike the short coffee, it will be served with a full cup, in a double dose.
Meia de leite: Served in a cup of tea, it is coffee with milk.
Galão: Also a coffee with milk, but served in a glass, therefore with greater quantity.
Carioca: It is a weaker coffee. To do this, take a first coffee, and then you use the some coffee powder to do a second coffee.
Garoto: The weakest one, because it consists of milk with a little bit of coffee.
Pingado (or pingo in the north): The opposite, that is, coffee and a few drops of milk
Café com cheiro (flavour) or mata-bicho: It is the coffee served with a little bagasse, a Portuguese brandy
So, which coffee will you drink today?