Coffee in Portugal, Food and drink

Coffee in Portugal



A Brasileira, Braga
A Brasileira Café, Braga
Majestic Cafe, Porto
Majestic Café, Porto

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Coffee is a serious business in Portugal. Look at any menu in a café, bar or restaurant and there will be a bewildering selection of coffees listed, many with strange-sounding names and no description, further complicated by regional variations in what different coffees are called. For a long time I ordered a café com leite (coffee with milk) and usually got the type of coffee I liked (a strong white coffee with a froth on the top, served in a regular-sized coffee cup). This worked in the Algarve, but on a recent trip to the north of Portugal ordering a coffee became more challenging. Asking for a café com leite was met with a string of questions regarding what size cup I wanted and often resulted in a disappointingly weak, milky mug of coffee or an espresso-sized cup of strong coffee with a dash of milk. After talking to Portuguese friends I discovered that café com leite is not a term used in Portugal and most waiters wouldn’t understand what I wanted. I realized that I needed to learn the language of coffee in Portugal and leave my café com leite comfort zone. Here is a short guide to successfully ordering a coffee Portugal. Where possible I have included regional variations in the names. This list is not definitive and I will continue in my quest to gain a comprehensive understanding of successfully ordering coffee in Portugal.

Uma carioca is a weak, black coffee served in an espresso-sized cup. carioca-3

Uma bica (in Lisbon and the south) / Um cimbalino (in Porto) / Um café (other parts of the country) is a black espresso-type coffee served in an espresso-sized cup. A variant of this is uma bica escaldada / um café escaldada, which is the same drink as described above, but served in a heated cup. bica7

Uma meia de leite is usually a strong, white coffee with a froth on the top, served in a regular-sized coffee cup. If you want to ensure it is strong, ask for uma meia de leite escura.Cafe com leite

Um café duplo is a double espresso-type coffee served in a regular-sized cup. Cafe duplo

Um café duplo com um pouco de leite is a double espresso-type coffee with a little milk served in a regular-sized cup. Sometimes it comes with a small jug of milk for you to add as you require. cafe-duplo-com-um-pouco-de-leite-2

Um galão is a large, weak, milky coffee served in a glass. Galao

Um garoto (in Lisbon and the south) / Um pingo (in the north) is a coffee with a dash of milk served in an espresso-sized cup. Garoto

Um abatanado is a black coffee served in a regular-sized cup. It is made with espresso beans and is similar to a caffè americano. abatanado

Um café com gelo is a cold, black coffee with ice cubes. Cafe com gelo

Um café com gelado is a black coffee served with a scoop of ice-cream. Cafe com gelado

Um cappuccino is best avoided unless you like weak, milky coffee with a thick layer of artificial whipped cream on the top. It is better to order a uma meia de leite escura, which in my experience is the closest to the Italian-style cappuccino.

8 thoughts on “Coffee in Portugal”

  1. oh I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for ages I don’t need to now as this is an excellent post 🙂
    May I reblog it one day though?

    1. Hi Becky
      Thank you so much. Yes, I’m very happy for you to reblog it. I realise that there are still quite a few coffees that I haven’t tried, but will continue in my quest!
      Best wishes

  2. Love your photos and post. I am a coffee addict. a couple of years ago we went to Boquete, Panama and the coffee there was fantastic. they grow some of the best. We went to visit a couple of coffee plantations. You might try ordering a tall black with milk on the side. That worked for me in Australia. I don’t like too much milk in it. They either served it black or all milk with a dash of coffee.

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