One of the great pleasures of visiting Portugal is stopping for a mid-sightseeing cup of coffee and something sweet to go with it.
The Portuguese really know how to make a good cup of coffee; it must come from their navigating, conquering and discovering new ingredients days!
Nowadays even ordering a cup of coffee in English has become more complicated what with flat whites getting confused with lattes and cappuccinos with babyccinos. I thought it wise to offer up a few tips for making sure you get what you want when you go to order a coffee in beautiful Portugal.
The most popular coffee in Portugal is an espresso. In Lisbon if this is what you’re after, you order uma bica or if you’re in Porto and want an espresso to boost you out of a Port induced hangover then order um cimbalinha. Anywhere else in Portugal or indeed in Lisbon and Porto you can just ask for um café.
That is the easy part. However don’t hesitate to be specific about how you want your espresso exactly, the locals certainly don’t. Cheia is a full espresso cup, tres-quartas is 3/4 full, a ristretto is called um italiano (small, strong, the first few seconds of the machine’s coffee). You could ask for it não quente (not hot) and they’ll put a dash of cold water in it for you.
In the image below there is um italiano (top), uma bica (right) and um cortado (left). In Portugal a cortado is a standard measure from the ‘small cup’ button on the machine, not to be confused with a Spanish “cortado” (cut with milk).
Now for those of you who like a bit of milk in your coffee. You may want to order um pingo also called um pingado; an espresso with a drop of milk (sometimes hot milk, sometimes not). Um garoto has more milk; about 50/50 coffee-to-milk ratio but still in a small cup. Uma carioca is the opposite of a ristretto – a full small cup without the strongest first two seconds of an espresso.
For a long black, or a large black coffee, you would order um abatanado. This could be also called um café americano, but sometimes if you order an americano you get a nescafe. If that’s what you want then you can straight out order um nescafe. If you’d like a double espresso, order um café duplo.
If you like your coffee smooth and milky, um galão is served in a tall glass and is about 3/4 milk. If you want something more coffee less milk, order um galão direito. You can also ask for a dark one escuro or a light one claro, although galões (plural) are normally very weak so um galão claro would pretty much just be beige milk. Be warned that ordering a galão after noon will provoke funny looks, unless you’re over 80. You might save face by ordering uma meia de leite which is half milk in a regular cup.
So, now you know all the different variations of coffee you can order, the hardest part is choosing which one! And the next decision is much easier, what to have to accompany the coffee? Why, um pastel de natas (a cream cake) of course!