Coffee is part of the routine for the majority of the Portuguese people. Here, to go for a coffee is always that sort of invitation to be with someone, to ‘relax’ a bit, sip between the chatting and the laughter. In Portugal there are one thousand and one ways you can ask for a coffee. Shall we get to know its history then?
It is well known that coffee is one of the passion of the Portuguese people, and it cannot miss being part of their daily routine. A good excuse to make you feel more awake during mornings, to take a break from work or simply to drink a cup after lunch. The sweet-tooth cannot spare the little sugar package, while some like it with sweetener, but those who do not use one or the other can proudly lift up the cup and sip its delicious awakening nectar. The easiest invitation between friends is ‘let’s go for a coffee?’ even if the idea is perhaps to drink another beverage. It is part of our culture.
So what is the origin of this drink?
Its origin leads us to Ethiopia, the place where the coffee plant originates. In 573 D.C., this plant comes to be cultivated and used as food and as a drink by the arabs. The introduction of this drink in Europe started in the XVIIth century in Italy, to be precised in Venice, where a public coffee place was first opened. Starting from that moment, its fame started spreading out and in two year’ time the ‘coffee houses’ turned into frequented establishments by artists and intellectuals, transforming in spaces of political debate and artistic expression.
In Portugal, its production turned into a method of economic exploitation. In the XVIIIth century, during the kingdom of D. João V, it started being produced in Brazil, country that turned into one of the main exporters worldwide. After that, coffee started being cultivated in the ex-colonies of Cabo Verde, S. Tomé and Príncipe, and later on, Angola.
Inspired by the fashion of the coffee houses as spaces of gathering, the Portuguese cities opened coffee spaces that today are considered to be authentical museums and icones of our culture. In Lisbon we have the Martinho da Arcada, Bocage, the poet’s’ favourite place, the Brasileira do Chiado, that had Fernando Pessoa as one of the most loyal clients and other artists such as Almada Negreiros, the Nicola in Rossio or the Confeitaria Nacional in the Praça Figueira. You can find houses that sell coffee of different origins as well machines of all sizes for the true lovers of coffee. It delights the senses to enter one of these houses and smell the delicious flavour of coffee freshly grounded…
In Lisbon, the coffee is called Bica which is a normal espresso. So, when we ask for a coffee, there is no need to feel deceived, it is an expresso. It is said that Bica stands for ‘Drink This With Sugar’ (Portuguese ‘Beba Isto Com Açúcar’) to encourage people who do not like its bitter taste to add sugar. A thing that shreds the deep fundamentals. They say it takes away its true flavour. You have noticed by now that there are various ways to ask for a coffee in Portugal, leaving visitors a bit confused. Do you know what a galão is, a meia de leite or a abatanado? Here a short dictionary for you:
Garoto – a coffee with milk served in small cups
Meia de Leite – a coffee with milk served in big cups
Galão – a coffee with milk served in a glass
Abatanado – a coffee served with more water, served in a cup of meia de leite and with the same amount of coffee powder as an expresso
Café cheio – an espresso with a bit more coffee; filling the cup a little bit more
Café curto/ italiana – a coffee stronger than the normal espresso
Pingado – an espresso with a bit of cold milk
Carioca de café – the weakest coffee; after the first coffee is poured, then the carioca is poured using the same beans
Café descafeinado – without caffeine
Café com cheirinho – an espresso with a touch of bagasse and which can be taken as a digestive
Source: Check in here
Translation by Ioana Bota