No matter how small the village in the Algarve, a coffee house can almost always be found. It is the place where villagers meet at different times of the day to exchange the latest news while enjoying their cup of ‘bica’. It is often their second living room where they also read the newspaper and watch TV.
The strong connection with coffee producers
Portugal developed a coffee culture early on because of their strong connection with Brazil, which was one of Portugal’s colonies. This country has the ideal climate to grow the red coffee berry. At the end of the 17th century, the first coffee roasting plants were already established in Lisbon. Drinking the aromas of the freshly roasted beans soon became popular among the entire population.
This coffee culture gave rise to many names for the different varieties. It is useful to know in advance which of the many options will become your favourite when you are on holiday in the Algarve.
What will my favourite coffee be?
The most commonly consumed coffee is a ‘bica’ or simply ‘café’. You are then automatically served an espresso in a small pre-heated cup. ‘Bica’ stands for ‘beba isto com açucar’, or; ‘drink this with sugar’. The bitter pure coffee flavour is balanced with the sweetness of the sugar. The cup here is half-full so consciously enjoy the few delicious sips.
If you want a full cup of coffee, order a ‘café cheio’, which literally means ‘a full cup of coffee’. The barrista lets the water jet run a little longer, immediately reducing the strength of the coffee.
An extra boost
Instead of the milder variant, you can also order an extra strong coffee. Here, less water is added to give the taste buds an extra boost. You then order a ‘café curto’, which is similar to a ristretto.
Would you like a normal espresso but prefer twice as much? Then order a ‘café duplo’, a double cup of coffee.
Are you looking for a larger cup of coffee similar to filter coffee? Then order a ‘café americano’ or ‘café abatanado’. Here, an espresso is diluted with hot water.
Coffee with velvety milk
For lovers of milk in coffee, there are also a whole range of options. We often look for the widely known ‘cappuccino’. In Portugal, you will then often not get what you are used to. The milk may not be frothed or it may be diluted with some chocolate milk. Coffee with a generous dollop of whipped cream (nata) is also sometimes considered a cappuccino.
If you want to order a coffee that most closely resembles cappuccino, ask for a ‘café meia de leite direta com espuma de leite’. It is immediately a nice Portuguese language exercise.
A normal ‘café meia de leite’ is a cup of coffee with half hot milk. If you order a ‘garoto’, you actually get a mini-cappuccino. It is a cup of espresso with a little bit of frothed milk. It looks a lot like a ‘pingado’ this is also an espresso with a little cold or hot milk. In practice, people often add the frothed milk as well.
If you want coffee in a large glass with 2/3 hot milk, this is called a ‘galão’ here. It is similar to a coffee latte. If you want it with an extra shot of espresso, order a ‘galão escuro’.
Less than a euro
To keep coffee affordable for the Portuguese, the price has barely risen. In the villages a bit further away from tourism, it is often below the euro. And what could be cosier than enjoying this deliciously refreshing brew on a sunny terrace among chatting locals?