If you thought that the coffee paradise is Italy, I have some news for you: Portugal is not a smaller paradise for coffee lovers than Italy. Everyday, coffee is ordered in many different ways – short, long, medium, in a cold cup, in a warm cup, etc.
First thing to know is if you order a coffee or “café” in Portuguese, expect to get a small cup of coffee, like the Italian “espresso”. If you would like to get a bigger one, make sure to ask for “café americano” or “café de saco” or “abatanado“. The locals don’t drink such kind of coffee, but the owners of cafeterias and bars make it for tourists.
If you would like something like “macchiato”, order a “pingo” in the north of the country, “garoto” in the south and “café pingado” in the rest of the country. “Pingo” literally means “a drop”, so you’re ordering a coffee with a drop of milk.
If you think fancy a “latte”, ask for “meia-de-leite”, which translated means “half of milk”. If you’re more into drinking something like “cappuccino”, ask for “galão”. And you can just forget the words “latte” and “cappuccino” in Portugal.
“Café com cheirinho” means “coffee with a smell”. It’s a coffee with some drops of strong alcohol, not fit for children or the faint of heart. “Carioca” is a lighter coffee, slightly more watery. Basically this is obtained from taking a second coffee from the same ground beans that you used to pour a normal one before. Don’t confuse it with a “carioca de limão”, which is more kind of tea than coffee. It’s basically a zest of lemon infused into boiling water in an “espresso” cup.
It’s very popular to ask “descafeinado” which is a decaf coffee in an “espresso” size cup.
You also can ask “café curto” which will be like an Italian “ristretto” if you would like an “espresso” cup to be full you can ask for “café comprido” or “café cheio”.
Also, you can ask that your coffee would be served in a warm cup. These cups are usually placed on a coffee machine where they get warm. Or you can ask that the cup would be cold. That way the cup is usually passed through cold water before serving coffee.
Expect to pay 80 euro cents to 1,20 euro for “café”, but it can cost more in chic places and, if you’re lucky, you can find “café” for as low as 60 euro cents per cup.
With that you will be able to get around by yourself. But you might hear your fellow local order a “bica” (in the south) or a “cimbalino” (in Porto, but less and less used). These are regionalisms of the word, “bica” means literally the beak where the coffee pours from, and “cimbalino” comes from the popular Italian coffee machine brand “La Cimbali” that were the first ones to show up in the city.
This is just a broad stroke of the most common and frequent ways of serving coffee in Portugal. Believe me, there are more! For me, an inveterate coffee addict, Portugal is a paradise!