After a long flight, what’s the first thing you think about after getting rid of the luggage? It’s probably eating – plane food is always shame food.

However, it doesn’t matter if you’ll have lunch, dinner or just a snack, you’ll probably end up with a cup of coffee, right? That’s when your travelling experience will start in Portugal.

So, how do you go about ordering coffee in Portugal?

To Brazilians like me, the first gulp is a real culture shock. And if you drink coffee with no sugar, please, be polite and don’t spit inside the cup.

The Portuguese “bica” (that’s how they call espresso) is strong enough to overcome jet lag in just one swallow. But if you’re used to intense and bitter flavours, there’s one more thing you should know about the bica: it never fills more than three quarters of the small cup. So, if you just want to have a Portuguese coffee and no stress, ask for the right thing.

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Ordering coffee in Portugal

Here’s a list of the most common coffee menu‘s you’ll find at any place with an espresso machine in Portugal.

  • Bica – is the regular coffee in Portugal. If you just ask for a coffee, that’s what you’ll have. It’s strong and not so long.
  • Bica cheia (full bica)- it goes until the top of the cup. It’s lighter than bica.
  • Café curto (short coffee) – that’s the strongest one. It’s a short bica, and it’s perfect if you want to stay awake until the next flight.
  • Carioca – it’s a blander coffee. It’s generally made with the shot left on the espresso machine after a bica was taken or after a few seconds of free waste of coffee. Normally it doesn’t come with much crema.
  • Abantanado – that’s the American coffee, the right choice if you want a bland coffee in a large cup.
Ordering coffee in Portugal
Ordering coffee in Portugal

Insider travel tip: 

If you ask for coffee and milk, maybe some waiters will be in doubt of what you want. That’s because they have three main types of coffee and milk:

  • Galão – it comes with three quarters of milk. At some places they put extra cream.
  • Meia de leite (half of milk) – the name is self-explanatory. Half of the glass is coffee, the other half is milk.
  • Pingado (stained or cut ) – it’s an espresso in a small cup with just a little milk. In Lisbon it’s also known as garoto.

But don’t worry too much about it. If you don’t like the first cup, you can always ask for another one – and pay for both, unless the boss is a very kind person. Enjoy exploring the wonderful world of Portuguese coffee!

And if you’re heading to Greece anytime soon, read our post on how to order coffee in Greece.


  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.