Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's In Lisbon's Coffee Cups

A Toast to the Roast.

Portugal, like most southern European countries, is no stranger to the almighty espresso. In fact, café is so ingrained into the Portuguese lifestyle, culture and history that without this dark and robust beverage, the country would most certainly come to a complete halt! After the age of conquest, circa the 15th century, most of Portugal’s colonies turned out to be some of the great coffee bean producing regions of the world making the Portuguese are partially responsible for the universal success of coffee. After the great 1755 earthquake, the Marques de Pombal caused the creation of the first public cafes in Lisbon, these esteemed coffee houses became the meeting point for both famous Portuguese artists and politicians alike. For the next century, coffee became the main export of Brazil, founding many of the legendary Portuguese companies that still exist today.

Currently, there are approximately 12 leading coffee companies, and several small regional companies dotted throughout the country. As mentioned before, you can’t meander down a stone street without passing at least a handful of cafes.

Stop in a gourmet store, or even a supermarket, before you leave and get some of Portugal’s delicious coffee to take home with you!

Delta: Probably the largest and most renowned coffee brand in Portugal, Delta has graced Portugal for over 40 years and has gained its fame for its three high quality labels:
  • Delta Ouro (Gold)- selected from a lot of Arabica beans from the Americas and characteristic single vintage African Robustas. Intense and full-bodied.
  • Platina (Platinum)-from the best selected Arabicas and Robustas. Delicate aroma and smooth flavor.
  • Diamante (Diamond)- Taken from the best green coffee beans from the best origins and twice roasted in the Delta style. Rich aroma and incomparable flavor. This one is my all-time favorite, as it is of most Portuguese I asked who actually had a preference.
Taste Test: (Delta Regular) brewed well, strong aroma, light to medium bodied, somewhat smooth consistency; almost drinkable without sugar. Rating: 7/10

Nicola: This brand originated from Lisbon’s emblematic Cafe Nicola, popular with politicians and writers during the early 1800’s. It is now owned by Nestlé Portugal and the coffee beans come from Brazil, São Tomé and Principe. Nicola’s sugar packets have cute, motivational messages on them and “wish you a good coffee”.
Taste Test: brewed very well, balanced aroma, medium-full bodied, smooth flavor; can easily drink without sugar. Rating: 9/10

Café A Brasileira: One of the most famous cafes in Lisbon and a huge tourist destination. The brand has been around since the late 1800’s under different names, and the current name of the roasting and distribution company since 1906. The coffee beans come from (no surprise) Brazil.
Taste Test: brewed decently, bitter aroma, light bodied (thin), bitter flavor; cannot really drink without sugar. *Most expensive espresso by far at €1.50!* Not worth it.?Rating: 5/10

Tofa: Been around since the early 1960’s and is also owned by Nestlé Portugal. Coffee beans come from Angola. Sugar packets talk about Lisbon’s appreciation for coffee and has a pretty sketch of the trolley going along the street.?Taste Test: Brewed decently, robust aroma, light to medium bodied, strange intense, charcoal flavor and almost chemical aftertaste. Cannot drink without sugar, however this seemed to blend really well with just a tiny bit of sugar and made for quite a decent coffee afterward. Rating: 4/10 w/out sugar; 7/10 with sugar.

Sical: Been around since 1947, started as a coffee importer from Porto of pure roasts. They were acquired by Nestlé Portugal in 1987. Sical is the only brand that has cafes located down in all the Lisbon Metro stations as grab and go baristas without any seats. Coffee beans come from Angola.
Taste Test: brewed well, robust aroma, medium bodied, balanced, roasted flavor; can drink without sugar. Rating: 8/10

Look for these other well known Portuguese coffee brands as well: Buondi, Bicafé, Chave d’Ouro and Camello.

Here are the different types of coffee you can order in a Portuguese bar or restaurant:
  • Bica: Espresso shot
  • Café Pingado:  A dripped coffee, served in a beaker with a bit of hot water.
  • Café Longo:  Similar to a Café Pingado, but taller.
  • Galao:A Café Longo with the ratio of 1:3 milk in it. It can be foamed and/or steamed.
  • Garoto: Garoto also means "kid" and this drink is mostly milk and a favourite for children. It is made like a Galao but the coffee has been run through twice on the espresso machine and is weaker.

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