What is coffee?

Coffee is prepared from roasted seeds, commonly called coffee beans. The seeds are actually coffee cherries that grow on trees in over 70 countries around the World. Green (un-roasted) coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world.

The earliest credible evidence of coffee drinking appears in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia.

From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, to Indonesia, and to the Americas. Coffee has played an important role in many societies throughout history.

When the Moors invaded Portugal they brought along coffee and the drinking of it here has developed ever since. There are so many different ways of drinking coffee in Portugal that you could be spoilt for choice but you will soon find your favourite.

In Portugal there the most popular coffee is an espresso. In Lisbon you would order uma bica and in Porto um cimbalinho, elsewhere else um café. Here are some more of the popular choices;

For a large black coffee um abatanado.

Instant coffee, um Nescafe

A double espresso um café duplo

Milky coffee, um galão (is served in a tall glass and is about 3/4 milk. Traditionally made with a second passing of coffee from the machine and is very weak)

If you prefer something more like a Caffe latte, then ask for um galão directo (it will be stronger).

As the espresso style is the most popular, and the machines to make them expensive, it is obvious why the Portuguese people are seen in their local café sitting with just a coffee. It is possible to buy stove top percolators from the markets and supermarkets in Portugal, and they make a reasonable cup of coffee. But nothing beats the strong, almost black liquid that is forced from the beans under immense pressure in a real espresso machine.

When a coffee cost 40-50c and an expresso machine 500-700? then a walk to local café seems a very sensible option and you get to meet your neighbours at the same time, and enjoy what has become part of Portuguese culture.

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