Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A-Z Blog Challenge - B = Bica

A Brasileira in Lisbon (from
As promised the theme for this year is Portugal. Except for yesterday when I went haywire and off course (but you've probably come to expect that). I live in Portugal, although I'm English, and my next  novel (still a WIP but will be whipped into shape this year) is set in a small fishing village on the west coast.

Today's word is Bica! Eh? Bica. It comes from the saying, "beba isto com açucar" or, drink this with sugar. Coffee.

Coffee is interwoven into the Portuguese way of life. Expresso machines are everywhere and a true Portuguese cannot live without his/her daily dose(s), so it's essential tourists coming here know what they're in for.

Portuguese coffee is strong and good (thanks to Portugal's connection with coffee-growing Brazil) and no Portuguese can last for long in the morning without popping into a café (there's at least one on every corner - some just holes in the wall) for a quick expresso shot.

If you want to have the best coffee, you have to know how to ask for it. Imagine:

Tourist: A white coffee please
Café tender: galão, garoto, pingado or meia de leite escuro or claro?
Tourist: um...how about just a coffee?
C.T: bica curto, bica longo, bica normal, Italiano, café duplo?
Tourist: oh forget about it, I'll have tea.

bica = an expresso shot (in small cup)
galão = milky white coffee in a tall glass
garoto = milky white coffee in a small cup
pingado = an expresso shot with a couple of drips of milk (my favorite)
meia de leite = milky white coffee in a larger coffee cup, all frothy and half the price of a cappuccino.
bica curto = a bica with less water (maybe three quarters of the small cup)
Italiano = a bica with a tiny amount of water (full expresso shot). About a quarter of a small cup (almost just pure coffee and nothing else)
café duplo = double bica.

If you're in Lisbon, visit the famous Café Brasileira (picture at top) in the Largo do Chiado. This was one of Portugal's greatest poets Fernando Pessoa's favorite haunt. Have a bica with him - his bronze statue sits on the pavement outside.  
Fernando Pessoa enjoying a coffee


  1. I get really frustrated buying a coffee in this country these days. All I truly want is a cup of coffee and yet they list out all the options. I think it's a garoto that I want but what do they call that in Starbucks?

    Rosalind Adam is Writing in the Rain

  2. Bica, an expresso shot. Sounds good to me! Great post.

  3. We had a similar problem in Austria with "slog" which is topping for icecream. They wanted to know what kind we wanted - never did get it straightened out so we had it plain

  4. Looking forward to learning something from the blogfest this year, and yours will feature highly in my list :)

  5. I've been out of the UK for so long now, Rosalind that I don't know the coffees in Starbucks! Thanks Cathrina. Sue: slog - what a lovely word. Hi Mark!

  6. I'd love to go to Portugal! I don't drink coffee, but I wouldn't mind hanging around for the smell :)

  7. It's always important to know how to order coffee in a foreign country! I enjoyed your post, thank you.

  8. Mmm, coffee - a delicious thing to blog about. One day I WILL visit Portugal again and now I know what to order while people watching in some lovely cafe or sitting with Fernando Pessoa, a Bica or maybe a galao for a longer sitting.

  9. I like the smell, just can't drink coffee.

  10. Thank you JA - the smell hits you as soon as you get off the plane! Leah and DayDreamer - hope it's useful. Alex, I can't drink tea so I can sympathise.

  11. I've never tried coffee, but it must be quite popular in Portugal! I think I'd try the drink just to see what the inside of the Cafe Brasiliera you mentioned looks like. :)

  12. Do they make their coffee thick?

    Hugs and chocolate,

  13. I love coffee but, I have a feeling their coffee is beyond strong!
    Checkin' in from the A to Z Challenge
    Peanut Butter and Whine


Don't be anonymous - it's not worthwhile. Anonymous comments go straight into the spam box. Sorry.