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