For me the most important drink of the day has always been a nice big cup of hot tea, first thing in the morning .It sets me up for the day, and is the first of between 3/ 5 cups I have in a day,( if I am at home). However when I am out and about in Central Portugal, then I have given up on the idea of my favourite hot drink , as it is not possible to get cha’ preto (black tea) in some bars or cafes, and more often than not when I say I want it with milk, it comes with hot milk, or on occasions the milk is in the teapot with the teabag and the water, and it just does not taste the same.
For this reason when I go to a bar or café, I often have cold drinks such as diet coke or iced tea. However, there are times, ie when eating a cake or on a rainy morning in town, when only a hot drink will do. So for the last month or so I have made a real effort to try to get to like coffee in some shape or form. I am hoping to get a taste for it not only because it is the only hot drink that can be bought everywhere, but also because it is an important part of Portuguese life .People call into bars before work for the first coffee”fix” of the day, and throughout the day and evening people are seen chatting , doing business or just relaxing in a bar or café over coffee .
One of the reasons I don’t drink coffee is I don’t like the strong bitter flavour, but I have found It is possible to order a very weak very milky coffee, if you ask for Um galao claro . If you ask for um galao it can still be quite strong ,so the claro (light) is important. In some places they say Um galao fraco ( which means weak ) I have had quite a few of these now, and they have varied greatly . In one bar it was just like drinking hot milk , but mostly it is similar to having hot milk in a large glass with a 1/3 of a teaspoon of Nescafe added, and in my case lots of sugar .
Um meia de leite ( half of milk) is supposed to be the same as um galao, apart from it is served in a cup, and a galao is in a glass, but I have found them a little stronger .This is what I am now drinking, as my taste buds are getting the hang of the coffee taste, and they are not so filling, or as many calories. What is not pointed out when you read the difference between a galao and a meia de leite is that the glass a galao comes in is often 2 times bigger than the cup.
A lot of coffee drinkers taking um café. This , is similar to an expresso . It is a strong coffee in a tiny cup that seems to be a morning fix for many people before they start work . Certain bars have 50 or more small cups, saucers, spoons and sugar sachets set out on the bar at 7.30 am, ready for people who come in, put down 50 centimos and down a café or two in the space of 5 minutes or less before going to work. People do seem do drink these a lo ,but I am not sure that I will ever be one of them . I have tried one, but at the moment,to my untrained taste buds ,they taste very bitter and leave a strange taste.
However I have managed to find a good compromise. One day a friend ordered Um café com um pingo da anise (an expresso with a shot of sweet aniseed ). I tried it and it was like drinking warm liquorice . ( which I love) Although I could not manage one first thing in the morning I have to say I am getting quite a taste for these and will have one in the afternoon, or after dinner . It is a great pick me up, and the caffeine gives me a nice buzz .
It is early days, and coffee is still something I am experimenting with. I don’t think it will replace tea as my drink of the day , but I hope I can find a place for it in my day, as it is such an important drink here in Portugal.
One of the great things about new places, is new experiences and new food and drink. If I think back to my first year living in Spain, I could not understand how anyone would choose to eat olives when they served them with beer or wine. I thought they were disgusting!. Twenty five years later, olives are something I choose to buy in the supermarket . Today I can honestly say, give me a bowl of olives to a bowl of peanuts any day. !
So who knows, maybe coffee will become a favourite one day ?