A cup of coffee

Different cultures have different ways of interpreting daily routines.Having a cup of coffee is one of them. I can only talk for what I know but this is my experience so far.

Back in Portugal you leave the house in the morning , face the traffic and near your workplace you usually have a Coffee Shop where you’re well known, where you sit at a table or wait by the counter and ask for your first cup of coffee of the day. This coffee consists on a small coffee that is best know in the world as an espresso, know in Portugal as ‘cafe’ or in Lisbon as ‘bica’ , and  is stronger and less flavours that the espresso you drink in Europe(probably with the exception of Italy).Accompanying this coffee usually you eat a small savoury or a small cake, the most well know of them the ‘Pastel de Nata’.

So you would have something like this:


When you move to France you still have espresso  but french love Arabica so the coffee has much more flavour and perfume but  if you’re used to the portuguese one you don’t feel the high of caffeine you’re used to.Also you sit in a Cafe watching the street and sometimes you don’t even ask for anything else for the price of this espresso is high enough.

But if you wish to eat something as a snack the most french thing to do , and to find, is a good crepe and the multiple fillings you can have with it. Personally I love ‘Crepe aux marrons’ which is a crepe with a soft spread of chestnut jam.

And if you have the time to eat the crepe you might as well go for a cappuccino or a tea. There are also lovely ‘Salon de Thé'(Tea House) where you can have your coffee with a small chocolate at your choice within the variety that the said Tea House does exclusively.

Whatever you choose you always have a nice looking table like this in front of you.


The common things so far is that your coffee is small and you don’t take it anywhere else, you drink it in the Coffee Shop no matter if you linger on it or if you just shove it down.

Now, let’s talk about the way people usually do it in Canada.You go into the Coffee Shop and you ask for a coffee.The nice person behind the counter  will ask you what size. If you’re in Starbucks you will have Tall, Grande and Venti. Personally I don’t know what Venti stands for but for some reason I always have a difficulty remembering which one is bigger Tall or Grande because in portuguese Grande means big and for me it doesn’t make much sense.

After the size question you have to decide what flavour. And if you want milk what kind of milk.If you don’t want milk you might want cream(and you always have the option to add chocolate or cinnamon afterwards if you want).

This coffee might be to drink there or ‘to go’, so they usually serve them in paper cups, with holders and lids.Or, if you’re a pro at this things you might bring your own travelling cup that will also keep your coffee warm if you go outside(very good for winter time).

To eat you can choose from different things but almost everywhere you will find a brownie of some sort and Bagels.And with the Bagel you also have a variety not only of bagels but also of spreads.

I’ll share some of my options.

A Grande Vanilla Latte with Skim Milk and an Expresso Brownie:


And a toasted plain bagel with light cream cheese and a cappuccino with chocolate covering:


Finally let me lead you trough a small exercise.

In Toronto you can find all of the above. Actually the first picture with the espresso and the Pastel de Nata was taken in a Coffee Shop in Toronto.I’m sure you can also find some crepe.

In Paris, you have several Starbucks that are always packed and you can find some strong espresso if you look hard.

In Lisbon Starbucks opened recently one store that is not doing so well ,from what I’ve been told,and you have crepe but  as a desert most of the time in places where they also sell ice-cream.

We haven’t reached any reasonable explanation for the fact that Portuguese people are so attached to their short, unflavoured,strong espresso, drank in the Coffee Shops but it is an undeniable truth.

For me,as always, I’m happy for the diversity of  experiences that a single cup of coffee has provided me according to the place in the world where I ask for one.


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sher
    Jul 12, 2009 @ 19:42:46

    I’m fascinated by the different cultures all in one area. I would love to try other coffee shops. Here everyone is in a rush. Get coffee at the drive thru and go. Breakfast at the drive thru. Lunch thru the drive thru. The car has become the kitchen table.


    • nurmisur
      Jul 13, 2009 @ 10:59:47

      Sher- Toronto praises itself of being the most culturally diverse city in the world.And if you look carefully you can find almost everything.That makes moving in here very easy to addapt.


  2. Hubbie
    Jul 12, 2009 @ 21:10:24

    I particurlaly like the first picture.

    Nothing beats a nice espresso and a custard tart (if anyone wants they might try the Golden Wheat Bakery & Pastry located at 652 College Street in Toronto).

    For me the ritual of a nice coffee is more than a ritual it is like a discovery, almost a gate to a new day. If you have the time I suggest that you stop for a couple of minutes, relax, have a coffee and look forward to your day – for me it makes wonders.


  3. Imogen
    Jul 12, 2009 @ 22:57:44

    In Melbourne, most people get a Latte which is served in a glass, not huge not espresso size.


    • nurmisur
      Jul 13, 2009 @ 11:02:53

      Imogen- Interesting, in Portugal we have something similar and we call it ‘galão’.It’s also very popular for breakfast.


  4. Kari
    Jul 12, 2009 @ 23:57:25

    That is fascinating. I’m really not a coffee person (despite living in a VERY coffee-heavy area of the Pacific Northwest!) but the breakfast pastries from the Portuguese and French breakfasts sound heavenly. I am much more of a tea girl, and lately I’m starting my day with a gigantic pot of tea before I head off to work.


    • nurmisur
      Jul 13, 2009 @ 11:05:36

      Kari- I’m also trying to change to tea , especially when I’m at home, because is much healthier for me. With coffee I never stop at the firts cup and end up drinking too much of it.


  5. Monica
    Jul 13, 2009 @ 11:27:55

    I’m ready for coffee and a treat now. Nice informative post. I tried espresso once at a coffee shop and it was a little too strong for me. I’m much more used to Lattes. They’re my favorite coffee.
    I love bagels, and I always get shocked now that I live in the South of the USA, because people down here don’t really eat them.


    • nurmisur
      Jul 13, 2009 @ 14:18:58

      Monica – If you went to Lisbon you would feel even more shocked because there aren’t any places where you can eat bagels.An american friend of mine was craving bagels but no matter how much we search for them we couldn’t find them 😦


  6. Caroline
    Jul 13, 2009 @ 11:52:14

    This is fascinating! The Brits do increasingly drink coffee, but tradition here is still to knock back a mug of tea with toast or a bowl of cereal before even leaving the house in the morning.

    The coffee shops like Starbucks and Costa do well out of commuters, and are plentiful in decent sized towns and particularly railway stations. But coffee in the UK, even from coffee houses is very disappointing.

    I’ve only ever actually enjoyed coffee, espresso or otherwise, in Italy! But then, nowhere in mainland Europe makes a cup of tea to rival the UK!


    • nurmisur
      Jul 13, 2009 @ 14:21:58

      Caroline- Maybe you would like the coffee in Portugal because is also strong like in Italy, much diferent than in other parts of Europe.
      And of course, there’s no cuppa of tea like in the UK.But you know it was the portuguese queen Catarina who instituted the 5 o’clock tea? 🙂


  7. Mervat
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 08:57:43

    This was a great post. i now feel like an espresso and a sweet!


  8. lydee
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:53:05

    Oooo, I like this post! so much information that i did not know about the average morning cup of coffee (and i love my morning coffee). so interesting, thank you!


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