Beba Isso Com Açúcar

A bica with a pastéis de Belém, Portugal's beloved baked good

A bica with a pastéis de Belém, Portugal's beloved baked good

Throughout Portugal I was treated to excellent coffee, which Lisboans call a bica (elsewhere it is simply um cafe). It is served in a demitasse cup, but is a longer pull and lacks some of espresso's bitterness (Portugal is known for its lighter roast). When it was first introduced, however, Lisboans found it extremely bitter, thus the ad campaign that became an acronym: Beba isso com açúcar (drink that with sugar). 

Portugal's coffee obsession began in 1727, when Brazil decided to join the nascent coffee market. Coffee plants were prized by the nation's that held them, so Brazil began its quest to secure their own stock. Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta, the man they chose for the job was an inspired choice; as National Geographic  notes, he was the "James Bond of beans":

Colonel Palheta is dispatched to French Guiana, ostensibly to mediate a border dispute. Eschewing the fortresslike coffee farms, suave Palheta chooses a path of less resistance—the governor’s wife. The plan pays off. At a state farewell dinner she presents him a sly token of affection: a bouquet spiked with seedlings.

And thus the seed was planted, so to speak. Today, nearly every meal ends with a bica. They are also consumed throughout the day, often standing up at a counter and sometimes with a brandy or a custardy pastéis de Belém. Fernando Pessoa, the great poet, is immortalized in bronze in front of his favorite café, Café A Brasileira.