Portugal is a country with a long coffee history and rich coffee culture. Over the last few years I’ve been exploring the story of Portuguese coffee culture and the rise of specialty coffee in the country, particularly around the Porto area. Traditional Portuguese coffee shops remain key important spaces in communities across Portugal, and I still very much enjoy visiting these types of coffee shops not only for the views into Portuguese life, but also for the breads, croissants and doughnuts – if you’re in Portugual I really recommend the brioche type croissants and the bola de Berlim (a type of doughnut).
This summer I returned to Portugal visiting a few familiar places, as well as trying some new ones. In the past I’ve written about how some of the international coffee shop chains had begun to develop a presence in Portugal, particularly Costa Coffee being one of the first things you see when you come out of arrivals at Porto airport. This time I noticed two branches of Starbucks had appeared, both in central Porto, both busy with tourists.
Back in 2017 I went to meet Diogo Amorim, founder of Luso Coffee Roasters, one of the few specialty coffee roasters in the country, based not too far outside of Porto. While in Portugal I received an email from the company to explain they had undergone some rebranding to reflect some changes in their activities. Luso Coffee Roasters has now become Senzu Coffee Roasters and the roaster was now located in the centre of Porto at the back of the specialty coffee shop Bird of Passage.
I didn’t get a chance to visit Bird of Passage on my last visit so this was one of my first stops while in Porto. A very light space, with plenty of seating towards the back. Serving Senzu coffee, we tried two V60s. With an open patio at the back right outside the roaster, it’s a quite space in the heart of the city.
There is clearly a developing interest in specialty coffee in Portugal, evidenced not only by the growth in shops and roasters, the increasing frequency of coffee competitions and events, but also indicated by the emergence of abcoffee, Porto’s first SCA approved coffee school. Abcoffee provides a range of courses and workshops on different areas of coffee led by Diogo from Senzu Coffee Roasters and Hugo Ferraz, head barista at Chá das Cinco another specialty coffee (and tea) shop in Porto.
On another trip into the city we went to Mesa325, one of the first specialty coffee shops I visited in Portugal a few years ago. Returning this year, the coffee was excellent as ever – a V60 of a coffee roasted by Senzu Coffee Roaster. They even their own roasted coffee branded for Mesa325 (roasted by Senzu). It was here that I finally got a chance to use a Kaffeeform cup. I became aware of the Kaffeeform cups through my project on coffee shops and sustainability – these are cups created with reused coffee grounds. This was the first coffee shop I’ve seen using these as one of their standard cups.
Last year I discovered a new favourite coffee shop and roaster in Gaia, just underneath the famous Porto bridge – 7g roaster. Just off one of the main tourist streets, this coffee shop has made great use of space. The roaster is really the centre piece to the coffee shop, with all the roasting activities on view. There’s also some outdoor seating and table service should you want it. 7g is part of a business that also has a series of tourist apartments so it’s not a surprise to find the place is often a mix of languages and cultures, but it’s already clearly very popular with most tables full minutes after opening. Interesting to see a few more Portuguese visitor this year. We tried a few coffees over a couple of visits during our time in Portugal, espresso, V60, a cortado and some batch brew, all of which were excellent. They had quite a range of coffees with different origins, processing methods and tasting notes, something I continue to try and learn about.
Last year we only made a really brief stop to Fabrica Coffee Roasters, so this time we went back with a bit more time to take in the surroundings. There was a roaster on view towards the back of the shop – I don’t remember it being there last year, but it was such a quick visit I’m not sure I would have noticed. Again they had a good selection of coffees on offer, we chose to try a couple of different coffees as V60. In addition to the coffee they have a range of freshly prepared food too, with lots of great smells wafting past of plate of food went past to other customers – if I hadn’t had just had lunch I would have ordered some too!
On another day, we also made a quick trip back to Combi Coffee. It’s just outside the very centre of the city, a few minutes walk but clearly close to a lot of tourist accommodation. Like some of the other specialty coffee shops in Porto there roaster is on view at the back of the shop, and while I was there several people went over to look. They are clearly points of interest for people who are visiting.
Something that I’ve felt in all these specialty coffee shops in Portugal, is that they have a very welcoming atmosphere. The presence of specialty coffee in Portugal is more recent phenomenon compared to some other European countries, and the places I’ve been to are trying making this type of coffee accessible, with lots of information about it, if you want it. In most places where we showed an interest in the coffee or roaster, staff were very keen to give lots of details about the coffee the tasting notes and the brewing methods on offer. If you get talking with baristas and other staff in the coffee shops it becomes clear that most of the baristas and roasters know each other (as is the case in many coffee communities), but with many of them taking a collaborative approach. This was demonstrated recently when two roasters from Porto, Vernazza and Senzu teamed up to produce a coffee roasted together – with a coffee tasting held at Abcoffee coffee school. It’s clear that people in the coffee industry in this region recognise that to grow the visibility and popularity of specialty coffee it is important at times to work together.
As always, I look forward to future visits to Portugal to see how the coffee culture is developing, and to find new cafes and developments in the coffee shop industry.
If you’re interested in coffee culture in Portugal you may be interested in the previous blog posts on this topic:
- A return to Portugal and specialty coffee: coffee shops, roasters and coffee.
- Exploring Coffee and Café Culture in Portugal
- Specialty coffee culture in Portugal: Luso Coffee Roasters
- Coffee and café culture in Portugal revisited