Portugal is not yet known as a country that boasts a large variety of quality coffee. In fact, finding a good place that serves a great caffeine fix can be tricky—unless you're in big cities, like Lisbon or Porto, where the specialty coffee scene is already starting to take shape, thanks to a new wave of entrepreneurs willing to look with more attention at what they put inside the cups.
In the many cafes and bakeries spread all over the small and charming territory located in Peninsula Iberica (Portuguese people love coffee!), usually the coffee served is over-roasted, made with Robusta-Arabica blends without much concern for quality. But this scenario is starting to change slowly—even in the interior of the country.
Braga, a beautiful and calm city in the heart of Minho region well known for its religious tourism, now may become a destination for fans of good cups of galões (the local term for espresso with steamed milk) and espressos, since Ricardo Ferreira and Catarina dos Santos Silva decided to open Nórdico there last March.
After a four year stint in London—in which dos Santos Silva worked as a fashion designer and Ferreira as an assistant manager in a sushi restaurant—the couple decided to go back to their homeland and open their own business. “After Brexit, living in London was no longer so appealing,” says Ferreira. “As we spent most of our time in coffee shops socializing and tasting new beverages, our knowledge of coffee grew so we thought it was a great opportunity to get back and open our own coffee shop.”
During their first years in London, they didn’t even imagine opening their own business, but over time the couple discovered the specialty coffee scene and “fell completely in love” with this universe, Ferreira says. They both attended workshops and classes in roasting and latte art during the time they lived in the English capital, where the specialty coffee scene has become one of the most important in the world. “There could be no better place to learn about coffee,” he says.
With the increase in tourism in the city of Braga, along with the growth of the Brazilian community in the city (that has an even closer relationship with the beverage), they thought a coffee shop was a good bet. “Although we are more decentralized, we thought that Braga had much potential to welcome this idea since it is Portugal's youngest city, the third largest in the country and before us, there were no specialty coffee shops,” Ferreira says.
Located in the historical area, Nórdico is a cozy coffee shop where one can eat a variety of bagels, toasts, and pancakes, as well as order an espresso tonic, an iced matcha latte or even a ristretto—prepared on a La Spaziale S5. “We chose to open in Rua do Anjo (Angel Street) because it is a popular zone with great potential, where some of the most alternative and modern restaurants in the city are opening, creating a new hip neighborhood,” Ferreira points out. Being a developing area, too, makes rent values still attractive, as he explains—in the piece of land where they are located, besides the interior area, there is also a patio with tables and stools.
The name Nórdico honors their influences from northern Europe, especially those related to the coffee scene that was created there. “We love the lifestyle, the minimalist way of addressing all the issues and the great weight that sustainability and equality have in those countries. We also chose to work with light roast beans, especially for our espressos,” dos Santos Silva says. The coffees used at Nórdico coffee vary according to the sensory profiles and may come from different roasters—although their favorites are from Has Bean. “For our espresso, we like to work with notes of chocolate and caramel, as for brewed options we like to use single origin with more citric aromas. But it’s not a rule, and we change every month,” dos Santos Silva adds. For brewed coffees, they serve method options such as V60, AeroPress, and Chemex.
Dos Santos Silva also explains that food plays an essential role in their concept, which leans towards breakfast fare like fruit pancakes and avocado toast with a poached egg. “We tried to maintain a healthy and natural style of food because it is something that we feel was missing in Braga, where food chains dominate,” she points out.
The formula has worked, as the coffee shop seems to welcome more and more visitors. In addition to the couple—who are in charge of serving customers and preparing coffees and dishes—, Nórdico also has two other employees during the weekends, when the crowds are bigger. For the future, Ferreira and dos Santos Silva hope to be able to do their own roasting, but it is a plan for later: now they are very busy cooking and preparing coffees—and even helping to improve the diversity of the coffee scene in their homeland.
Rafael Tonon is a freelance journalist based in Brazil. Read more Rafael Tonon on Sprudge.
Photos by Nani Rodrigues.