Portuguese people are known for being heavy coffee drinkers—which explains the pastelarias (pastry shops), cafes, and coffee shops always crowded by locals in search of another caffeine fix. But for a long time, this has not always been the pursuit of quality—the coffees are usually over-roasted, with little concern for the origin (or the quality) of the beans.
But this scenario has changed in recent years, with specialty coffee shops popping up around the country. In Oporto, the second-largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, the coffee scene has developed a lot: it's getting easier to take a galão (milk with coffee), with good—if not great—coffee. Well-prepared espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, and many other coffee options are beginning to be more frequent on menu slates and beverage lists.
Thanks mainly to consumption that has grown considerably among the Portuenses (local residents), specialty coffee has gained prominence in Oporto. From small roasters to charming coffee shops, the city now boasts a coffee scene that can be favorably compared to many other major European cities. You can find below our list of the best places to have a good cup in town.
Bird of Passage
Paolo Guffens is Belgian, but after working as a barista in many parts of the world (from Australia to Uruguay), he decided to build his “nest” at Oporto, by opening one of the best coffee shops in the city. Bird of Passage, as he called it, is a cozy space with good food options (from brunch to a snack in the afternoon), but most notably, with great cups of coffee. Served in many methods (from espresso to brewed options), the guest beans come from different roasting companies, mainly European ones, such as Nomad (from Barcelona), Man Vs. Machine (Munich) and MOK (from Brussels). The origins change weekly depending on Guffens' findings, but are always a guarantee of great cups. They have just launched their own brand/roasting company, Senzu, to offer in-house roasted beans for its clients.
On a street parallel to the main road of the tourist area of Vila Nova de Gaia, this coffee shop is an oasis for coffee lovers. In an airy space with tables outside, it is a great place to recharge your batteries after a tour to the Port wineries that have made the region famous. Coffees are roasted in-house and come from countries like Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Peru—which is always a guarantee of fresh coffee. They offer a variety of brew methods, from v60 to AeroPress, and boast a large list for dairy-based drinks as well. The food options are also worth visiting: from toasts and well-prepared sandwiches to cakes and other conventional sweets that put the Portuguese pastry scene on the map. Attached to the coffee shop, the owners also offer cozy hotel rooms for those interested in staying.
C'Alma Specialty Coffee Room
Installed in the historical building of the Coliseum of Oporto, C'Alma is a very charming coffee shop decorated with original Portuguese tiles. The name is a reference both to alma (soul) and to calma (calm), which means it is a good place to sit, order a cup of coffee and relax—even if it is located just a few meters away from one of the most touristic streets in town, Santa Catarina. They also have an exclusive menu for brewed options (with details from origin and sensory notes of each bean served). The home blend comes from local roaster Vernazza (also from Oporto), but there are always specials from all over the world.
Booínga Oporto Coffee Roasters
Booínga is an e-commerce and coffee shop located in Matosinhos, just a few blocks from the beach, which means that it may be a good option to sip the single-origin cold brews produced in-house. The African origins of the owner (a coffee and surf aficionado), alongside the connection to coffee plantation and cultivation, made him select this African name to baptize their business. But more than a coffee shop, with a variety of methods, from brewed to espresso, Booínga is also a roaster and buys green beans not only from African countries, but also from Brazil, Peru, and other regions.
SO Coffee Roasters
Located in the second floor of a fashion and design store in the iconic Largo dos Lóis, this coffee shop (also present in Lisbon) serves great coffee from all around the world, from Guatemala to Kenya, always endeavoring to purchase fair and sustainably traded beans, which are then roasted in-house. The espresso bar offers good flat whites, cappuccinos, and mochas—beverages not so easy to find in good quality around the city—in a very intimate atmosphere (there is only a communal table and some stools with the view to the charming old town). To pair well with a caffeine hit, they serve cakes, cookies, and croissants—and for the hot days, there are also locally produced beers. The SO coffee shop is set to open later this year a new branch some blocks away, in Carlos Alberto Square, with much more space and even a room for cuppings.
Rafael Tonon is a freelance journalist based in Brazil. Read more Rafael Tonon on Sprudge.
Top image via Adobe Stock/ppohudka