Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Espresso in Lisbon Portugal

The Last 4 days, Lisbon was Europe's warmest city.
Great city trip i had. I've been running (6K), walking (30K uphill, downhill), shopping (white shirt, black jacket), eating (nice fish dishes), reading (Vian, Arion), sleeping (zzzzz), photographing (blue sky), sightseeing (urban life) and of course drinking espresso.....

Tuesday, i was exploring Lisbon's green side, via Campolide, and lost track. At the middle of nowhere i met a lonely hair dresser. Because of my busy schedule last weeks, i never found time to visit mine in Antwerp, so i asked the guy to give it a go.
His English was not so good, but a whole lot better than my Portuguese.
He came over four years ago from Romania. When we started talking coffee, he thought espresso here was always strong, but not very tasty.
Say no more.
Oh yes, i will tell you the way i worked myself through all the different coffee brands, without addresses. I picked them randomly and sure don't want to make final judgements on these brands, but just give my impression on that moment.

1. BUONDI on La Cimbali machine, Ranchilio grinder. € 0,50. Old dirty bar. First one was a bit too cold, but second was surprisingly good. Good size. Medium dark crema. No robusta kick, good all around taste. Italian styled technique. Knock off the portafilter, click, press, clang and push the button.
2. The all famous BRASILIERA on Rancilio machine and Gaggia grinder. € 0,50 and that's very cheap if you see the location and interior!! The taste was a bit what i expected from Portugal. Cheap, robusta and a bit stale, although they have their own brand with different tastes/roasts and even merchandise. I guess they have to check and clean their machinery. Nevertheless i recommend the place. It's beautiful and unique. Very old, busy, nice chandeliers and painted ceilings.
3. SEGAFREDO. € 0,55 on their typical San Marco combo.
The worst Segafredo shop ever. I even added sugar for the first time in 2007, and hopefully my last. I remember Berlin, where espresso bars were hopeless, and Segafredo was the only exception. I still believe a good Barista can fix a good Segafredo black label espresso, but not this Portuguese 'barista'.
4. NICOLA. € 0,40! On Mercury machine, Promac grinder!?
A weak, tasteless, under extracted cup of ...
To show you the barista, and his well maintained and tuned machine, is the most influential link in the coffee chain ; i had an other Nicola two days later and this was my best espresso in Lisbon! On a Faeam E 91 (not by accident i think), although i was shocked to see this 2-group water boiler pressure drop from 110 to 85 after they made two tea's! On our 3-group you need to tap off 3 liters before this happens. Cause this was my best espresso, i ordered a second one, but that one was over extracted. Anyway i want to give you the address, also because of the very fresh, good looking and super tasty pastries! Botica Do Café, Rua Sampaio Bruno, nearby the beautiful Cemintério dos Prazeres.
5. IL CAFFE DI ROMA. € 1,15 for a single origin Ethiopian. On La Cimbali and Demoka grinder (on demand). 10 second poor i had. And so i tasted. I reminds me at Madrid, where one espresso chain company was making publicity with their single origins. I ordered a Kenya. The girl was so incapable that the cup ran over. She then pushed the button, wiggled the cup a bit and served me this dishwater.
6. Another coffee chain, STORIA DEL CAFFè. Same machines. They served speciality coffee's America, Africa, Asia and Colombia. I went for the Asia at € 0,70 a cup, from which they sold the beans at €3,50 a quarter kilo.
The woman started with a good updose, yeah. No Tamp, mmm? The poor, oh my God!, it streamed as it was a long coffee and half in, half out of the cup. The woman didn't see this and did not believe me when i complained. She looked at me like 'you fool tourist, what do you know?'. "No, no, no," she said and waived away my gesturing.
Crema? No crema. Taste? No taste. Help.
6. DELTA Platina. Brasilia machine (E61 group head) and grinder (i think). € 0,55. Delta is the number one brand in Portugal. You can drink Delta all around the world. Where ever a Portuguese goes, Delta goes.
Nice crema and temp. Robusta kick, Italian styled. Not to bad, but very strong, straight forward and bitter on the finish. I start seeing why most people here use sugar.
7. DELTA Ruby at Easy Café. This is their softer image. Brasilia machine and grinder are all stickered with yellow and orange flowers. Finally a new fresh type of espresso bar, very small but busy. Taste : average. It had this typical flat taste you sometimes find back in Italian resto coffee's. I guess i has to do with the type of roasting...
8. My last brand is TOFA. Rancilio equipment.
This tasted like a 50% robusta. Very strong and bitter. The only thing i liked about it was the cup itself.

I had a couple more espresso's and even a cappuccino at the airport for breakfast, but nothing special.
Lisbon is definitely one of the better city's for espresso, as long you don't want to drink single origins or championship shots. Espresso shots are pulled in a crazy tempo, nowhere automatic machines and sometimes shot by shot grinders. Hopefully they will start cleaning their machines better and i pray they may start to understand their still are fruity, spicy and floral notes in the beans as well.

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