Ten years ago I visited Lisbon for the very first time. Back then, there was no sign of specialty coffee shops or concept stores, but the same vintage trams were roaming the evermore picturesque alleys of the old town.
In recent years though, Lisbon has become a hub for creatives and young entrepreneurs from all over Europe. This has also manifested itself in the increasing number of coffee professionals that have introduced an approach to roasting and brewing coffee that is a lot different from the traditional ways. Coffee is deeply rooted in the everyday life of the average Portuguese, stemming from colonial times when coffee was heavily imported from Brazil. Most people drink commercial coffee by one of the industrial coffee companies, like Sical or Buondi, who produce dark roasted blends of Arabica and Robusta. To counter the bitterness, spoons full of sugar are added to either a bica (long espresso) or galão (long espresso with milk).
While the specialty coffee scene is still relatively small compared to other European capitals, it is doing a great job at challenging the status quo and diversifying the local coffee landscape. My prediction is that the third wave movement will soon have Lisbon in its grip! I met some amazing coffee people here and will tell you all about the who is who in the coffee world in this article.
Part of my stay I spent in Casa C'Alma, a bed & breakfast that looked like it came straight out of a magazine. I absolutely have to share this discovery with you!
So let's start with a cup of coffee, or two.
Copenhagen Coffee Lab
Copenhagen Coffee Lab was founded in 2013 by Jacob Karlsen and Allan Nielsen in, you guessed it, Copenhagen. Two years later they ventured into warmer climates, and brought the Nordic approach to roasting and brewing coffee to Príncipe Real, a neighbourhood in Lisbon that is home to concept stores, innovative restaurants and cafés. The beans are shipped from Denmark and the menu holds regular third wave coffee drinks, such as espresso, flat whites or drip coffee.
The atmosphere is easygoing and relaxing. Nothing must, everything can! Whether you want to work away solo on your laptop or meet friends for breakfast, there is space, there is a great approach to customer service and delicious coffee of course. Two single origins rotate for espresso and various pour-over methods are available. My personal highlight were the delicious Danish cinnamon buns, for when I overdosed on pastel de nata. By January 2018 CCL will venture into two more Lisbon neighbourhoods, with two new coffee shops opening in Alfama and one in Belem.
R. Nova da Piedade 10
Imagine you'd find all your favourite magazines in one place, together with great coffee, friendly people and in the most beautiful environment. Sounds too good to be true? Then Hello, Kristof will show you otherwise. This little gem is the work of Ricardo, a graphic designer who knows about the needs of them freelancers and digital nomads. No wonder I felt right at home here.
Hello, Kristof works exclusively with the local specialty roastery and SCAE training center Academia do Café, which was founded by Sandra Azevedo already in 2011. Whether you feel social and want to enjoy your coffee at the communal table or choose one of the more private tables by the wall, you'll find your comfort zone for sure.
R. do Poço dos Negros 103
Montana Lisboa Café
One of my favourite Lisbon discoveries was Montana! It's a coffee shop, urban art gallery and graffiti store located by the river right next to Cais do Sodré metro and ferry terminal. I met two lovely coffee professionals there, Ana and Liza, who shared their coffee story and some insights into the local coffee culture. Specialty coffee was mainly introduced by foreigners, Ana tells me. She joined Montana a few months after it first opened in March 2016 and has learned a great deal about specialty coffee since. She is preparing to take part in the barista championship next year and is trained by Liza, who is actually about to start her own micro-roastery on the other side of the river. Obviously I had to find out more (interview soon).
The exhibition currently on features the work of Alexandre Farta aka @vhils that evolves around propaganda from Vietnam and Cuba. The culinary company of art and graffiti is Cafè de Finca, a roastery from Barcelona. Whether you crave a chemex, aeropress, V60 or a good old espresso, you're in very capable hands here! Once you soaked in all that urban atmosphere inside, the sunny terrace will maximize your holiday vibes with great river views outside.
Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa
WISH has two locations in Lisbon. For one there's the Wish Slow Coffee House at LX Factory, an urban playground for artists, foodies and, you guessed it, coffee lovers! It is definitely worth it to spend an afternoon exploring this creative island that used to be a manufacturing complex. The Wish coffee shop is right in the heart of it, with an adjacent concept store, and surrounded by grape tendrils.
The second location is in the city center on the second floor of a beautiful historic building, with a concept store on the ground floor, and right across from the Trindade theater. (Although I’ve been informed that this location has recently closed.) Both places brew Five Elephant exclusively, stemming from several encounters at coffee fairs between the owners Margarida Eusebio, Barbara Rodrigues and the Berlin based roastery. The name says it: you'll definitely find hand brewed pour-over on the menu, but barista David working at LX factory location - aka @thecoffeehuman - swears on batch brew. Apparently, it is a popular option for both tourists and locals over there.
Address at LX Factory:
Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103
Address in Chiado: (recently closed)
Largo da Trindade 17
I long thought that coffee is going to be the new wine, so it made total sense to me when I heard about The Mill specialising in both. Café during the day and vinho during the night is their mantra. Every time I stopped by the place was absolutely packed! Their delicious avocado toasts might have something to do with that. No exaggeration, the breakfast is the best in town! Or should I say breakie? The owners are an Australian-Portuguese duo that brings together the best of both worlds. The Mill also roasts their own coffee and offers two single origins for espresso. While serving specialty, the roast is more adapted to the liking of the locals, hence leaning to the darker side.
R. do Poço dos Negros 1
Coffee enthusiasts who are also foodies, watch out, this one's for you! Bowls&Bar has opened up only a couple of weeks ago and is run by Kate, a Russian native who fell in love with Lisbon and its people. Healthy and innovative dishes are her signature! The menu is inspired by Hawaiian Poke and holds traditional dishes with a modern twist. As Kate prioritizes quality not only when it comes to food, she invited one of Portugal's greatest specialty coffee roasters from Porto to join the game. 7groaster beans are brewed on a vintage espresso machine from good ol'Italy. I had the pleasure to try the Barú Black Mountain single origin from Panama as an espresso, boosting notes of chocolate, caramel and papaya. That's it, I'm hooked!
R. de São Bento 51
Olisipo Coffee Roasters
Last but not least, I mentioned before that I met quite a few inspiring coffee people in Lisbon. Among them was Antony Watson, who has launched a new specialty coffee roastery called Olisipo together with his partner Sofia Gonçalve . A few years ago Antony traveled all the way to Ethiopia by bike to explore various local coffee cultures. This journey not only inspired him to write the book 'Bean on a Bike', but also to join the team of Vagabond Coffee Roasters in London upon his return, before making Lisbon his new home. Read more about Olisipo's unique approach and community engagement in this article I wrote for Sprudge.
Sleeping tight in Lisbon
You've already read about a number of good reasons for booking a flight to Lisbon right now! Now here's another one. Staying at Casa C'Alma was like living in the home I always wish I had. This 5-room bed & breakfast is located in one of Lisbon's most desirable neighbourhoods, Príncipe Real, a stone's throw away from Copenhagen Coffee Lab and close to alternative designer and concept stores. I loved its distinct, minimalist interior design, that never compromised on comfort. The owner Rafael prepared delicious breakfast in the morning and made sure, I knew about great places to eat and hang. If you want to feel at home on your travels and be located close to some of the best coffee shops in town, then this is your place! Check here for latest offers and availability!
Praça das Flores 48
Lisbon , Portugal