3 Styles of Coffee with Milk from Portugal: Galão, Meia-de-Leite and Garoto

galão, meia-de-leite e garoto
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When the weather is colder, we naturally feel like drinking a warm and comforting drink during breakfast or lunch. We’ve decided to bring you today three curious styles of coffee with milk from Portugal: galão, meia-de-leite and garoto, three varieties that warm our soul and heart.

In the current touristic and global Lisbon, the Italian expressions such as cappuccino, latte or caffè machiatto already exist in the menus of modern cafés.

But in the most traditional ones the 3 styles of coffee with milk from Portugal still remain as the usual way of the locals enjoying and ordering coffee with milk.

In Lisbon, since the 18th century that coffee as well as cafés are part of the culture and history of this city. In the 1870’s the cafés and restaurants were the meeting points of the intellectuals for their literary gatherings. Throughout the 20th century and even during the dictatorship, the cafés were privileged places of social gatherings for sharing and developing new ideas.

Today, unfortunately, the number of historic cafés has decreased significantly. The oldest and most well-known that still remain are located in the Downtown Lisbon and in Chiado. The Martinho da Arcada, former Neve (snow) shop in Praça do Comércio, the Café Nicola and the Café Gelo in Rossio or the Brasileira and the Pastelaria Benard in Rua Garrett, are some of the most loved establishments by the people of Lisbon and that the tourists like to visit.

One of the good characteristics of this magnificent city of the Seven Hills is that we can easily find a café or a patisserie to enjoy a famous pastel de nata (Portuguese egg custard tart) and drink an espresso.

But the 3 styles of coffee with milk from Portugal are what we want to introduce to the foreigners that are visiting us, as they are a curious way of getting to know the particularities of the Portuguese culture. Besides, knowing the right terms makes it easier to order coffee with milk in the many traditional establishments.

Get to know Lisbon’s historic neighbourhoods in a guided tour and discover unmissable places of this magnificent city.

3 Styles of Coffee with Milk from Portugal

According to the specialists, incorporating steamed milk to the coffee intensifies the flavours, gives it a velvety texture and soothes the bitter taste. That’s why coffee with milk is so appreciated in the entire world.

The 3 styles of coffee with milk from Portugal are three ‘lusitanisms’, being the garoto a regionalism as well, since this term is more used in the region of Lisbon.

The exact origin of these designations for the different drinks of coffee with milk from Portugal is unknown, but we believe they emerged only in the 20th century.

Let’s, thus, find out the difference between the galão, meia-de-leite and garoto.


Galão, coffee with milk served in a tall glass
Galão (phonetically: ɡɐˈlɐ̃w̃)

This word has various meanings. In addition to being a measure unit for volume and liquids used in Anglo-Saxon countries (gallon), it is also used to refer as a badge in the sleeve or cap of a uniform.

Some say that the association of coffee with milk to the term galão has to do with the used quantity of coffee corresponding to the width of the galão of a uniform.

Either way, the galão is coffee with milk served in a tall glass with a shot of espresso and filled with steamed milk.

You can also order a decaffeinated galão when it’s already late in the day to be intaking caffeine.


Meia-de-leite, a espresso with milk served in a big cup
Meia-de-leite (phonetically: mɐjɐdəˈlɐjt(ə) and directly translated to half milk)

For those who prefer a more intense coffee flavour, but that equally appreciate the smooth and silky texture that the milk gives it, this is a good option.

The meia-de-leite is an espresso with milk served in a big cup. Compared to the galão, it has half the milk, hence its denomination.


Garoto, coffee with milk served in a small cup
Garoto (phonetically: gá’rotu)

This is coffee with milk served in a small cup. This designation also means ‘boy’ or ‘kid’, which makes it pretty self-explanatory.

Garoto, in addition to being a ‘lusitanism’, it is also a regionalism, since in the city of Porto you have to ask for a ‘pingo’.

To round up this article, we’d also like to mention the café pingado which is not part of the 3 varieties of coffee with milk from Portugal that we’ve referred above, because it is so peculiar. It consists of adding a very small quantity of cold milk in the espresso. Maybe just to soothe the bitterness… ☺


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