i had always taken it for granted that a portuguese espresso is called a bica. the term is most popular in lisbon but is widely understood through the rest of portugal. in porto its known as a “cimbalino,” which came from the brand of the first espresso machines in portugal, “la cimbali.” if ever in doubt, just order a “cafe” and you should be alright.
apparently the term bica isn’t an actual portuguese word but an acronym, although i’ve ready two versions of what it stands for. one is that its based on the 1905 catchphrase of the famous cafe a brasileira in lisbon; “bebe isto com acucar” (drink this with sugar). the second is that it comes from directions that accompanied the first espresso machines to portugal, reading: “beba isto chavena aquesida” (drink in a warm cup). the word itself, translated, means tap or spout.
whatever you may it call, and whatever the name’s origin, a bica really can’t be beat–and it always comes with a packet of sugar on the side!