Yummy pastéis de nata to represent Portugal

By SOPHIE MCCARRICK [email protected]

With Portuguese overall export growth up 8.4% already this year, a small group of entrepreneurs from Lisbon have launched an international coffee shop chain to share the pastel de nata, one of the nation’s favourite pastries, with the international market.

First baked before the 18th century, the popular pastel de nata, is a rich, custard tart in a flaky crust, which is often sprinkled with cinnamon or icing sugar.

It is believed that the pastel de nata was created by Catholic monks in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém in Lisbon and, for this reason, they are also known as pastéis de Belém.

During this era, convents and monasteries across Portugal produced large numbers of eggs, using the whites of the eggs for starching clothes. Because of this it became quite common for monks to produce many sorts of confections with leftover egg yolks, resulting in the proliferation of the pastel de nata.

It is common to see locals and tourists alike sipping coffee while snacking on the sweet treat at cafés across Portugal at all hours of the day.  

Franchiser Be-business is the company behind plans to market the pastel de nata abroad under the brand name Nata Lisboa.

The group opened their first Nata Lisboa coffee shop in Lisbon’s old town in June this year and plans to open another 10 around the country by the end of 2012.

Expanding abroad, the first foreign Nata Lisboa is set to open in Paris later this year, followed by Brazil, North America and Asia by 2016.

The Asian continent is expected to receive the project well because pastéis de nata are said to be currently sold in mainland China as “dan ta”, which means egg pastry, as nearby Macau was the likely source of these sweet products, being geographically close by and under Portuguese administration until December 19, 1999.  

The coffeehouse concept has been developed based on the atmosphere of Lisbon’s city centre and, inside, customers can indulge themselves with pastéis de nata, and other typical Portuguese products such as a bica (Portuguese style expresso coffee) or  a glass of ginginha, a cherry liquor.

At a press conference entitled ‘Made in Portugal’, attended by businessmen in the export industry, the Minister of Economy Álvaro Santos Pereira gave his support to the new export drive and commented: “The pastel de nata is one of Portugal’s most emblematic products and despite its success, why have we never managed to export it?”

“The Government as well as the business and social society of the region need to do everything they can to improve and promote the brand of Portugal, and pastéis de nata are one item we can do this with,” he added.

Encouraging stronger internationalisation of Portugal, the Minister compared the country’s promotion of pastéis de nata to America’s successful marketing of hamburgers, Dunkin Donuts, or Nando’s barbecued foods.

“Why can’t we do the same with a typical Portuguese product like the pastel de nata?” he asked.

According to the English publication The Guardian, the pastel de nata is the 15th most delicious delicacy in the world.  

For more information about Nata Lisboa, please visit (Portuguese only).

Portuguese language note: pastel de nata – for one; pastéis de nata for more than one!