Believed to have been created some time prior to the eighteenth century by the Catholic monks at the Jeronimos Monastery, convents and monasteries around Portugal produced the egg tart pastry and many other confectionaries from the yolk leftovers used in the starching of clothes and clearing of wines. However with the expulsion of the religious orders and the closing of convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the 1820 Liberal Revolution, a bakery in the Santa Maria de Belem parish, just around the corner from the very same monastery believed responsible for its creation, was contracted by the former clerics to produce the patented egg tarts and continue their to production, and is the reason they are known as Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon.
Journalist, author and food guide Célia Pedroso, says: “The filling shouldn’t be very sweet and shouldn’t have any flavours of lemon or vanilla.” A purist when it comes to the classic pastéis de nata, Pedroso goes on to explain that even good bakeries and cafés around Portugal who’ve tried to be inventive, just spoil the product in the end. “Just cinnamon sprinkled on top is simply the best pairing for an espresso or as we say here, a bica,” she says, sharing that her favourite bakeries are Manteigaria in Bairro Alto (which I can attest to being very good), and Antiga Confeitaria de Belém And the best time to eat them? “We eat them at any time of the day, with the morning coffee, in the afternoon,” Pedroso smiles.