When we talk about coffee, our mind goes straight to Italy. Italy is the mecca of coffee: think espresso, cappuccino, lungo, corto, etc. and the list goes on. On the other hand, Spain has its own tradition for enjoying this delicious beverage. If you are a coffee lover like me and happen to be visiting Spain, you should definitely try the coffee, as Spaniards have their own particular ways of serving it. Be it warm, cold, strong or light, the following guide shall aid you to identify the coffee of your choice, so that you can get the best out of your coffee experiences in Spain!
Cafe solo is the simple classic espresso. It is served in a small cup and tastes like a strong and nice Italian espresso. In case you need a double dose, simply ask for cafe doble (doble means double in Spanish).
You will find cafe solo literally everywhere. Avoid big coffee chains like Starbucks and visit the local cafes so you try the authentic spanish brewed coffee. One of my favourites is “Granja M. Viader” a historic cafe located close to Las Ramblas (street Xuclà, 4-6) where you can enjoy your coffee in a warm and charming atmosphere and taste traditional sweets like churros and crema catalana. The typical cost of cafe solo is about 2 EUR (2.20 USD) and cafe doble about 3 EUR (3.20 USD).
Cafe cortado VS Cafe con leche
In case you prefer coffee with milk, then things might be slightly complicated.
When it comes to milk, the Spaniards have two kinds of coffee with milk: café cortado, which is a double espresso with a little warm fresh milk (2:1 ratio). This kind is very popular in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. In Cuba, they call it cortadito. It is very tasty, as milk is in a quantity that retains the flavor and taste of the coffee.
The other kind of milk coffee is cafe con leche (where “con leche” means “with milk” in Spanish). The difference from cortado is that it contains an equal amount of milk and coffee (1:1 ratio). It is not as milky as latte but not as coffee strong as cortado.
Both types are served in a glass cup. Every single cafe in Spain serves these two beverages. However, a place to drink the perfect cafe cortado and cafe con leche is “Cafe Satan” located at Carrer de l'Arc de Sant Ramon del Call 11, at Barcelona’s Barri Gotico. It is a small cafe, with friendly staff and cozy atmosphere. They are known to serve the best coffee in Barcelona so you should definitely pay them a visit. They offer some sandwiches as well. The cost of cafe cortado and cafe con leche is about 2.50 - 3.00 EUR each (2.70 - 3.20 USD).
In case you like a lighter version of coffee, then order café Americano which is an espresso diluted with hot water and not a drip or filter coffee like it is in other countries. It is called Americano, as Americans are used to huge cups of coffee and this is the big version of espresso coffee in Spain. It is a black coffee but not as concentrated as cafe solo. It costs about 2.00 - 3.00 EUR (2.20-3.20 USD).
One great place to enjoy a cafe americano is at “Ocaña” located at the vibrant Plaça Reial in Barcelona. It started business in March 2012 and since then it is always full of people. It has a great atmosphere combining vintage with modern decoration, offering a great menu of coffee, sandwiches and cocktails at night. If you have craving for American cuisine, you can also enjoy brunch with their menu of pancakes, tacos, tapas and special plates. There is no better place for a cafe americano, sipping it slowly as you watch the people go by this vibrant cafe.
Spanish people, in general, love coffee. They enjoy it at breakfast, in coffee breaks during work and traditionally after every meal. It is served after the dessert. Most popular amongst the locals are cafe cortado and cafe solo.
If you like your coffee sweet, then café bonbon is for you. And that’s the literal meaning of it: coffee sweet as candy.
It contains a layer of sweetened condensed milk, a layer of espresso and froth on the top. Too sweet for me but some people are crazy for this beverage. Its average cost is about 3.00 - 3.50 EUR (3.20 - 3.80 USD).
Find the best version of cafe bon bon at “Chololateria La Nena” located at Calle Ramón y Cajal at the neighborhood of Gràcia in Barcelona. It is an old chocolate place and apart from coffee, it serves sweets, chocolate and some light food. It’s definitely worth a visit, as the neighborhood of Gràcia is a safe place to mix with locals and discover great little shops and cafes around.
If it is not too early in the morning and you want a little alcohol in your coffee, then you should order carajillo (pronounced karahigio), which is an alcoholic espresso with a dose of rum or brandy.
It is believed that carajillo dates back to the time when Cuba was Spanish. It is said that when the soldiers had to go to battle, they combined coffee with rum to have “corajillo”, which when translated, literally means ‘courage’.
Carajillo is served in almost all places, as cafes in Spain usually serve alcohol too. It costs about 3 EUR (3.20 USD). The best place to try it is “Casa Almirall”, one of the oldest cafes in Barcelona founded in 1860. It is located at Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 33. Its vintage decoration, the wooden tables and marble details will take you back to the spirit of old Catalonia. It is a popular meeting place for all generations to enjoy a coffee, a drink and some tapas.
Cafe con hielo
Spanish cold coffee is called café con hielo, (meaning coffee with ice) and it is equivalent of espresso freddo. But this type of coffee has its own ritual: If you ask for “café con hielo”, they will bring you one cup of double espresso and one glass filled with ice cubes.
Here is what you should do: first put the amount of sugar that you want in the espresso and mix well so it dissolves. Then, pour the espresso into the glass with the ice cubes and wait a few seconds while stirring it to spread the coffee aroma and to gain the right temperature and then it is ready to be enjoyed!
When is Spain, try their coffee!
Coffee lovers this is for you!
Spanish have a great tradition in drinking coffee, and they offer different types of it, with many cafeterias around to enjoy this beverage. Avoid the big chains like Starbucks and discover the beautiful little cafes that are all around Spain. Feel like a local and try their special types of coffee like cafe cortado and cafe bonbon, which you will not find easily in any other country.
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