Countries you go to, traditions you find, even when you are talking about coffee. It is a good idea to keep this in mind when you are traveling around the world and you can’t do without your daily cup of espresso, macchiato or cappuccino.
Finding a drink which suits your tastes can sometimes be hard work, but travel is also an opportunity to discover the various coffees from around the world : perhaps different from the ones we are used to drinking , but very interesting nonetheless.
Today we are heading to the Iberian peninsula to get to know about Spanish coffee, unveiling some traditions connected to coffee and, above all, giving you some advice on how to order it in the right way, so you can avoid any nasty surprises.
All the types of Spanish coffee
So, let’s start with all the different types of Spanish coffee that we can taste during our holiday or a stay in Spain. The classic “espresso” is just one of the many options, and not even the best-loved one…
“Un café solo, por favor” is the phrase you need to use if you want something similar to a typical espresso.
It is slightly longer and less intense than the Italian espresso, but it is the ideal substitute for anyone who can’t do without their daily cup of espresso coffee.
It is also important to know how to order a classic decaffeinated coffee. In Spain it is called simply descafeinado.
“Cortado” in Spanish means “cut” and, when you order a Café Cortado, you will be served an espresso “cut” with a little milk. We could even say that the Cafè Cortado is a distant relation of the macchiato coffee and it is certainly the closest thing you will find on a Spanish menu to the Italian version.
Café con leche
A little different from the Cafè Cortado is the Café con leche (or coffee with milk).
In this case, the proportion between milk and coffee is definitely in favor of the milk.
By ordering a “café con leche” you will get a large cup with coffee and milk, in effect, a caffelatte.
This is a Spanish style alcoholic coffee which is offered with a choice of cognac, rum or liqueur.
The preparation is unusual: while the coffee is being prepared, the alcohol which will be added is also heated together with a few coffee beans and some lemon rind. Then the alcohol is filtered and added to the espresso, to create an intense, flavored coffee.
Café del tiempo
When the weather is hot, it is also good to know about the Cafè del tiempo in other words coffee with ice added, similar to our Caffè Leccese.
Typically Valencian, you can also find it in every other area of Spain and it is served in a small coffee cup together with a glass with ice in it.
After having added any sugar you want to the espresso, you can pour it into the glass with ice and add a slice of lemon or orange according to your taste.
It is possible to order a version of the “cafè del tiempo” – in other words with ice – also for various other types of coffee, including those with milk like the Cortado or the coffee with milk. It is possible to order, for example, the “Cafè Carajillo del tiempo” and you will be served an espresso with a shot of alcohol, with the ice served exclusively on the side.
Café con horchata
A typically summer coffee variety is the Café con horchata.
This, too, is a specialty from the Valencia area which uses coffee, fresh granita and, of course, horchata, which is a drink based on water, sugar and chufa, the tuber of a plant similar to the hazelnut.
This is quite a sweet and fresh coffee-based drink.
Remaining in the Valencia area, we have a particularly mouth-watering recipe which is that of café bombon.
The ingredients are coffee, milk foam and condensed milk: it is to all effects like a mini-dessert, also sometimes served with caramel to bring out the sweetness.
When do people drink coffee in Spain?
Let’s round off our voyage to discover Spanish coffee with a few bits of information about typical Spanish coffee consumption habits.
Indeed, not everyone knows that in Spain the coffee ritual is “slow”: in most cases, people prefer to sit at a table and slowly sip their drink.
The concept of grabbing a “quick coffee at the counter” is much more Italian than Spanish: so if you’re on holiday in Spain, you can leave this habit at home!
Even the times of day when coffee is typically consumed are different from Italy. For example, it is not typical in Spain to finish off your lunch or dinner with a coffee, but rather with another type of hot drink.
Coffee is more normally drunk during the morning or the afternoon.
Are you heading off to Spain?
Let us know if our guide to Spanish coffee has been useful!