Forget the flatlattefrappamochachino and other fancy sounding names given to ‘coffee’, this is what you can expect in Spain. But first, a bit of history.
Back in the day, Spanish ships used to transport coffee plants and seeds to many remote areas of the world where coffee was not native but soon became central growing hubs. Descendants of Spanish conquistadors settled in Central and South America where they created huge plantations for growing ‘Spanish’ coffee, and these Spanish coffee growers in Latin America accounted for nearly half of all the coffee exported.
However, most Spanish coffee served in Spain comes from Angola and Mozambique and is roasted dark to bring out the full flavour.
Coffee originally came to Spain with Turkish immigrants. Hardly any coffee was actually grown in Spain but they developed a method for roasting that produces very dark, almost black oily beans that make very strong coffee that is known as Spanish Roast, or Dark French Roast.
Now we get on to ‘what to order’…
As simple as its name suggests, a café solo is a small cup of espresso without milk and is one of Spain´s best-loved coffee types. For real coffee-lovers, a café solo is ideal for those who really like to taste and savour the flavour of their cup, and is typically enjoyed after a meal.
Café con Leche
Possibly the best known of all Spain´s coffee types, café con leche (coffee with milk) is one phrase that even the newest visitors to Spain is likely to have heard of.
Made up of half espresso and half milk, café con leche is one of the most commonly ordered coffee types in Spain and comes with either hot or cold milk. Café con leche is best drunk in a traditional Spanish bar where the milk is poured into a metal jug and then with steam from the espresso machine they noisily froth the milk and heat it up so your coffee will be piping hot.
If you prefer yours on the hot side, order your café con leche with leche caliente, or for a cooler coffee, ask for leche fria. You will also notice that most locals will drink their coffee from a glass rather than the usual cup, and it does make a difference! Just remember to be careful when picking up a piping hot glass!
Perfect for those who like a strong coffee but with a little milk, a café cortado is an espresso with a splash of moo juice.
A great coffee to enjoy in the middle of the day thanks to its high caffeine content, but without the real bitterness of an espresso, a café cortado is a much-loved favourite in Spain.
If you enjoy your coffee with a sweet kick, then try the café bombon, an espresso with condensed milk.
Easy to make at home, simply pour some condensed milk into the bottom of the cup before slowly pouring in an espresso and mixing.
Café Sombra or Café Manchado
For those who like their coffee very milky, a café sombra is the way to go as it is mostly milk with a small amount of coffee.
A good evening coffee thanks to its lower caffeine quantity, a café sombra is also a great choice for those who aren´t that keen on the flavour of coffee.
A particular favourite among expats, a carajillo is a café solo with, generally, a small measure of brandy, although you can have rum or whisky instead if you so desire.
Perfect for those cooler evenings, this coffee comes without any milk and is one of Spain´s most famous types of coffee. You will also see locals drinking this early in the morning!
Café con Hielo
A particular favourite during the hotter summer months, a café con hielo (coffee with ice) is basically the Spanish equivalent of an iced coffee.
It is typically served as a glass of espresso alongside a separate glass with ice and then you add sugar or milk to taste.
Café Americano is similar to a café solo but is served in a larger glass or cup and diluted by adding more water.