How To Order Coffee In Barcelona
As a visitor in Spain, it was relatively easy to order a "cafe con leche" all the time but I decided to purposely branch out and learn to order like the locals. Now, ordering coffee in Spain can be tricky business especially if you're in the Catalan speaking part of the country. What follows is my basic guide on how [and when] to order coffee in Barcelona.
The “purest” of Spanish coffee orders, café solo (means “coffee alone”) and it is also what you'll get if you hesitantly mutter the word, “café”. All it is is a shot of espresso, and you can expect it to be thick, bitter and with a thin layer of foam on top.
The cortado (tallat in Catalan), is a shot of espresso with a splash of steamed milk. Both terms in Spanish and Catalan mean “cut” because that’s exactly what the milk does–cuts the espresso. They're pretty much the same throughout the world, but Barcelona’s cortados are known to be a bit on the milkier side and are usually served in a small glass cup.
This is about the closest thing you'll get to American coffee. If you order a café americana you'll get a shot of espresso with hot water. Johnny loves them, I think they're terrible.
Café con Leche
A café con leche (café amb llet in Catalan) is similar to an American latte but with less milk. With equal parts espresso and steamed milk, it is a bit more substantial and a perfect with breakfast.
Café con Hielo
(café amb gel in Catalan) The Spanish version of iced coffee, is your basic café sólo (espresso shot) served alongside a glass of ice. Though you can do it, it’s not normal to order any other type of coffee with ice, in general people here see milk and water as enemies. Café con hielo is a local favorite during the warmer months of the year.
[It was pretty cold while we were there so I didn't try one this time around]
Spain’s most typical alcoholic coffee drink is a surprisingly common thing to order in the late afternoon and evening. It is one part brandy and one part espresso, and usually the brandy can be substituted for whiskey or rum.
Also sometimes referred to as a biberón, this treat is thought to have originated in Valencia and consists of espresso with condensed milk. Expect to see a sharp contrast between the two liquids in this sweet drink that basically tastes like a chocolate bonbon melting in your mouth.
And yes, it is a good as it sounds. Fun fact, you can get sweetened condensed milk in a squeeze bottle here (like a condiment) at most grocery stores. It's amazing.
GOOD TO KNOW
~ If you would like decaf, ask for descafeinado, but be sure to specify “de maquina“, otherwise they will bring you instant decaffeinated coffee with a glass of hot milk.
~ Sometimes waiters ask how you’d like your milk, templado o caliente, room temperature or hot. If you order caliente, you can bet that coffee is going to be so hot it'll melt your insides.
~ When you order café con hielo, make sure to add sugar before pouring the coffee over the ice. And on that note, don’t hesitate when pouring. It takes a quick, fearless flick of the wrist to avoid spilling coffee all over the table.
~ Spaniards don’t usually drink café con leche after lunch. They see of milk as quite heavy, and will more often drink a cortado or cafe solo instead.
- Unlike in America, people in Spain don't really carry coffee around with them in tumblers or really even in to go cups, coffee is generally savored in the cafe where you order it or at home.
For the Coffee Snobs [Dad, I'm looking at you...]
If the above options aren’t quite doing it for you, here are a few of Barcelona’s top coffee spots, where drip coffee is a religion and elaborate coffee culture abounds. I recommend the hip Satan’s Coffee Corner in the Gothic Quarter (though you probably won't even need to order in Spanish there so this post would be totally useless to you), or the charming Skye Coffee Co in Poblenou.