Being passionate about coffee and the whole culture around so-called ‘Coffices’ Alex and I have had to figure out the secret coffee in quite a few countries. And let me tell you, it ain't always easy.
Finding and ordering coffee or ’Café’ in Spain can be a real challenge. Walking into a ’Cafeteria’ you will rarely find a menu, let alone one in English. Also the hours and traditions around coffee can seem quite weird. Here’s a list of most common types of coffee in Spain with an explanation.
Regular Espresso, the most common form of coffee in Spain. An Americano is not a thing but ask for hot water in it if you want (con agua caliente).
Café con leche:
Espresso with milk added. This is the most popular coffe in Spain and the closest you get to a latte. It is far off though – the milk is not steamed and the serving size is fairly small with only one shot of milk added to each shot of espresso.
Espresso with just a drop of milk. Sometimes called 'cafe manchado': literally stained coffee. Some places there is not much of a difference between a Cortado and a Café con Leche.
Leche manchada: Literally 'Stained milk', the opposite of a Cortado: a little coffee and a lot of milk. Although I love lattes I prefer the Café con Leche over this since it is almost just coffee flavored milk.
Café con hielo:
It means coffee with ice and you will usually be served an espresso and a glass of ice (you're supposed to pour the coffee over the ice).
Espresso with sweetened condensed milk.
Leche y leche:
Espresso with a mix of half sweet condensed milk and half regular milk.
Cafe bonbon con hielo:
Espresso with condensed milk poured over ice.
You will quickly notice that something weird is going on in Spain – not only the coffee shops but almost all stores close for the ‘Siesta’ – a mid-day break. The hours of Siesta vary from city to city but it is usually from around 1pm to 4pm. If you want a coffee shop during these hours you might have to look for a while and be prepared to give up.
On the bright side stores in Spain tend to stay open late – generally until 23-00.
Using coffee shops primarily to work in, we have discovered that places with Wi-Fi (especially good Wi-Fi) can be extremely hard to seek out in Spain. The whole culture around sipping your coffee next to your laptop is close to non-existing. In fact we have several times experienced locals whispering about ‘those computer people’. Coffee shops are supposed to be for chatting and relaxing for a few minutes – not for hanging out for hours.
Always make sure there’s Wi-Fi and choose a more modern looking place if you want to avoid rude looks from offended shop owners or locals.