A holiday in Spain is synonymous with pleasant weather and good food. In Mediterranean countries, good food and great drinks go hand in hand. For example, a paella isn’t complete without a jar of sangría, and tapas don’t taste quite the same without a cold beer. Then there’s coffee, which is drunk around the clock, whether it’s on its own or with some sweet treats.
Because coffee is so popular in Spain, coffee shops, bars and restaurants offer a wide range of caffeinated beverages. The long list of options can be confusing for tourists, especially if you come from a country where the only choices are espresso, cappuccino, or black coffee. But fear not, we have created a guide so that you know how to order a coffee when you visit Spain.
Café solo (Espresso)
A solo is a shot of black coffee, often served in a small glass or in an espresso cup. Most coffee drinks in Spain are made with a solo, and then milk, ice, or alcohol are added to create variations.
Basically, an americano is coffee diluted in water to reduce its strength. This is usually made with a shot of solo served in a capuccino-style cup. Hot or boiling water is added to the coffee until the cup is full.
This is one of the most popular options in Spain, and in recent years the humble cortado has made it abroad too. A cortado is prepared by adding a small amount of milk to a solo coffee.
In some places, you may be asked if you want your cortado “con leche caliente” (with hot milk), “con leche del tiempo” (with room temperature milk), or “con leche fría” (with cold milk).
Café con hielo
A “cafe con hielo”, or coffee with ice.
In Spain, this is not quite the same as an iced coffee. In most places, you will be served a shot of solo and you’ll be given a separate glass with some ice in it. Just pour the solo over the ice, and that’s your cafe con hielo.
Another Spanish classic that you can’t miss out on. Traditionally, this drink is prepared by adding rum, cognac, or whisky to a shot of solo coffee. To order it, you have to specify which liqueur you prefer, although the default seems to be rum.
Café con leche
This is similar to a latte: the base is a strong shot of solo to which hot milk is added. The coffee-milk ratio is usually 50-50, and it’s slightly frothy.
Sometimes, when you order this beverage, the waiter will ask you if you prefer hot or cold milk. Bear in mind that cold milk could be actually cold (“leche fría”) or lukewarm (“leche templada”).
Manchado (Leche manchada)
This is more popular in southern Spain, where people enjoy having a glass of hot milk with a tiny bit of coffee (usually a few drops).
Want to treat yourself? Order a bombón. This is a glass with a generous amount of condensed milk plus a shot of solo, which stays on top of the milk as a separate layer until you stir it. Perfect with any of the sweet treats you can find in Spanish bakeries.
Remember that you can always ask for the decaf version of any of the coffees listed above. All you need to do is add the word “descafeinado”. For example: un café con leche descafeinado, un café solo descafeinado, etc.
Now that you know how to order a coffee, all you need to do is book your stay in Spain and enjoy what this country has to offer. Remember that Catalonia hotels have the best bars and restaurants where you can order the coffee that best suits your tastes.