Jul 09 2009

Ordering a coffee in Barcelona

Coffee is somewhat of an institution in Spain. Every break, the end of every meal, every business meeting is punctuated with a cup of it.

But getting exactly the coffee you want is sometimes not as easy as it may seem. There are many different ways to ask for coffee, all subtly different. Here’s our guide to Barcelona coffee and how to order it.

Firstly, all coffee here is espresso based – even longer coffees are made by just letting the espresso machine run for longer. So that means it’s usually pretty strong, something the locals get past by adding milk.

Which leads to the second thing: the milk is always UHT, not pasteurised like you will find in the UK or US. So it’s a little sweeter and a slightly different taste. Not a bad taste, just different.

Finally you’ll need to understand the charging system. Most cafes pay for their waiters by adding a little more for the service. So if you sit at the bar and order direct, you’ll get charged one thing, but sit at a table and usually you are charged a little more. Sitting at any outside space usually means yet more additions. For this reason, tipping is usually minimal, restricted to just any loose coins that are in the change.

So, with these things established, here’s our list of the most commonly ordered coffees:

Café solo   –   A single espresso shot – very short and intense, the basis for all of the others

Café largo / solo y largo   –   A longer espresso shot, usually about double the size of a solo

Café Americano   –   A full cup of black coffee, espresso based

Cortado   –   A long espresso shot with an equal amount of hot milk added

Café con leche   –   Half coffee, half hot milk

Cappuccino   –   Half coffee, half hot milk, with milk foam and usually chocolate sprinkled on top

Carajillo (pronounced “caraheeyo”   –   Not for the faint hearted – half espresso coffee, half spirit – ask for rum, brandy, whisky or Baileys

Café Irlandes   –   Irish coffee – with whipped cream and (usually lots of) whisky

Other useful phrases:

Leche caliente   –   Hot milk

Leche natural   –   Cold milk

Descaffeinado   –   Decaffeinated

Chocolate   –   Chocolate (who would have guessed) – usually incredibly thick and rich, almost like drinking a cup of melted chocolate bars

Check out the Barcelona Update Bars and Cafés review page.


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