Your Guide to Java Jargon and Coffee Drinking in Spain

There are few things Spaniards take as seriously as their coffee. It forms a part of most locals’ daily lives, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Spaniard willing to turn down a dose of the tasty brew. For travellers, ordering coffee in Spain can seem like a daunting experience. Forget about your lattes, flat whites and cappuccinos, because outside your massive coffee chains you won’t find them. This doesn’t mean that coffee in Spain isn’t varied (it is) and delicious (it most definitely is), the ordering process just takes some getting used to. Read on for a quick and easy guide to Spain’s java jargon so you’re in the know the next time you’re placing your coffee order in a local coffee shop!

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Measure your life in coffee spoons…or espressos.

First things first, let’s tackle the most popular way to drink coffee in Spain: espresso. If you’re familiar with this type of coffee beverage, you know that espressos pack a big punch in a small package. The espresso brewing method is the most prevalent and everything else is just a variation of espresso with different quantities of other things added like milk.

Café Solo – a miracle of chemistry.

A café solo is the simplest out of all the coffee drinks you can have in Spain, and that’s because it’s a single plain espresso!  The name really says it all, translated café solo means coffee alone, or just coffee.

Café Americano—no one drinks it like the Americans.

A café solo will probably give you the sort of jittery surge of energy you’ll need for a day of frenetic sight-seeing, but if you’re keen to take it a little easier, and espresso alone is just too strong for you, order a café americano. While it does contain the same amount of caffeine as a café solo, it also has more water which results in a milder flavour and can make it a little easier to drink.

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Café Cortado—do you want some coffee with that milk?

If you’re like me and tend to enjoy your cuppa with milk, there are some variations of coffee with milk in Spain. One of these is the café cortado which is espresso with a splash of milk. In some parts of Spain this beverage is also called café manchado, which in some cases can mean flavouring your milk with a drop of coffee. Be sure to specify if you want milk with coffee or the other way around when ordering!

Café con Leche—better than a latte.

If you want a coffee drink that approximates a bit closer to your usual lattes back home, you can’t go wrong with a café con leche. This one is half coffee and half milk, and yes is usually served with a pretty swirly pattern in the milk froth, too!

Café con Hielo—society runs on coffee, even in the summer.

Café con hielo is a popular summer substitute for regular hot coffee in Spain—especially during those summer months when temperatures can easily exceed 35C or 95F in some parts of the nation.  Café con hielo is basically coffee with ice, but might be served up in a way you’re not accustomed to: with black espresso in one glass and ice in another. It’s up to you to pour your coffee over your ice!

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Carajillo—coffee’s cooler, edgier brother.

Leave it to the Spanish to invent specific coffee drinks for both summer AND winter! The carajillo is most popular in the chilly winter months because it contains a little something that’s meant to warm you right up: alcohol. For this drink, espresso is served in a small glass with a shot of your favourite liquor, usually brandy, rum, or whiskey.

The magic of espresso…is you can have it anywhere.

Now that you’re all caught up on your coffee jargon, go out and partake! And don’t worry so much about where you drink your coffee as what it means to take those few minutes to do so. In Spain, coffee is such an essential part of daily life that you can find great coffee anywhere, it’s the significance of a cup of coffee that’s important. It’s a great way to detach from the stress and problems in your life—and you’ll be much more prepared to face them again with a little espresso coursing through you anyway!

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Which type of coffee is your favourite to drink in Spain?