If you are traveling to Spain and looking for a morning or afternoon caffeine fix, ordering your drink of choice in a Spanish café, even if you are fluent in the language, can be tricky. It's rare that you will simply say coffee (which is café in Spanish but also known as an Americano) since there are a plethora of ways to order coffee and tea (té in Spanish) in Spanish cafes.
While you may be craving a big cup of joe to start your today, you will most likely be satisfied with at least one of the drinks found on most cafe menus. Your best bet is to visit a large café or high-end cafeteria, where you will find an even greater selection of coffee drink choices.
Types of Spanish Coffee Drinks
- Café solo is what the Spanish call espresso, which is the standard form of coffee across the country. If you find this option too strong, and you're averse to milk, you can order it with added water (which is known as a café solo con agua caliente), but this is a dead giveaway that you are an Americano, so be prepared for the barista to scoff.
- Espresso with milk is called café con leche. This is the most popular form of coffee drink served in Spain, and you'll find a decent cup in most cafés and cafeterias.
- A cortado comes from the Spanish word that means "to cut", meaning dilute. Traditionally this drink is a single espresso shot with a little bit of foam on top, but can mean any number of things depending on the city. For example, in Barcelona, the difference between a cafe con leche and a cortado has been lost. Therefore, you will find your Barcelonan cortado to be a lot milkier than elsewhere in the country. If you want to order a cortado in Barcelona like in the rest of Spain trying asking for a cortado con poca leche which means "a coffee with a little milk." A cortado is also sometimes called cafe manchado, which means a cortado that has been stained with milk. This term should not be mistaken for what is known as leche manchada, which is a different beverage entirely.
- Ordering a leche manchada will result in a beverage that contains very little coffee, but a lot of milk. Think of this drink as more of a coffee-flavored milk drink rather than a "proper" cup of coffee. This drink is not very common, though it is more popular in the south in cities such as Seville, for example.
- If you're not interested in consuming caffeine, but want a drink with the flavor of coffee, order a café descafeinado, which simply means decaffeinated coffee. In larger cafes, your drink will be made by hand by the barista using the espresso machine (de maquina), but you will mostly find it served via a sachet (de sobre).
- If the Spanish heat is too sweltering for a hot drink, order a café con hielo, which is espresso served with a glass of ice on the side. When you receive your drink, you are supposed to immediately pour the espresso over the ice and drink quickly. It's no surprise that this drink is popular during the summer months, but you can usually order it year-round.
- For the sweet tooths out there, you may want to order the Spanish specialty called café bonbon. Like all other coffee drinks, espresso is used, with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. This drink is sometimes referred to as a café cortado condensada, or prepared differently, depending on the region.
- Café bonbon con hielo is made in the same way as a café bonbon but also poured over ice. The flavor is similar to a Vietnamese iced coffee and is highly requested during the summer months.
- Leche y leche (which means milk and milk) is similar to a café bonbon but uses a mixture of regular milk and sweetened condensed milk in equal parts.
- A café vienés (Viennese coffee) is espresso served with milk and topped with a big dollop of whipped cream.
- Café Irlandés translates to Irish coffee. Though obviously not a Spanish drink, this alcoholic treat is comprised of espresso served with a shot of whiskey or Baileys Irish Cream.
- If you prefer vodka to whiskey, try a café Russo (Russian coffee) that is served with a shot of vodka instead.
- A café carajillo also contains alcohol and can be made with either brandy, whiskey, anisette, or rum, depending on the cafe or customer's preference.