European motorhome Travel- VanlifeSpainSticky

Coffee heaven or hell ?

Now I love a cup of coffee as much as the next man, but here in Spain it seems to be a mine field

“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”‘

Abraham Lincoln

The Spainish don’t seem to take coffee seriously like the people in Italy and France and they certainly haven’t invented a society around coffee, making this a cultural experience, but they still have some interesting habits when it comes to their drinks!

As first time travelers to Spain and a great believer that ordering a coffee at Costa can be difficult, I wanted to share my thoughts….

My coffee experience in Europe so far has largely been fun, I love to go out each morning and drop into the dive (local) bar of the town for my caffeine fix ! – but Spain is proving tricky, never do you see a menu ……

First of all, coffee in the whole of Europe is delicious ( if we exclude the hot cappuccino we ended up with in Sorrento) and varied, but it takes some time to get used to the ritual of ordering it. Even so, if you learn how to order a coffee in one country doesn’t mean you will get the same in other or the same in another region of that country .

Things here in Spain are complicated, I think Spaniards are complicated, that’s why we’re finding it almost impossible not to love them.

Anyway let’s start with the safest option – Café Solo, which means single espresso. This is the most common type of coffee in Europe and Michele’s favorite, because She doesnt like milk.

Usually served in a small cup, Café Solo represents the basis for all Spanish coffees, being the strongest one. Oddly, not many Spaniards seem to order it, where as in Italy you’d pop into a bar and by the time the coffee had cooled, the local had necked theirs, paid and left…,

If you think Café Solo is too small, you’ll have to ask for a Café Doble. If that is too strong, ask for an Americano, and finally, if you think none of these is your type, but you still don’t want milk, try a Café Suizo – café solo topped with whipped cream.

or a Carajillo – the same Café Solo spiked with brandy……

They say Café con Leche is the second most popular coffee in Spain, but if you ask me, I would say this type is the nation’s regular drink.

Half coffee and half milk, the closest we have found to a cappuccino or an ‘English latte’ because after all in Italy a Latte was just hot milk .

It has taken me eight months of travel around Europe to understand the difference between Café Cortado and Café con Leche.

Café Cortado is Café Solo with milk. Who would have thought that coffee in Spain could be named after the amount of milk added?

Café Cortado is not Café con Leche, it is Café Solo with just a bit of milk,

While Café Manchada is a little coffee with a lot of milk.

And then of course for the summer, Café con Hielo.

A very grown up frappe…,

Café con Hielo is not that simple as you may think, you don’t just throw a couple of ice cubes in your cup of coffee. The ritual goes Ask for a cup of coffee and a glass filled with ice cubes. Add the sugar in your hot coffee, stir until melted, and then pour the cup over the glass of ice.

We first experienced similar made of Nescafé with sugar over ice on a Greek lakeside, whilst chatting with the local boat captain.

As by now, your head is completely spinning and your having a beer at 8am ( psssss it’s not Hungary) instead of coffee I thought a list might help….

Café Solo – espresso

Café Doble – double espresso

Café con Leche – coffee with milk, usually half and half

Café Cortado – espresso with a dash of milk

Café con Hielo – espresso with ice

Carajillo – espresso with a drop of brandy

Café Americano – large black coffee or Café Solo with more water added

Café Suizo – coffee topped with whipped cream

Café Caramel – espresso with condensed milk

As you can guess the above list does not include all types of Spanish coffee, but I’m sure it’s a helpful guide for idiots like me….


6 thoughts on “Coffee heaven or hell ?

  • We particularly liked the Italian cafe correcto … a solo with a shot of liquor. And nowhere beats Italy for a good strong coffee.

    • Shellthecobbler

      Ah – that was Michele’s favourite when we were there ……..

  • Chris and Peter

    Oh, what a coffee adventure! Just wonderful. Ever tried a ‘barraquito’? It’s a Canarian specialty… Just google the image…

    • Shellthecobbler

      They look nice, they had liquor 43 in the bar yesterday, might see if we can get one of these

  • Joanna

    Hi there, we met very briefly in Mosselle in Germany…. in are in Greece and really struggling with the coffee, we love the Spanish cafe con leche but can’t find the equivalent in Greece.. suggestions welcome

    • Shellthecobbler

      As it was cooking hot when we were in Greece we lived on Greek frappé, which is a Nescafé over ice with lots of frothy milk and sugar ….. sorry it doesn’t help much

      Safe travels


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