National Coffee Day

It’s no secret: I love a good cuppa.

In honor of National Coffee Day, September 29, I’d like to encourage you to take part in a very Spanish activity – go and tomar algo. And just because it’s national coffee day, that algo should be coffee. I hate to sound demanding (no, really, I do!), but it’s imperative that you go and get and/or make a steaming hot cup of coffee. Don’t forget the sugar.

(You could go to places like Krispy Kreme to get free cups, but I am wary of their quality. For a really good cup of coffee, I prefer my Bulletproof French Press and freshly ground beans from Trader Joe’s. Call me a snob, but I hate bad coffee.)

In Spain, the morning break for coffee is the norm. When I told Mario’s mother I got a half an hour for lunch, she was positively appalled. His dad chimed in to say that half an hour is the morning coffee break, not lunch!

Not all Spaniards eat pastries with theirs, though. Some eat tortilla de patata or jamón. You know, whatever floats their boat.

Coffee in Spain tends to be different than coffee in the U.S., though. It’s more what we would call “espresso.” Here are the types you can usually order.

  • Café solo. (Literally: only coffee.) It’s usually pretty tiny, more like a shot of espresso than anything.
  • Café con leche. (Literally: coffee with milk.) This is my choice. There’s usually a generous quantity of milk added to this. Whole milk. Why would you pollute it with skim? It’s definitely the most popular form in Spain.
  • Café cortado. (Literally: cut coffee.) It’s like the café solo with a tiny bit of milk. It’s also served in a very small glass.
  • Leche manchada. (Literally: stained milk.) It’s mainly milk, and I know some of Mario’s friends/relatives would order that. I think of it like coffee-flavored milk. It may sound gross, but think of coffee flavored ice cream and how good that is. Yum!
  • Café descafeinado. (Literally: decaffeinated coffee.) You usually get a cup of hot water and a packet of instant coffee with this.
  • Café con hielo. (Literally: coffee with ice.) This is obviously more popular in the summer months. I personally don’t like it because you are usually given a very large ice cube with roughly the same amount of liquid as your coffee cup. Thus, the coffee tastes very watered down.
  • Café bonbon. (I don’t know how to translate this literally.) It’s coffee with sweetened condensed milk instead of regular milk. Obviously quite sweet!
Now, those are just the basic ones. Often, the shop will sell cappucinos as well as alcoholic coffee drinks, like the carajillo, which combines coffee with brandy or rum. You should try it if you’re following the “hair of the dog” method. Or if you just like depressants + stimulants mixed together.
In Spain, coffee (or at least tomando algo) is a daily part of life. However, it’s a way to sit down, to chat, to rest, to relax for a few minutes, whereas here I drink my coffee on my way to work or walking around. It’s not a break or a time to relax, although I do wish it were. That’s not to say coffee isn’t important to us. It is; it’s just different. I found this infographic on coffee rather interesting.
I apologize for this post being a little bit unfocused, but…please celebrate with me by having yourself a delicious, freshly brewed cup of coffee! A toast (with coffee)!

14 thoughts on “National Coffee Day

  1. Café cortado all the way, definitely NO sugar, thankyouverymuch. I bought a little stove-top cafetera (for one… wah wahhh) and it’s probably the greatest investment I’ve made here so far.

  2. I love mixing stimulants and depressants! Especially while enjoying dessert at a restaurant. Marketing/PR is #2 which doesn’t surprise me! lol

  3. Love this post. I’m a cafe con leche person in Spain, but don’t like a lot of milk in my coffee in the states. During my study abroad years I was ALL about the cafe cortado, but it’s over so fast it’s almost not worth it!

  4. Ahhh Spanish coffee culture is wonderful! I think Italians have the best coffee, but Spaniards understand the social aspect.

    Too much caffeine makes it impossible for me to sleep, so post-lunch I order a descafeinado. I ask for it “de maquina,” though, which ensures that the quality is a million times better than those fake coffee flakes.

  5. I love this post!! Maybe cause I’m a coffee addict as well. I actually found a manchado is pretty good after lunch, it’s like dessert and coffee all in one

  6. You forgot my favorite one! Not that I drink it, but it’s just so America-deprecating.

    Café Americano – A regular espresso with a bunch of water added.

    My esposa has hooked me on the sólo con hielo. Good stuff. She used to have a hell of a time ordering that in the UK. They totally didn’t understand why she’d want “a glass of ice on the side”. Most times they brought a glass of ice water.

    Also, I’ll never understand why anyone would choose instant coffee, de sobre, instead of real brewed coffed, de máquina. What’s wrong with people?? The price is the same in most places.

    1. Really? You like the café americano? Yeah, I agree – very America deprecating.

      I think, as far as café de sobre goes, it’s because it’s the automatic choice and they just don’t ask for anything different? I honestly don’t know. I didn’t know of the existence of descafeinado de máquina until today!

  7. I’m a cortado gal myself and on really cold days (are there such things in Andalucia?) I’ll go for a BonBon but only when my Valencian side is feeling neglected. There’s nothing quite as good as that mid morning coffee; where you can just sit back, clear your mind and disappear from yourself for a little while. Beats Starbucks in a heartbeat if you ask me.

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