Spanish coffee

by guest writer - 01 August 2013

Little did King Philip V of Spain know how much pleasure he was going to bring to his countrymen when he introduced coffee to the nation four hundred years ago.

The new drink with its distinctive taste and pick-me-up qualities didn`t take long to catch on and before very long it was being enjoyed throughout Spain.

Now, it is everywhere with bars and cafes selling coffee on every street. It`s a very common sight to see suited businessmen gulping their strong espresso, or cafe solo, before dashing for the office. It sets them up for the day ahead.

In the United Kingdom we tend to drink coffee the same throughout the day, either black or with milk. In Spain it`s a bit different to that and there are defined ways to drink coffee depending on what time of day it is.

For instance the morning starts with a refreshing cafe con leche, which is simply coffee with milk. Throughout the day espresso is drunk and in the evening a little liquor is added to it to round off the evening meal which is always eaten late.

The Spaniards have a very sweet tooth and so add sugar to their coffee. Sometimes coffee is prepared and served instead of a dessert and cafe canario is a popular choice.

This coffee is popular in the Canary Islands, hence the name and is made of very strong espresso which is sweetened with condensed milk. This is topped off with a generous swirl of whipped cream and is usually served at the end of a celebratory meal either on its own or with little biscuits.

The Spanish love their coffee in so many different ways and so it pays to find out what they are before sallying forth when on holiday.

Cafe cortado is simply espresso with a drop of milk. It`s sometimes called caff manchado or stained coffee as the coffee is almost black.

Leche manchada is much like a latte with a shot of espresso topped up with hot milk. This drink isn`t as popular, as the Spanish tend to like their coffee pretty strong.

Decaffeinated coffee is something which is gaining in popularity in Spain, probably because the Spanish are becoming more aware of healthier alternatives much like the rest of the world. Cafe descafeinado is how they ask for it, either from a sachet, de sobre, or the machine, de maquina.

These are just a few ways of serving coffee in Spain. Cafes pride themselves on the many different types of coffee they stock and the ways of drinking it. And, of course, it gives an opportunity to step back from everyday life for a moment and have a chat with friends.

Spanish coffee is almost always made by machine, although the instant varieties are increasingly seen on the supermarket shelves. This is very much personal preference as instant coffee just hasn`t got the same qualities as freshly ground beans no matter how good the quality is.

In a cafe the barista has the use of a gleaming, steaming beast of a machine such as though seen in At home, or in smaller cafes, the coffee might be brewed on the stove or in an electric percolator.

Either way it is sure to be absolutely delicious. And no matter what else King Philip V of Spain did for his country he definitely scored a winner by bringing coffee to the masses!

Photo by Charles Haynes (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Home | Return to top of Spanish coffee

New comments!

Have your say about our web pages! Leave your comments in the box below.

Main menu

Wine list

Side orders


Essential books

What's hot...

5 of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain!

michelin star

Chef profile: Angel Leon


Chef profile: Quique DaCosta


What is tapas culture?


All about paella!

bomba rice


Don't miss a thing! Our free monthly newsletter is delivered direct to your inbox and keeps you up to date with all our new pages and gives you access to exclusive content and special offers!



Explore the Spanish regions


Learn about the diversity of landscape, culture and cuisine that exists in the different regions of Spain.