Cafe Culture

Coffee is almost as a defining part of the Spainsh leisure culture as the ubiquitous Caña y Tapa. It is so important to Spain that every little cafe or bar has to have a Professional Coffee Machine as the centerpiece of the bar. Never will you see a coffee made from granules in any self respecting place.

It is assumed you know exactly what you are ordering because it is so ingrained in their culture, so before trying to translate white with 2 sugars read on:

  • If you ask for a Café you will get a Black Coffee with no milk.
  • A Café con leche is a crossover between a classic English coffee and an Latte.
  • A Cortado is a strong small coffee topped with frothy milk, generally drank after a meal or in the afternoon. Cortado means cut but in this case is used for small
  • un café solo is a very strong small espresso also usually drank in the afternoon or after a meal
  • Café con hielo is where it starts to get weird. Ask for one of these and you get 2 glasses. 1 with hot coffee and the other with ice. The fresh hot coffee is pored over the ice and then drank.
  • Café Bonbón is made with sweet condensed milk which sits at the bottom of a dark café solo . Definately for those with a sweet tooth.

Sugar is never added for you but always comes in packets on the side.
These are the main coffees you will encounter in a Spanish café or bar

How to ask for something in a café or bar

In the early days of your soon to be mastery of Spanish keep it simple. Learn “I want”, Quiero, and “Do you have”, Tienes, and you are on your way to being able to pass as a local or at least not a typical Guiri. (a slang term for a foreigner and can be used insultingly. )
If you are in a café bar o restaurante (that missing “r” isn’t a typo, o is en Español) it is normal to have a tab running and pay at the end. How do the Camareros remember who has had what? I’m sure if I had to do Camarero‘s job I would end up with a  pile of papers and never work out which table had had what.
What is not normal is to stand at the bar, order a drink and then pay before sitting down. The camarero will think you are trying not to tip him and you will get strange looks. Imagine the looks if you were in a Michelin star restaurant and you walk up to the kitchen and order the food there.
Que es normal es to sit down and drinks in a bar is done exactly like you would in a resaurante and at the end you would ask for “La cuenta por favor
When you pay it is normal to leave a tip (unless you have had very bad service and will not return) 10% is common. Tips to a Camarero es muy importante (muy : very, importante : important) as a lot of their jobs are seasonal and during winter a lot are laid off.