Coffee culture is a whole world that you will need to be familiar with if you study Spanish in Spain or are a fan of travelling around our country.
If you come to Spain to study Spanish or to do a bit of sightseeing, there will probably come a time when you are exhausted from the hustle and bustle and feel the urge to enjoy a good coffee, perhaps on a little terrace in the sun. But did you know that there are several ways to order a coffee in Spain? It’s one of the most curious things about coffee culture; we all ask for it in different ways, depending on which city we’re in or what percentage of ingredients we’d like at any given time. And some are very specific, so take note and get learning how to say exactly what you want when you want it.
Do you already know these ways to order a coffee in Spanish?
El café solo (Black coffee)
As its name suggests, black coffee does not contain milk or anything else. It’s just coffee. Depending on how you want it, you can order it solo or expresso, and you’ll get a drink of about 30ml, or corto which is smaller (about 15ml), americano (with a lot of water, and less intense), doble (with about 60ml of water and two espresso shots), largo (like the previous one but with less coffee)… But if you happen to pass by Lanzarote for a few days, you may want to order a nunca mais, i.e. only with a double shot of coffee.
Café con leche (Coffee with milk)
Depending on whether you want more or less milk, you can ask the waiter for a café largo de leche, i.e. with more milk than coffee, or, the other way round, for a café corto de leche; alternatively you can also choose to order a largo o corto de café, with more or less coffee than milk. You can also choose to use the words cortado (less milk) or if you go to Andalusia, a manchado (more milk). In Málaga you’ll definitely hear the words café sombra (a finger of coffee) and nube (a few drops of coffee). Nice names, right?
For those with a sweet tooth
If, as well as sugar, you want to add some extra sweetness to your coffee… Try asking for a café bombón which is essentially the same as a cortado with condensed milk if you go to the Valencian Community, although this name is being used more and more all over the country. Also commonly found in this region is el blanco y negro (black and white coffees), or granulated coffee with merengue milk. And if you pass through San Sebastian, don’t forget to ask for an ebaki, which is a large coffee with lots and lots of sugar.
These are just some of the countless ways to order a coffee in Spanish. Coffee culture in our country goes far beyond ingredients and measurements, it goes beyond the coffee counter and bring together strangers, friends, couples and families at a table on any given morning. All this and more is covered in the documentary about coffee, “Las 1001 formas de tomar café” (1001 ways of drinking coffee), directed by Leticia Dolera, which is the focus of this interesting article in El Viajero de El País, along with 39 other ways of ordering coffee.
Remember that learning a language, in this case learning Spanish, involves much more than knowing the vocabulary and grammatical rules that govern how it works: it also means knowing the culture and customs of its people, including those that revolve around a kitchen or bar table. Coffee is a central part of this very Spanish social culture, so be sure to soak up all that it has to offer and of course… enjoy the coffee!