How to Get Your Coffee Fix in Spain

Authored by:
Hilary Leslie

Hilary Leslie

¿Quieres tomar un café? Or literally, Do you want to “take“ a coffee?

“Taking” or having a coffee in Spain is a daily ritual and a time to enjoy the moment. In America, we are used to filling our to-go mugs to the brim before racing out of the house in the morning. Coffee franchises such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts offer sizes that could cause jaws to drop on this side of the pond. (Spain actually has both, although Dunkin’ Donuts is called Dunkin’ Coffee, and are often times crowded with students and foreigners.) 

Spaniards savor the time intended to finish their steaming cup of Joe, even if it means a 10 minute break before they even get to work. On my morning walk to the bus station I passed dozens of cafés with customers dressed up for work who never seem to tener prisa or be in a hurry.

I am by no means a coffee addict, but I learned not to slurp down my coffee and to take advantage of the break that’s expected with my purchase. The most common coffees ordered in Spain are probably the classic espresso (café solo) and the café con leche (coffee with milk). However, there are many other options you can choose from! 

Café Solo: a small cup of black espresso 
Café Doble: double espresso
Café con leche: half espresso, half milk (ask for leche fría for cold milk or leche templada for room temp)


Café Americano: similar to a café solo but with more water
Café Bombón: an espresso with sweetened condensed milk


Café Suizo: a café solo with nata or whipped cream
Café con Hielo: an iced coffee~one cup of black espresso with a separate glass of ice to mix yourself. Ask for a café con leche con hielo if you want milk!
Café Cortado: a small cup of espresso with a splash of milk
Carajillo: an espresso mixed with rum, whisky or brandy

If you want a coffee that is decaffeinated, be aware that it may be instant coffee! 

To ask for a cup of coffee in Spain, you can simply say, Quiero un _____. If you don’t have time to sit and drink your coffee, you can say, Un café para llevar which literally means to carry or in English terms, to go/to takeaway. Sugar is always provided in little packets on the side of your cup accompanied by a small spoon, regardless if it’s takeaway. 

I’ve never been disappointed in a café in the three years I lived in Spain! You really can’t go wrong when a country has perfected its skills. 

Terms to remember:  

Quiero un…/I’d like…
café/coffee
leche/milk
leche fría/cold milk
leche templada/room temperature milk
leche de soja/soy milk
azúcar/sugar
nata/whipped cream
descafeinado/decaffeinated 
hielo/ice
para llevar/to go

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