Journey from Mumbai to Canary Islands can be very tedious, because there is no direct flight (have to change 3 flights, via Paris and Madrid to reach Tenerife) and there is no food offered in local European flights. My mouth was parched from exhaustion and I needed to buy a drink. I asked for water, but had to wait till airhostess was ready to bring her cart of drinks. I was too thirsty to drink anything else but water, that was on sale for 2 euros.
On arriving at Tenerife airport, I entered the cafeteria and ordered coffee for me, not specifying the kind of coffee I needed. I was served Café Cortado (expresso with little milk) in a tiny cup. I regretted cause I should have specified that I needed Cappuccino(the milky brand with lots of foam floating on the top making beautiful designs)
In Mumbai, everybody drinks too much tea, some to freshen up and some to kill hunger. In Spain, everybody drinks too much coffee and for the same reason.
Spanish coffee is roasted and blended in a unique way, with its undeniably quality and unrivaled variety, it represents more than a drink, it is actually a way to relax and celebrate life.
There is great variety to choose from, as the country is filled up with cafes, terraces, restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs, and everywhere you see people sipping coffee.
Mothers leave their children at school then head towards coffee house for some gupshup before going home to their daily routine. Men need coffee with their every puff (it helps them think better, maybe). In Spain, “tomar un café” is one of the most common phrase and an essential part of their everyday life.
But little gyan is important or else you will be stuck with most weird taste in your mouth for ordering the wrong type of coffee.
Café solo, (which means single espresso,) is the most common type of coffee with no milk and is normally served in small cups. Cafe solo represents the basis of all Spanish coffee, It’s the strongest coffee and Spanish normally have this around 11am.
If you are travelling in Spain and like strong coffee with no milk, then Café Solo is for you. If you think it is too small then you can order Café Doble (double espresso), If you find it too strong, then ask for ‘Americano’ (this has more water added and is served in bigger cups) and if you think that none of these is your type and you still prefer without milk, then can ask for Café Suizo (espresso topped with whipped crème) or Carajillo (which is spiked with brandy or whisky)
Most of the time, Spanish prefer their coffee with milk, which is much weaker than Café Solo. They start and end their day with ‘Café con Leche’ (this is half milk, half coffee) and they even have it after every meal.
It is important to understand the difference between ‘Café con Leche’ and Café Cortado. ‘Cortado’ means short or ‘cut’ but it has nothing to do with language. Don’t even think that waitress will give you short espresso. Nah! Café Cortado is café solo with just a bit of milk.
But what if you want less coffee and more milk? You must say “El Café: un Manchado por favor”
If you cannot tolerate caffeine, there’s always the option for ordering ‘Descafeinado’ but again, be careful, you must ask for ‘descafeinado de maquina’ unless you want to get an instant coffee poured into a cup of hot milk.
Then there is another interesting type called ‘Café con Heilo’ (coffee with ice) this is not cold coffee that you might have had sometimes in your own house where in you make coffee and just add ice. There is a ritual to prepare this, which is pretty much like this:
You ask for a cup of coffee (it could be black or light brown, it doesn’t matter) and a glass filled with ice cubes. Add the sugar in your hot coffee, let it melt and then pour the cup over the glass containing ice. Drink it fast.
Confused already? Okay here is the list if that helps:
Café Solo (Espresso)
Café Doble (double espresso)
Café con Leche (espresso with milk, usually half and half proportionally)
Café Cortado (espresso with a bit of milk)
Café Manchado (little espresso with more milk)
Café Suizo (espresso topped with whipped cream)
Café Americano (large Café solo with more water)
Café Bombon (Café solo with condensed sweet milk)
Carajillo (espresso with a drop of brandy, whiskey or rum)
Café Caramel (Café solo with condensed milk)
Café con Heilo (Espresso with ice)
There are so many variations and they are so entangled that they only blur your mind and confuse you. With many coffee houses in India, many people have developed a taste for different variety of coffee.
When in Spain, I may order Manchado or Cortado but back home in Mumbai, its always 'just cutting chai……'