Exploring the Rich Coffee Culture of Spain


Awaken Your Senses: Discover the Enchanting World of Spanish Coffee Delights Image: Shutterstock/ didesign021

SOME may argue that the best coffee can only be found in the cafes of Italy or amidst the bustling queues at Starbucks. But for those who have ventured beyond the conventional coffee destinations, there lies a hidden gem – Spain. Within the charming streets of this diverse country, a world of unique and delicious coffee varieties awaits those willing to explore. From the port city of Cartagena in the region of Murcia to the lively streets of Barcelona, Spain boasts a coffee culture that’s as rich and diverse as its history.

While the world may know Italy for its espresso and Starbucks for its global reach, Spain has something extraordinary to offer – a coffee experience like no other. One such secret is the beloved Café Asiático, inspired by the sailors who journeyed from Asia to the port of Cartagena in the early 20th century. This delectable blend of condensed milk, brandy, Licor 43, coffee, and a touch of cinnamon is a testament to the city’s maritime heritage and has won the hearts of locals and tourists alike.

But the wonders don’t end there. Spain’s love for coffee takes various forms, each reflecting the unique character of its region. From the captivating Barraquito in Tenerife to the refreshing Black and White in Valencia, each region presents a coffee experience as diverse as its landscapes. Let’s look at some of these coffees in more detail.

Café Asiático: A Blend of Tradition and Personality

Steeped in maritime history, Café Asiático owes its origin to the sailors who docked in Cartagena from Asia at the beginning of the 20th century. These sailors would order coffee with condensed milk and brandy, creating a combination that eventually merged with Cartagena’s personality, resulting in the recipe that is cherished today.

The layers of Café Asiático are what set it apart. The first layer is condensed milk, followed by brandy, and then Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur with a unique flavour. Next comes the coffee, topped with foamed milk, a touch of lemon peel, coffee beans, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. This intricate blend of flavours and textures makes Café Asiático a delightful experience for anyone willing to give it a try.

The popularity of condensed milk in coffee spread throughout this area of Spain, offering other options for those who might not fancy Café Asiático. The ‘Bombón’ features condensed milk with a shot of espresso on top, usually served in a small glass. For a milder taste, locals often opt for the ‘Canario,’ which blends condensed milk, coffee, and foamed milk.

Café Asiático
Café Asiático  Image: Facebook/Café Asiático

Barraquito: A Tenerife Treasure

On the island of Tenerife, you’ll find another unique coffee variation called Barraquito. This specialty gained fame for its varied ingredients, including condensed milk, liqueur, conventional milk, cinnamon sticks, lemon peel, and, of course, a robust coffee base. Served in a wine-like glass, the layers of Barraquito showcase the intricate brewing process, making it as visually appealing as it is delicious.

Cafe Barraquito
Cafe Barraquito. Image: Shutterstock/Kuba Puchajda

Black and White: A Refreshing Valencian Treat

In the Valencian Community, beating the summer heat with a refreshing coffee-based treat is a must. ‘Black and White’ fits the bill perfectly. This coffee is a combination of granizado de café or slushy coffee with a scoop of ice cream, traditionally made with cream but now available in other flavours like vanilla, nougat, or meringue milk, on top!

Catalán: A Sweet Barcelona Delight

Directly from the vibrant city of Barcelona, Catalán coffee stands out for its sweet touch. The espresso used is usually mixed with syrup made from water, sugar, cinnamon, and candied lemon slices. To add a unique flavour, a splash of Catalan cream liqueur is incorporated into the mixture. Some versions even simulate the layer of burnt sugar found in the famous Catalan dessert, creating a truly indulgent coffee experience.

Resolí: Cuenca’s Energizing Coffee Liqueur

Hailing from the province of Cuenca, Resolí is an energizing coffee liqueur known for its potent combination of aguardiente, brandy, sugar, dried orange peel, cinnamon, and coffee. Often consumed as a digestive after meals, it’s particularly popular during festive seasons like Easter and Christmas. However, its potency demands responsible consumption.

Rebentó: Mallorca’s Rum-Infused Carajillo

On the beautiful island of Mallorca, you can find Rebentó, a delightful variation of the traditional Spanish Carajillo. In this version, local rum is used to create a warming and intense flavour. The rum is first heated with coffee beans and lemon peel before freshly brewed coffee is added. The result is a coffee brimming with rich flavours and energizing properties, perfect for a warm island afternoon.

This love for coffee has given rise to a diverse range of regional coffee specialties that can be enjoyed throughout Spain. Image: Shutterstock/futuristman

The Love for Coffee Across Spain

Statistics show that a significant portion of the Spanish population, 87% of those aged between 18 and 64, consume coffee regularly, with 70% enjoying it almost every day. The average Spaniard drinks around 2.2 cups of coffee daily, usually at home and during breakfast. This love for coffee has given rise to a diverse range of regional coffee specialties that can be enjoyed throughout Spain.

From the iconic Café Asiático in Cartagena to the refreshing Black and White in Valencia and the energizing Resolí in Cuenca, each region has its own unique coffee to offer. So, the next time you find yourself in one of these Spanish locales, make sure to indulge in their unique coffee culture and savour the rich flavours that make each region’s coffee experience truly exceptional.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!