Coffee in Spain

As a keen aficionado of caffeinated beverages, the prospect of living in Spain for 9 months excited me immensely. After all, Italy is the home of coffee, and Spain is right next door! It would have to be good, right?

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Wrong. Very wrong. So wrong, it’s not even funny. Etcetera, etcetera.

For the past few weeks, I have being trying (progressively more desperately) to find an OK coffee. I long ago gave up on finding somewhere “good.” In fact, I would be happy with “passably decent” now.

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My face after pretty much every coffee I sip here.

I’m not sure if it’s because I take my coffee with milk (perhaps the espresso is better?), but pretty much every cup of coffee I have ordered has been so bad, as to be virtually undrinkable.

There’s a number of reasons for this:

1.The Spanish preference for UHT milk. I REALLY don’t understand this. When I was growing up, UHT milk was something that you endured when your family ran out of fresh milk. However, in Spain, UHT milk seems to be the preferred option. And when a coffee is made from UHT milk, it tastes, well, pretty horrible…

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UHT “milk”- stale and nasty. How true.

2. The fact that the baristas don’t know how to use the coffee machine. The other day, I went to a cafe with all its signs in English, and with “flat whites” on the menu. I was excited. VERY excited. Was an OK coffee in the offing? Ha ha ha! Although the menu promised flat whites (at the exorbitant price of 3 Euros each), the barista clearly thought that the definition of “flat white” was “lots and lots and lots of froth.” So I ended up with a cup of milky (UHT, might I just add) froth, with NO COFFEE!

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3. Taste preference. Yesterday, I went to a cafe with my Spanish friend. She ordered a decaf coffee (she specifically asked for a Nescafe SACHET- sorry about the capital letters, but this is important!!!), with UHT milk. For me, such an offering would be a fate worse than death. But my friend was absolutely delighted with this foul concoction.

I realised that things had reached a particularly low point when I went to what has been termed by the popular press “the best cafe in Madrid.” OK, it wasn’t THAT bad. The coffee was alright. But it didn’t set my world on fire, so to speak.

I would give it 3 stars.

Out of 10.

Nonetheless, some things about the coffee are good.

1. First, it’s cheap, only about 1.40 Euros for a cup. That’s the equivalent of $2 Australian. But when you consider how bad it tastes, even that seems expensive…

2. The whole coffee preparation experience is something to be enjoyed. When you order your repellent beverage, the waiter asks whether you would prefer your milk hot or warm. He or she then extracts the coffee, before appearing at the table, coffee and milk jug in hand, and making a big show of pouring the appropriately heated milk into your cup.

3. The cafes can be nice. I have found a couple of “good” cafes, where, although the coffee is typically horrible, they have papers (which, admittedly, I have trouble reading, given my lack of Spanish skills) and a nice feeling, which ALMOST makes up for the fact that the coffee is so abysmal.

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Cafe which I like

With this in mind, all I can say is that if someone is looking for a failproof business venture, setting up a cafe in Madrid, where the milky coffee is nice and well-made, is bound to attract a strong clientele of homesick Australian coffee snobs, if nothing else!

6 thoughts on “Coffee in Spain

  1. We really are spoilt for coffee here. The US is the same – hard to find decent coffee.

    At least they use UHT milk – what is it with that disgusting milk powder substitute that Americans add to their instant coffee?

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  2. I’m surprised. I don’t remember the coffee being sub par. But yes, pasteurisation at a different temperature to the one you’re familiar with will make it taste funny. And yes, coffee in Australia is very good. Good luck finding a decent cup.

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  3. That’s great that you have more positive memories, James! Did you go to any nice places in Madrid? I think the problem is definitely the milk. The UHT has a distinctive flavour, and that infiltrates the brew. I have made it my quest to find a good coffee!

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