My first entry on coffee in Spain had more to do with the theory behind coffee…this one will address more practical matters: the varieties of coffee available in Spain, as well as specific spots to visit in Madrid.
A café cortado is just like the Italian macchiato: espresso topped with a dash of steam milk. The bitterness of the espresso is “cut” with the mildness of the milk.
Café con leche is just that: coffee with milk. They start with espresso and top it with a more considerable quantity of steamed milk than the café cortado (about 1/3 coffee to 2/3 milk). Still has a much stronger coffee taste than our milky “lattes” in America. This is also my preferred coffee drink in Spain — as well as the preferred drink of most Spaniards.
Café vienés (literally, Viennese coffee) is the Spanish equivalent to the Italian espresso con panna: espresso topped with whipped cream.
Café bombón consists of sweetened condensed milk topped with espresso and is a very rich, dessert-like coffee drink.
I haven’t really been wowed by the coffee I’ve had in any place. A lot of it is okay… some of it is downright awful (mainly due to the UHT milk, blech). There are two huge institutions of coffee in Madrid… Café Gijón and Café Comercial.
At Café Gijón they basically live off of their famous tertulias and charge astronomical prices for middle-of-the-road coffee, just for the chance to sit in this old coffeehouse where famous intellectuals and writers used to congregate. Five euros for a “cappuccino” that is no real cappuccino. Some sort of sweetened, watered down espresso topped with a mound of whipped cream (“nata montada”). No cappuccino that I’ve ever had. The tortilla there, however, is very good.
Café Comercial (metro: Bilbao) is another huge institution, they serve many varieties. Classic Spanish-style coffeehouse.
Faborit is an interesting chain…kinda like the “Starbucks” of Spain. Juan Valdez is like the “Starbucks” of Colombia, and they have a few franchises in Madrid. If you can find them, they’re pretty good.
And that’s pretty much everything I have to say about coffee in Spain. :)