Catalans love coffee. Whether it’s a strong, black, espresso to kick- start the day or a social sip of something milky with friends, locals find reasons throughout every day to reach for a cup of their favourite brew. But Barcelona’s long history with the bean has led to some unusual cultural quirks. Follow our ground rules for ordering great coffee and immerse yourself in the local culture:
Coffee Culture in Barcelona
- After the Spanish Civil War, there was a nationwide shortage of coffee. This resulted in a phenomenon called torrefacto. In the 1940s, an enterprising Spanish coffee producer discovered that miners in Mexico coated their coffee beans in sugar before roasting them. This prevented the beans from going off when stored underground. The producer soon realised that this would make them easier to transport. It also made the beans bigger and heavier, allowing him to sell the same amount of coffee at an increased price. Roasting with sugar also masked the low quality of the cheap Robusto beans and gave the impression of a stronger, darker cup of coffee. What began as necessity soon became a habit and Spain soon developed a taste for the torrefacto beans. Torrefacto coffee is still found in many Barcelona bars and homes, but its very bitter taste is not for everyone. To truly taste coffee at its best, experts recommend a 100% Arabica bean roasted without sugar, such as the Illy® coffee served in Le Méridien Barcelona’s Longitude Bar.
- You’ll find people in Barcelona ordering coffee morning, noon and night, but not every drink is considered suitable for every time of the day. Instead of sticking to a single kind of coffee, locals match their mocha to their mood. On the way to work, people drop into the local bar for an espresso with a dash of milk (in Spanish, un cortado; in Catalan, un tallat) or a lot of milk (Spanish, café con leche; Catalan, cafè amb llet). They’ll do the same mid-morning, perhaps accompanying it with a croissant or a small sandwich (in Spanish, bocadillo; in Catalan, entrepà). Lunch might be washed down with a short, black espresso (café solo). When schools come out around 5 or 6pm, bars and terraces across the city are filled with parents having, yes, another coffee while the kids have a snack before dinner (Spanish, merienda; Catalan, berenar). If it’s a hot day, expect to see some iced coffee (Spanish, café con hielo; Catalan, cafè amb gel). But don’t usually expect to see milky coffees — most locals think milky drinks are strictly for the morning. The later in the day it gets, the darker the drink. The final, post-dinner coffee of the day is often laced with brandy (Spanish, Carajillo; Catalan, Cigaló), to offset the day’s caffeine intake.
Popular Types of Coffee in Barcelona
- Café solo/Cafè sol: an espresso — a short, black coffee made in a high-pressure machine, ideally from freshly ground Arabica beans
- Café Americano/Cafè Americá: an espresso with added hot water
- Cortado/Tallat: an espresso with a dash of milk
- Café con leche/Cafè amb llet: an espresso plus a generous amount of hot milk
- Café con hielo/Cafè amb gel: espresso poured over ice
- Carajillo/Cigaló: an espresso with a dash of something strong, typically brandy
Coffee Spots to Kick-Start Your Creativity
Le Méridien Barcelona
Longitude Bar 02º 10‘, is the ideal place to enjoy an Illy® coffee, or start the day with a stimulating breakfast. Enticing aromas can inspire your work or simply set the mood as you enjoy reading a fascinating book or watching the fascinating street life of Barcelona through the ample windows.
Consult the Master Barista for the perfect Illy® coffee made just the way you like it, or in a way you’ll love that you’ve never tried before.
Le Méridien Barcelona HUB
Discover a unique place for brainstorming, short meetings or breaks. The Le Méridien Barcelona HUB offers a perfect blend of art and leisure opportunities. Sink into its comfortable sofas and leather armchairs and spend International Coffee Day enjoying a rich Illy® coffee, accompanied by an indulgent coffee Éclair.