It is simply not possible to walk around Barcelona and not stop for a cup of coffee. Whether this is your first visit and you want to see everything in a short period of time or this is just one more visit to your friends that are lucky enough to live here at the “Ciudad Condal”. Either way, there are just too many attractive coffee places where customers enjoy beverages and life that you can only fill the need to join them and discover why coffee culture in Barcelona is so appealing.
Coffee consumption in Spain can be traced back to the 18th century, a bit later than for other European countries. Eventhough, some stories mentioned that Emperor Charles I (1500-1558) tried coffee and found it energizing. By drinking some of this black medicine he was able to stay awake and work extensive hours. But as this magic potion was considered an evil drink by the religious authority its consumption didn’t spread. Only after it was cleared from its unholy reputation it was the nobles who started drinking it first before the rest of the population gained access to it.
Coffee culture in Barcelona nowadays means that on the way to work people stop first at the local coffee corner for a cortado and a croissant or “bocadillo” (a salty snack) while after work they again first go for a cafe con leche – espresso and milk – or cafe solo – espresso – before heading home. Around 18:00 many coffee places are filled up with families returning from picking up the kids from school. There the kids have their “merienda” (snack before dinner) while the parents have some coffee. But on top of that coffee is also consumed after lunch or during a morning break. And obviously, with such a demand the offer is extensive. In most of the places the quality of coffee is good and improving to even excellent while the prices are considerably lower than in the northern European countries: 1€ to 2€ for an espresso. Cafe con leche are almost cappuccinos, the main difference is that here cappuccinos have always cocoa powder.
A relic from the past, but less and less common, are places serving cafe torrefacto. Torrefacto is the process where sugar is added to coffee during it last roasting stage. The common practice is to add 15% sugar by weight. When the sugar is added the temperature in the roasting chamber is around 200°C and so the sugar caramelizes forming a shiny layer around the coffee bean. This layer will make the coffee look uniform but it also make the taste uniform, deep, bitter and uniform. Additionally it covers up the aroma (too bad!). The main reason that people did this to coffee is need! Torrefacto started during the 1940s when coffee, among other goods, was in short supply. By partially replacing the coffee with sugar during roasting and making it more bitter, less coffee was necessary to prepare the beverage. But as mentioned, the torrefacto process makes the coffee bitter and destroys any good aroma and therefore cafe torrefacto is nowadays considered a bad habbit.
In my next post I will tell you about my coffee tour in this beautiful city, stay tuned!