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Café Con Leche

Spain, like Italy, is a country and a society defined by coffee. Very much so. Café solo, Café con leche and Café cortado are the stuff that wake the Spanish nation every morning the same way that Espresso, Caffè latte, Latte macchiato or Cappuccino raise the energy level of our Italian friends.

I am not really a coffee person myself. I’m into tea, green tea preferably. But have you ever tried to have a cup of tea in a Spanish bar which by its nature means, a coffee bar? Don’t. It is a most revolting experience that might even put you off Spain for good. Tea cups in Spain are cleaned with lejía; that is bleach as in cleaning your floor.

As I didn’t want anything to put me off Spain when I chose to live in Mallorca, I decided to have my green tea at home, and to have Café solo in the bar in the morning, together with a bottle of still water and the local newspaper. I don’t have the Café con leche that you see in the photo, but my wife does. I don’t like milk in my coffee, nor sugar nor anything else.

Over the twenty-odd years that I have been living in Spain, I think I have become a bit of an expert in coffee matters. To make a good Café solo or Café con leche, one has to consider, and master, seven different criteria. The coffee has to be of a good quality and has to be freshly ground on the day. The water has to be of a good quality, too. My bar man claims that rain water is the best for making coffee. The coffee machine has to be good and solid and finely adjusted as far as pressure, heat and speed of the water trickle are concerned. The person making the coffee and handling the coffee machine has to know what he or she is doing. Never let a novice or trainee spoil your coffee. The amount of ground coffee for your cuppa has to be just right, not too little and not too much. The coffee has to form a crema on top of your cup or else, forget it. Crema is that sweet layer of thick effervescent bubbles on the top of a well prepared Café solo or Espresso. The aroma of espresso-machine made coffee lives in the crema, so swirl it around. Get your nose right down into your cup and take the time to smell the flavour. And finally, the coffee making frequency. Don’t have your coffee in a bar where only an occasional coffee is made now and then. Have your coffee only at a place where the coffee machine is in use all day long, churning out dozens if not hundreds of cups of coffee. You will find that the coffee gets better, the more of it the coffee machine produces. Really.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 30th, 2010. The time was 10:47:26.

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