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Coffee for an old grump!

I confess, that's me! I am so much of a coffee snob, I know it. I get a caribbean blend through the mail and grind my own beans. I can't stomach brewed coffee, literally. What can I expect when I travel to France and Spain in 3 months? Is espresso readily available, or is that a dumb question? I sure don't want to be an ugly American suffering from caffeine withdrawals.....help!

Posted by
31465 posts

Gonzy,

I also like my Coffee and have to adjust to a slightly different situation when I travel in Europe.

The first thing to mention is that you won't find too many places that offer a "bottomless cup". You'll pay for every cup, whether it's Espresso, Caffe Americano or whatever (at least every cup will be fresh!).

The Espresso roast is very dark, and not sure which area the beans might originate from (however, I doubt they would be using Caribbean beans - more likely from Africa or Sumatra).

Espresso is most certainly readily available in Italy, but can't remember what the situation is in France (I'll be there again this spring, so a good opportunity to refresh my memory).

Happy travels!

Posted by
3313 posts

Do you know the scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"? The one where Steve Martin staggers up to the car rental counter without his rental agreement? Do you remember what the rental agent said? Same thing.

On the other hand, you'll get great cafe - in small amounts and with varying amounts of foam and water. Just don't expect to choose your beans.

Posted by
172 posts

If you were a real coffee snob you would order green beans and roast your own instead of drinking stale coffee, hee, hee.

Seriouly, you will find "great" coffee in Spain everywhere. You can find great coffee in France almost everywhere.

Find green beans and roasting gear at:
http://www.coffeebeancorral.com/

You can see our pictures of Spain and France. (also our pictures of coffee plantations in the blue mtns of Jamaica!
http://gadtravel.blogspot.com/

Posted by
186 posts

Sorry Mark, I forgot to mention that I'm a lazy coffee snob, that other stuff is too much work! :-)
But who knows, after my trip maybe I'll be invigorated with the energy to roast my own beans! Thanks!

Posted by
4125 posts

Gonzy, espresso is probably the standard form of coffee in France and Spain. But some places, especially places popular with tourists, might bring you an Americano. To avoid this, ask specifically for espresso.

Posted by
31465 posts

Gonzy,

One additional note - I often order Caffe Americano when in Europe. I'll sometimes have Espresso after dinner, but it takes about 30 seconds to finish it as there's not very much in those small cups!

Cappucino is good for breakfast, but drinking that after 10:00 if "frowned on" in Italy (not sure if that also applies to France and Spain).

Cheers!

Posted by
21709 posts

Ken, is correct. There are only two type of coffee in Italy -- espresso and Cappucino -- everything else was invented by Starbucks. Cappucino is a breakfast drink but so many Americans have ordered it that it is generally available all day. Spain is almost exclusively coffee con leche -- coffee and steamed milk. Or espresso.

Posted by
186 posts

Frank!!! Cafe con leche, that's playing my song! There's hope after all and I won't be an ugly American! Viva Espana!

Posted by
669 posts

Gonzy, I am from the Seattle area and like my coffee good (and no, that's not Starbucks for me unless I am hard-up.)

In Germany and Italy, even drip coffee was superior. The Cappuccinos were PERFECTION.

Posted by
8100 posts

In my travels around Europe, we found the coffee in Italy was the very best - even the cheap cups at the airport for 1 Euro, 2nd comes Germany - especially for consistently good brew, then France and the absolute worst is Belgium. How can they make such yummy chocolate and such horrid coffee? We have been to Belgium 7 times and have yet to get a decent cup.

We always grind our own and find the Colombian beans to be the best for smooth, delicious taste and aroma. Once you start grinding your beans fresh, you will not want to go back to the other stuff. It spoils you. Just saw that 8 O'Clock coffee won a big taste test. I thought it might be Dunkin donuts or Seattles best. I do not like Starbucks hot coffee, but the cold drinks are ok.

Most decent restaurants and cafes will have a big coffee machine which you will probably notice when you walk through the door as they are big, expensive gleaming things that make espresso, fresh coffee by the cup, steamed milk for cappucino and latte machiato and often grind the beans per cup. The worst are the places that don't do a big coffee business, so they use these little coffee pads. It is ok, but I hate paying 2 € and more for a cup of it. I'd rather have that, made fresh then a cup from a pot that has been sitting there for an hour.

Posted by
3101 posts

In France you can order a "cafe double" for a larger cup of espresso. It's great with a chocolate croissant!

Posted by
521 posts

I would not go so far as to say I am a coffee snob, but I do like a dark, robust coffee. Italy is the absolute best. Generally speaking - France was awful. Jo from Frankfurt and I are in agreement on this one. I will say the further south you go in France - the better the coffee (Italian influence). The further north, the worse (Belgium influences I guess!) I think cappucino's are a safe bet in northern France. I have not been to Spain, but I imagine it would be pretty good. Cafe con leche...mmmmm, takes me to Puerto Rico!

Posted by
65 posts

I think generally speaking coffee in the morning at your hotel is better in France and Italy than here at a similar budget hotel. Likewise, your average cafe you happen to be near in France and Italy can make a superior espresso than your average American cafe. I always look for what appears to be a quality cafe and order americanos because I like a standard cup of strong coffee. However, throughout Italy and France I've never experienced coffee at the level possible here in my home town. At the absolute highest level of quality coffee, Portland Oregon can stand above anywhere in Europe hands down.

Posted by
67 posts

If you order simply "un cafe " in France...you get a small cup of very strong coffee,expresso like...order a double for a larger one...this is what the french drink and is the cheapest...if you want a touch of steamed milk but not alot try the "noisette" (not sure if I spelled this correctly but that is the pronunciation)...a shot of expresso,small cup with a touch of milk...my favorite when I am there...or a cafe au lait ( more milk)...in Spain I had the best coffees just by asking for a cafe con leche...in Italy,I confess I cannot remember how the coffee worked...there we had such great morning coffee at the B&B that it got us through the day and we started on limoncellos or proseccos or such when out and about !

Posted by
324 posts

Gonzy, I just got back from Portugal, and believe me, they take coffee seriously over there! At any time of day or night people will knock back an espresso of stunning quality. I've yet to find bad coffee there. And, with an average price of €0.80/cup, even if you do find a bad place, no big loss, just move on to the next café up the street.

In Spain, you'll find a mixed bag of qualities, ranging from brilliant to merely similar to the average chain coffee joint in the States. "Café con leche" is about half and half espresso coffee and steamed milk. "Un cortado" is more coffee than milk, whereas "leche manchada" is the contrary. An espresso shot is a "café solo". On your way through Cataluña, you will get points with many bartenders if you order "un tallat" rather than "un cortado" or "café amb llet" rather than "con leche". Enjoy!

Posted by
160 posts

In the summer of 2007 I walked 500 miles across northern Spain on the Camino Frances trail. Just about every bar had an espresso machine, and I ordered "cafe con leche grande" all the time. In the colder areas, I did "cafe con cognac" for a warm-up (overheard a man order it in Pamplona, and it was a nice addition to my coffee arsenal).

Paris and Bordeaux also had good coffee. In both countries, it's cool to know how to order in the local lingo, and knowing the numbers to make exact change is a bonus, especially if the barkeep is busy (in Spain many busy bars I hit were handled by one harried person). Plus, you'll get the jump on the tourista who's trying to piece an order phrase together from his or her guidebook.

Posted by
324 posts

Erik, the "café con coñac" is most frequently called a "carajillo", although depending on the part of the country, that might mean coffee with anisette instead. Every region of Spain has its own distinct coffee terminology, and even natives can have trouble with the slang when traveling from one part of the country to another. In another post, somebody suggested that seeing the Alhambra was a key to understanding Spanish culture. As an addendum, I'd say that experiencing coffee traditions is another key to local culture.

Posted by
160 posts

Gracias, adynata - I've been boning up on my Spanish for my next trip to Spain, and I'll have to order a "carajillo" for sure :-)

Posted by
4555 posts

adynata, exactly right! When in Madrid, you can order "cafe cortado," (just a smidgen of milk) or, for something really strong, "cafe solo," (straight up espresso coffee, black). "But other regions won't recognize those terms. Then there's "caliente,"(with hot milk) or, I think, "fresco," (cool milk). Much better "caliente!"