Coffee is important to people all around the world—from the super-sized Americanos people drink in the States to the mini espresso coffees that you will find in Italy (I have friends who insist that the shorter, the better), you find that coffee plays a big role in most countries. However, I would not consider myself to be a big coffee drinker. In fact, I would say that coffee has found its way into my life because of social reasons.
My first introduction to coffee was drinking it late at night at a local coffee shop in the town where I grew up. It was fun but I didn’t really feel like there was anything special about the drink itself. When I moved to Brazil in 2011, I hopped on the coffee train as most people would drink it in the house I was living; however, I never really bought my own, just shared with others. When I moved to Spain in 2012, in a rush to organize my legality in the country, study for my university entrance exams (a Spanish equivalent of the ACT/SATs), and try to create a life for myself in Granada, coffee was my go-to. In fact, I got pretty addicted.
To deal with my addiction, I cut coffee out cold-turkey. After awhile, I started reintroducing coffee into my life in small quantities. I now will have one or maximum two shots of espresso in my morning coffee—always after my cup of tea and I am already at work. I will not drink it after about 1pm and I (currently) feel no pressure to drink more. All that being said, I would never give up this coffee because I love what it means to drink coffee in Spain.
The Importance of Coffee Shops
We already talked about the abundance of coffee-serving places (read more about it here), but it is true—coffee shops, bars that serve coffee, etc. are an essential part of the Spanish community. People have daily coffee breaks to enjoy a café, having a quick chat with the locals or reading the paper, and take a short break from work. It is something that is so integrated into Spanish life that I could simply not imagine it to be any different. And, because most coffee shops are a place that locals visit several times a week, it is a good way to meet people and strike up conversations.
Making Spanish Friends
It is not easy to make local friends (trust me, it is something I seem to be working on constantly), and in Spain it is no different. While we have a whole post on this topic here, I would just like to say that frequenting one or two local coffee shops on a regular basis is a great way to meet people and, potentially, start a new friendship. That isn’t to say you are guaranteed to run into people you like but, at a minimum, you will start to get to know the neighborhood and the people who hang out there.
In my personal experience, friendship and coffee shops go hand-in-hand. One of my favorite (now closed) places in Granada was run by a friend. I would make the daily 8 minute trek there and 8 minute trek back—a lot of time when you only have 25-30 minutes—to have a quick coffee with him. Sometimes it was packed so I scrolled Instagram while I sipped my coffee but sometimes we had a chance to have a quick chat. In addition, at this same coffee shop my family and I have had the opportunity to meet people who are, to this day, our friends.
This connection of finding a local place (the same goes for bars) where you repeatedly see the same people and occasionally have a quick talk with them can be the start of a new friendship. It is not always easy and you will probably have to step outside your comfort zone, but as coffee shops are so important in Spain, it is a good place to start!
Integrating into the Community
All in all, drinking coffee for me was a way of integrating into the community. It is something that people do on their breaks and a way for friends to meet up on weekends (the number of coffees I’ve had that have turned into hour-plus conversations is more than I even want to think about). It is a way to get to know your local community and begin to create relationships with people you pass on the street everyday. For me, it is a way of getting to know Spain.
Now I have shared my story, why don’t you share yours as well? Just leave us a comment about a good (or bad) memory or experience in a Spanish coffee shop (or anywhere really), and we can see what others experience too!