Spaniards love good food, a good siesta, and good company. But, in recent years, good coffee has steamed its way into their hearts and stomachs as well. You’ll find people in Madrid relaxing with a small cup of coffee at all times of day. There are the older men who chat at the local bar with an espresso and a caña (a small glass of beer) and the university students who sip café con leche in hip digs. In Madrid, quality coffee is making its way up there with quality jamón, wine, and manchego cheese.
Basic coffee in Spain is often knocked for a process called torrefacto, which is when sugar is added in the last stages of coffee roasting, giving the beans a sticky, black coating. While it was developed to preserve beans, it also adds a burned and very bitter taste without any of the nuances of specialty coffee. The method became widespread in Spain during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s when coffee was hard to come by. To counteract the shortage, companies adopted the torrefacto method to produce longer-lasting coffee made with lower quality beans. It also didn’t hurt that the sugar added to the coffee’s weight, thereby increasing the production volume without the cost of additional beans. Over time, this dark, bitter coffee became the norm in Spain, and it’s still popular in stores and cafes today. While Spain has always been known for its gastronomy and fine wine, it seemed good coffee was simply pushed aside.
But things have changed over the past five years. Small coffee shops now work with single-origin beans, seek out unique flavors, and experiment with different roasting techniques. Great tasting coffee isn’t out of reach. Today, the northern neighborhoods of Madrid are bursting with independent roasters, top-notch cafes, and a diversity of coffee drinks.
These are the five coffee shops to try in Madrid for a taste of modern Spanish coffee.
1. Toma Café
Toma makes so many lists on Madrid’s best coffee for good reason. It opened in 2011, and many other reputable coffee shop owners and roasters got their start at Toma. Located in the trendy Malasaña neighborhood, Toma has coffee and tea drinks, as well as gluten-free pastries, breakfast, and lunch items. The baristas are friendly and knowledgeable about the daily roasts and coffee options, and it’ll be hard to find something you don’t like.
What to order: Cappuccino with orange foam and the salty caramel latte
Where: Calle de la Palma, 49, 28004 Madrid, Spain
2. Randall Coffee Roasters
Open since 2014, Randall Coffee Roasters was one of the first roasters in Madrid, and its popularity has only grown since then. The baristas are knowledgeable about the coffees, and only the best is on the menu. Like cascara, for example, which is the dried skin from the coffee fruit that has a sweet, cherry flavor.
What to order: Single-origin espresso (solo or con leche) and cascara tea
Where to go: Calle de Vallehermoso, 36, 28015 Madrid, Spain
3. Hola Coffee
Located in Lavapiés, Hola Coffee is another popular spot mentioned among the best spots for coffee in Madrid. Hola Coffee features brews from its own roastery as well as those from guest roasters. For someone who likes their coffee light and sweet, the filtered single-origin coffee is smooth and delightful, even without cream or sugar. Don’t overlook the seasonal coffee selection, though, for originality and a perfect balance of flavors.
What to order: Filtered single-origin coffee and the seasonal coffees (especially if the ginger butterscotch latte is on the menu)
Where: Calle del Dr. Fourquet, 33, 28012 Madrid, Spain
4. Bianchi Kiosko
It’s easy to accidentally walk past this hole-in-the-wall, but don’t be fooled by its small size. International-DJ-turned-cafe-owner Sandro Bianchi takes great care to serve high-quality coffee and music to his customers at Bianchi Kiosko. The beans are from around the world and roasted in a small Madrid roastery. The cafe has compostable to-go cups, organic options, and an adorable hairless dog named Tu-Pac as its unofficial mascot.
What to order: Cold brew coffee with lemon and a chai latte
Where: Calle de San Joaquín, 9, 28004 Madrid, Spain
5. La Bicicleta
La Bicicleta is not only a coffee spot, but also serves breakfast and lunch, and it opens as a bar after hours. This popular cafe is always packed in the early evening, usually with students and workers looking for a cozy place to settle in. The baristas are friendly, the seating is ample, and the drinks are delicious.
What to order: David’s Vanilla Chai and the Shakerato (espresso and simple syrup shaken over ice)
Where: Plaza de San Ildefonso, 9, 28004 Madrid, Spain