No matter the country, climate, language or culture, every place I’ve visited harbors locals who love coffee. I’d even be bold enough to coin it the drink of the world. What fascinates me about coffee is that countries vary in how they create and take their coffee. This is probably obvious to most, but is a relatively new discovery for me. See, it took me years to get into the bean, and I only came to appreciate a cup when living in Barcelona.
The Spanish Cup
It was café con leche that changed me. Half milk, half espresso, half a packet of sugar and pure bliss. The Spanish keep their coffee simple, because when it’s as good as they have it, there’s no need for any Starbucks-esque remixes and adornments. I never had even a mediocre cup my four months in Spain, but I have to admit my favorite came in a slender plastic cup from the cafeteria of my university, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, for 1,50 Euros.
The New York Cup
I gave up on the hope of a daily cup of café con leceh and gulped down a cup a day of machine-produced hazelnut with skim milk and Splenda (more out of necessity than enjoyment), but that’s not the coffee I remember. About a month into the summer, my friend discovered a small East Village café called Abraço (“embrace” in Portuguese). When I learned they sold the Spanish mineral water Vichy Catalan, I knew I was in love. It’s a European-style coffee bar that also serves small plates and real-deal pastries (such as olive oil cake and my favorite, pain pardu, a thick, fluffy piece of French toast folded in half with ricotta cheese).
Abraço is standing room only inside, but the owners bring out a bench and table in good weather and it’s a no rush environment on one of my favorite blocks in the city (7th Street near First Ave.). And they swirl hearts in the cappuccinos (see below), which would seem cheesy at most places but instead comes across as thoughtful. No Splenda available, but it’s the closest to my beloved Spanish cup I’ve found this side of the Atlantic.
The Puerto Rican Cup
I wasn’t expecting anything special when I flitted down for a week and a half at the end of August, but came to find their coffee is the beverage equivalent the Spanglish most residents speak. The coffee reminded me of Spain, but they definitely love their Splenda. My newly-acquired tastes fit right in.
–Karina for TKGO