When we think of Spanish Coffee we tend to think of a steaming mug of java with rum or other alcohol and topped with whipped cream, but the Spanish influence on the coffee industry reaches much further than the bar in a ski lodge.
Spanish ships carried the plants and seeds to many remote areas of the world where it was not native but soon became central growing hubs. Descendants of Spanish conquistadors settled in Central and South America where they created huge plantations for growing coffee.
It originally came to Spain with Turkish immigrants. Not much, if any, was actually grown in Spain but they developed a method for roasting that produces very dark, almost black oily beans that makes it very strong that is known as Spanish Roast, or Dark French Roast.
Growers in Latin America accounted for nearly half of all the beans exported; however, most Spanish coffee served in Spain comes from Angola and Mozambique and is roasted dark to bring out the full flavor.
Coffee houses in Spain are usually elaborate, elegant gathering places with high ceilings, ornate furniture and waiters in white shirts and black ties. The customers are appropriately dressed and the atmosphere is somewhat reserved. In Spain they are quite different from other regions of the world where a casual, informal environment would be expected.
Early Arabic traders tended to gouge the Spanish coffee merchants on pricing and the result was the highest priced cup of java in Europe. Portugal, Spain’s neighbor, had colonies in several java growing regions in Africa and sold it to Spain at more reasonable prices. However, the quality was not as good and some importers chose to pay the higher prices for the Arabian beans.
Whether the Spaniards were the first to add alcohol to this beverage is unknown. But this practice is very common in coffee houses in Spain, even in the morning hours, so it is possible. The familiar beverage on cold afternoons does have its origin in the rich and elegant coffee houses of Spain.
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