When you get to Argentina, one of the first things that come to mind is: where’s my coffee? You’ll probably be tired to try and struggle with coffee slang in any language. This handy guide will teach you how to order coffee in Argentina.
By Carla Chinski, Content Marketing Manager for Vamos Academy
What Is Coffee Like in Argentina?
Since Starbucks started popping up all around Buenos Aires city, coffee ordering jargon like tall, grande, venti, trenta, frappuccino, have also become part of Argentine coffee-drinking vocabulary. While these names and these ways of customizing your coffee drink are still very much a Starbucks signature, you will not be able to find them in a local cafetería or in restaurants.
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Instead, you are more likely to see a long list of coffee style options without clear descriptions. Therefore, we have here a little guide for you, covering the most typical ones you’ll see in a menu.
There are many things that are not available; mainly, half-and-half. If you’re staying longer in Argentina and want a latte, you’ll have to make your own with a half milk to half cream proportion. On the upside, there are products to flavor your coffee and Starbucks serves frapuccino-type drinks at most supermarkets.
Buying Coffee at a Supermarket
The coffee you can get at a supermarket in Argentina is either torrado or tostado (roasted with sugar or with a natural roast.) If you want organic coffee, you’ll have to go to a “green” store or naturista that sells organic food and other pantry goods. If you’re really desperate, you also have tea-bag coffee or instant coffee at different price points. In fact, the most premium brands can get quite pricey, even if mass-produced.
If you’re interested in buying coffee grounds to grind yourself, then Starbucks and Café Martínez sell those for a good price. There are other coffee providers like Café Delivery which are highly recommended.
Since pretty much every café and restaurant serve expresso and not dripped coffee, when you ask for a ‘café‘, you’re actually getting espresso. A café chico is a shot of espresso in an espresso cup. In the case of café en jarrito, it’ll be a double shot in a little taller cup.
This is the most popular way Argentines like to drink their coffee. It is a café ‘cut’ with a little warm milk that comes in an espresso cup. You could change this to your liking base on size. For example, you can ask for ‘un cortado mitad mitad‘, which means half coffee half milk, and that usually comes in a jarrito (taller espresso cup). It’s actually a café con leche, but it comes in a smaller size.
Café con crema
Instead of a little milk, it’ll be a blob of cream in your shot of espresso.
Café con leche
When you order this, it’s automatically assumed that you want the big size (as seen in the main picture). The proportion of warm milk to coffee is 50-50 or mitad mitad.
Capuchino / Capuccino
The cappuccino here is a stylish little drink. It’s usually served in a transparent jarrito where you can see the beautiful layers formed by the coffee, milk and then the foam on top sprinkled with chocolate powder or shavings!
You might not see this in every menu as this is not very common. However, you could just ask for it. This is the same as the typical Americano we all know, where more hot water is added to your espresso.
Decaffeinated coffee is very very uncommon here. Places that gear more towards tourists might serve it, but in general, it’s not available at regular cafés or restaurants. So, when you just want a little bit of coffee but not the kick, this one will do it for you. This is a cup of warm milk with just a “tear” (lágrima) of coffee.
Ordering Custom Coffee
- Mitad y mitad: half milk, half coffee (see: café con leche)
- Más leche que café / más café que leche: this is a good way to ask a barista or server to customize your coffee: more milk than coffee, or more coffee than milk.
- Café liviano / café fuerte: use these terms to tell the waiter if you want a light roast or a more water-based coffee or the opposite (a strong shot of coffee).
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You can get dripped coffee (known as café de máquina in Spanish) in most fast food restaurants: KFC, Subway, McDonald’s and Wendy’s are the most popular fast food chains in Argentina. In fact, there are almost no other options then dripped coffee except for what you can get at a McCafé; you won’t even have to specify.
In Argentina, there are no diners as such, where they can pour you a cuppa. Some old-school bars might have a coffee pot at the ready, however. Gas station coffee is also like the American type, but it’s not high quality.
Specialty Coffee Shops
If you’re traveling from Europe, or are a straight-up coffee buff, you’ll want to get specialty coffee in the city or in the rest of Argentina. You’re in luck, as specialty coffee (café de especialidad) has been getting increasingly popular here. We’ve recommended lots of shops where you can have coffee from different parts of the world.
We hope you enjoyed our blog. If you want to read more blogs visit our Spanish School in Buenos Aires website.