A Comprehensive Guide to Ordering Coffee in Buenos Aires
When walking the streets of the Argentinean capital and craving your daily dose of caffeine, you’ll be facing a very important question: Specialty or traditional coffee? If you’re lured by the later then there’s a venti chance that you’ll need to read this guide.
Granted, Specialty coffee has been gaining ground and has now finally been embraced by our caffeinated culture. You can read about some of the best spots to get this liquid gold on our But First, Coffee article. That said, there are more traditional cafés that remain firmly rooted in our society.
The type of place where the words flat white, latte and macchiato are still a foreign language, but that’s not to say that they don’t have one of their own. Here’s everything you need to know to order coffee like a porteño:
| THE TASTE |It’s simple, straightforward European-style dark coffee. Smooth and flavourful.
| THE SIZES |When ordering your cup of joe you’ll be asked: “chico o jarrito?”. The “to be or not to be” of your day. Hint: don’t sweat it, it might sound complex but they’re just asking you to choose a size.
Chico: One espresso shot. Popular for afternoon or evening drinks. Yes, Argies take their coffee at all times, including after dinner.
Jarrito: Probably the most popular size. About a shot and a half, served in a longer glass or cup.
Doble: Double the size of the chico, double the shot, double the fun.
| THE LINGO |Café: when you ask for a café you’re getting an espresso, unless instructed otherwise, in an espresso cup, straight-up. Comes in chico, jarrito and doble.
Cortado: it’s a café “cut” with a little warm milk. It's the most commonly ordered style in Argentina. ¾ Espresso ¼ Milk. Again, you can adjust the size to chico or jarrito based on your liking.
Café con crema: Resembles a cortado, but is set apart by including a dollop of cream instead of milk. Who needs dessert when you can have this?
Café con leche: Another classic among the porteños. 50-50 milk (with foam) to coffee proportions. Only after you’ve sat in a coffee shop and sipped on a café con leche can you truly say you’ve visited Argentina. It automatically comes in a double cup.
Cappuccino: the most stylish of them all. With clearly visible layers of espresso, milk and foam, topped with a little cinnamon, served often in a slender glass.
Lágrima: For the lightweights who don’t want the kick of a cortado. This is steamed milk with just a splash, or literally “tear”, of espresso. An alternative for those looking for decaf, as this is rarely served in Buenos Aires.
Submarino: OK, it’s not a coffee drink, but you will find it in every menu and it is just as fun! The waiter will bring you a glass of hot milk and a special bar of chocolate (this is quite the ritual!). You’re the one creating the magic. Drop the chocolate in the glass and as it sinks like a “submarine” stir to melt. Specially good for a winter creamy treat.
| THE CULTURE BEHIND THIS |The unhurried café culture of Buenos Aires will lead you to packed coffee houses on just about every corner. There’s always a good excuse to take some time out, hang out, and engage in conversation… for hours. The world can wait, it seems, as you sip away on your cortado.
If you want a taste of the Porteño life there’s nothing like a coffee house to soak up the atmosphere. Lucky for you, Buenos Aires is spoiled for choices when it comes to them. Have trouble picking one, or two… or ten? Ask us!