Make a little cup of café con leche, close your eyes and picture a sidewalk café in the heart of Spain.
I was lucky enough to tour Spain recently, and while I loved the museums and cities and people and architecture and countryside and culture of that beautiful country…
…I really, really adored the coffee.
My middle-school Spanish class served me well enough to order “café con leche” (literally “coffee with milk”) without hesitation in any restaurant. And most of the Spaniards behind the counter even understood me! (Hey, baby steps…)
So while I had to take a few guesses at the breakfast menu, I could always order my favorite drink with confidence. And I did—about 6 times a day.
When I got home, the first thing I wanted to do was make this gloriously velvety-smooth, deep and rich bit of Spanish heaven back in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
So today, skip the cup at your corner high-buck place. Instead, make your own café con leche!
The only thing you need other than coffee is a bit of milk and sugar. Oh, and the sugar is optional. See how easy this is gonna be?
As for the coffee—make it dark and rich. French roast is a good choice.
Start with two glasses filled halfway with your hot brewed coffee.
If you have a pour-over, French press, or a stovetop percolator, yay hooray, but a regular drip coffee maker will work too. Just make it a bit darker than you normally would.
Next, start a small pot of milk warming over the stove.
Microwave? Sure, okay. That’ll work. But it’s nice, in a traditional kind of way, to heat the milk on the stove. Over the stove, you can really control the heat consistency, pulling the milk from the stove just when it reaches that almost-to-a-boil steaming stage.
That’s pretty much it: coffee + steamed milk, poured together.
In Spain, they pour the coffee first, then the milk. And this all happens right in front of your face, not behind a giant machine.
Sometimes at a restaurant, you’ll sit and look at that cup of coffee for a moment before they return with the little pot of steaming milk.
Steaming hot milk, swished around in a circle in the pot twice before being poured over your hot coffee, swirling together until your drink is a lovely caramel color.
Typically the milk-to-coffee ratio is 50/50, but go ahead and adjust that to your liking. It’s your coffee, after all. Add sugar at this point, too, if you like.
And now do what the Spaniards do: put down that cell phone, take your gaze off that computer screen, and actually talk to the person who is with you.
This is what coffee time is all about. And maybe that’s why something so entirely simple tastes so completely wonderful.