Ordering Coffee in Buenos Aires
Enjoy a cup (or two) of the best café Buenos Aires has to offer
True to Argentina’s celebrated Italian heritage, Buenos Aires boasts a rich cafe culture. Meeting friends for coffee is an central part of social life, and it’s common to find porteños conversing for hours over one cup, in hip cafes and traditional bars alike. You’ll be hard pressed to find drip coffee in BA (that’s right, forget bottomless refills!), but the espresso served here is strong enough to keep you buzzing all day long.
La Merienda: Argentine Tea Time
Ever wonder how Argentines manage to wait until 10 pm to eat dinner? The secret may be in their fourth meal of the day: la merienda (mer-ee-end-ah). Served between 4:30 and 8:30 pm, the merienda meal usually consists of toast (tostadas), cake (torta), or croissants (medialunas) dipped in a coffee of choice. Keep an eye out for special promotions, which often include two medialunas, cafe con leche, and fresh squeezed orange juice.
Coffee Ordering Guide
Though the coffee is delicious, it can be confusing to know which drink to order since the names may mean one thing in your country, something completely different in Buenos Aires. Here’s a quick guide to ordering coffee like the locals: don’t forget to sit back, take your time, and relish every sip!
Coffee comes in three possible sizes: chico (chee-co) is usually one shot, un jarrito (har-reeto) about a shot and a half, and doble (doh-blay) the double shot size. All drinks will come as chico unless otherwise noted, so be sure to add the size after ordering your drink. For example, if you want a medium espresso with just a touch of milk, order un cortado en jarrito. If you want a big cup of black espresso, order un café doble. For decalf version of any of the following, don’t forget to mention descafenado (dehs-cough-eh-nah-doh).
- un café: (cah-fay) one shot of creamy espresso. Plain and simple, a nice pick-me-up in the afternoon.
- un café con crema: a shot of espresso with a spoonful of whipped cream.
- un cortado: (core-tah-doh) espresso with a dash of steamed milk and foam. Cortado literally means cut, so the coffee is “cut” by the milk.
- una lagrima: (la-greem-ah) steamed milk and foam with just a “tear-drop” (una lagrima) of coffee.
- un macchiato: (mak-ee-ah-tow) an espresso with a dollop of foam, but no milk. This drink is less common than the rest.
- un americano: (ah-mer-ee-cah-no) a fancy way of saying un café en jarrito. This is basically a shot and a half in a medium cup, in some cafes they will add a touch of water to make it liviano, or weak.
- un café con leche: (cah-fey cone ley-che) a classic! Cafe con leche means coffee with milk, and is just that: half espresso, half milk with foam. This drink is similar to a cafe-au-lait or a latte, and automatically comes in a double cup.
- un cappuccino: (cah-poo-cheen-oh) the cappuccino is the most visually stunning, as it comes in a tall thin glass, with clear layers of milk, coffee, and foam. It’s quite similar to a café-con-leche, but sometimes comes with cinnamon (canela) or chocolate. A cappuccino italiano will have whipped cream as well.
- un submarino: (soob-mar-ee-no) not a coffee drink, but lots of fun! This is basically a deconstructed hot chocolate; the waiter will bring you a glass of warm milk and a chocolate bar, which you can plop into the milk and watch drop like a submarine. Stir and enjoy!
For more information on Buenos Aires coffee culture, check out this Pocket Culture Guide, and for more on ordering coffee including some advanced hand gestures, check out Wander Argentine’s Cafe Culture — A Guide to Ordering.