May 6, 2008

Coffee Argentina Style


Coffee in Argentina isn’t flavorless grit out of a can, nor frouffy caramel-drenched stuff that costs more than a gallon of gasoline per 20 oz cup.  It’s simple, straightforward, European-style coffee that’s dark and smooth and flavorful.

At a hotel, the breakfast lounge will have two large carafes-one full of very strong black coffee, and one of hot milk.  Thus, cafe con leche, half strong coffee, half hot milk…the perfect accompaniment to the sweet Argentinean croissant, the medialuna.

Argentina is a culture of sidewalk cafes, and every one of them serves up cortitos, or cortitos con leche-espresso shots or espresso shots with hot milk. They are served with a little pat of brown sugar, and the smoky flavor of the coffee is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of pastries topped with bits of candied fruit that look like little jewels arranged on top.  Argentineans use this as their afternoon pick-me-up.

At home, coffee is made in a metal coffee pot (called a cafetera) by pouring water at its boiling point over the coffee grounds. The grounds are in a cloth filter that’s perched on the rim of the coffee pot.  The filter has a wire handle, and the fabric part hangs down into the pot like a little sock.   The brewed coffee is added to the hot milk in your cup. 


As simple as it may seem to make coffee, the flavor of Argentinean coffee really is unique, and tastes totally different from the coffee made from either a drip-style coffee maker or an espresso machine.  Part of it is the coffee used-the coffee in Argentina is very finely ground but very lightly roasted (unlike it’s finely ground but darkly roasted smoky counterpart, espresso.) Also, sugar is already added to the coffee grounds in some brands (like my favorite, La Virginia).  When the hot water hits the coffee, the sugar dissolves instantly, and the result is smooth and sweet.  The method has to be considered,too-the vacuum method is it’s similar to the drip, though it is not forced like espresso, nor percolated.

Once I had tasted Argentinean-style coffee, there was no going back for me.  Here in Denver, I haven’t yet found a store that sells La Virginia.  You can probably find the items you’ll need where you live, likely in a Latin or ethnic market.  Better still, if you’re headed to Argentina, get yourself a filter and a pot and some coffee.  (These items are available in any grocery-Vea, Atomo or Carrefour) And then try this recipe:

                                                          Cafe con Leche

                                                          Coffee With Milk

4 tablespoons coffee

1 qt. water just at boiling point

hot milk (optional)

sugar to taste (optional)

Pour hot water over coffee grounds.  Repeat until coffee pot is full.  Pour coffee into a cup that’s half full of hot milk.  Add sugar to taste, and enjoy with a pastry. 

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9 Responses to “Coffee Argentina Style”

  1. So not fair. Coffee appearing on my screen in the afternoon? So not fair. I have the BEST memories of drinking doble cortados con mis amigos en Bunos Aires. Yum! I am glad Havana made its way here too!

  2. Still haven’t tried home brewed coffee here. Cafe con leche is my steadfast companion. Oh yeah, aside from my marido.
    I haven’t received a lump of brown sugar yet. I’m so jealous! : )
    Havana is sold in the U.S. now?

  3. I had to go online right away to look for this. Here’s what I found:
    This seems to be the instant version. And here’s a source for the ground coffee:
    I’ve never purchased from either of these sources, but they both seem to have a range of interesting products.

  4. I love that first shot – the coffee looks so delicious! I’ll see if I can find the Virginia brand around here. Do you think it would work in a French press?

  5. Good morning! It’s the first time I visit your blog and I find it amazing!
    Thanks for the cup of coffee at 10 am it’s just what I need now :-)
    I’ll follow your post gladly!

  6. Gretchen Noelle-I know! This post made my own self jealous-I wish I could be beamed to a cafe right now!
    Mandy-Thanks for the comment! Gretchen is writing from Peru-so I guess Havana is in Lima!
    Lydia-thanks for the links! I found the one that has La Virginia, though the kind they sell in Argentina is not instant. And I’ll have a look at the coffee makers-thank you for the tip!
    Cookworm-yes-try with a press-you may get a different flavor but the idea is right-very strong coffee with milk.
    Sylvia-thank you! I hope you enjoyed that cup of coffee-and glad you enjoyed the blog!

  7. I’m not much of a coffee drinker but that may change once I drink coffee Argentina style.
    Paz 😉

  8. Looks like my kind of coffee. I will try this tomorrow with my breakfast.
    Wonderful blog btw :)

  9. Cabrales is my favorite! I have to keep having my parents bring it or ship it from Argentina because nobody imports it in the US. Definitely better than American coffee!!

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