The story of 3 coffee shops in Madrid as written by Bianca Galan, MuchBites newest contributor.
If there’s one thing I’ve observed since moving here is that Madrid’s food scene is seriously hot right now. I know it, you MuchBites lovers know it, hell even foreigners know it. But the actual hidden gem is Madrid’s coffee scene. Coming from Chicago, I’ve grown accustomed to the variety of third-wave coffee houses found throughout the city. Tasting the beans, picking out the nuances in each roast, that’s my vice. With that in mind, the traditional café con leche just doesn’t cut it for me. However, after doing much running round for coffee week, a bunch have stood out and will surely be my saving grace.
First stop on our list is 1000 Cups. If there’s one word to describe this place, I wouldn’t be able to find it. Part traditional Spanish café, part third-wave-esc coffee shop, this place tries to fill the niche of many. Given its eclectic services, I wasn’t sure if my palette would be satisfied, but I was wrong. 1000 cups is one of the rare cafes in Madrid that offer V60 brewing, and that makes this Chicago gal very happy. In short, brewing coffee the V60 way ensures you a purer, cleaner cup each time you brew. The house Ethiopian blend at 1000 cups seriously impressed me. The owner explains that he samples each roast before he buys them for his shop, so the man takes his coffee seriously. Some blends are roasted in house while others are Roasted just around the corner from the shop. If you’re still a coffee novice and looking to up your game, do yourself a favor and get yourself a V60 from 1000 cups. Start refining your coffee palette here. Of course, other coffees are served here as that goes without say. Ask a few 1000 Cups fans, you’ll be sure to hear them rave about that perfect flat white that compliments their Spanish breakfast. Take that, café con leche.
1000 Cups aside, one of the things I appreciate the most about Madrid is that there is so much flexibility in terms of experimenting with food and beverages. With independent roasters encouraging coffee culture, its espresso counterpart can easily get trapped behind its shadow. Espresso, I love you, but you’ve been neglected. Having a shot of espresso is something common throughout Europe, but the complexity of pulling a sweet, not a burnt shot has long been overlooked. That battery acid you’ve been chugging is a prime example of how the once highly appreciated elixir has fallen victim to the mass production of the “latte.” A good espresso is hard to find, especially in a city were the torrefacto, or as I call it, the antichrist of coffee, is consumed on the daily. But once upon a time, Bianchi Kiosko Caffe was born and now there’s hope for Madrid. Bianchi Kiosko Caffe is every espresso-lover’s refuge. Seriously, I adore this place. It’s a small shop, very much a grab-and-go kind of place. No café nonsense.
If you’re serious about your espresso this is where you come. Bianchi had a huge test to pass. Sandro, the owner of Bianchi Kiosko Caffe, explained to us that what makes Bianchi distinguishable among the sea of coffee shops is that he’s trying to resurrect espresso culture; which is a endeavor I completely back. Sandro wants his customers to appreciate espresso and develop a palate of their own. Before I go into more detail, I just want to put a disclaimer out there: espresso will always be strong no matter how sweet of a shot you pull. Therefore, it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you have a developed palate, you are very much able to distinguish between a good versus bad shot. Sandro’s espresso was spot on. It was powerful, yet sweet. No battery acid here. Feeling like a true Italian, drinking that espresso shot gave me the perfect high to go on about my day. The simplicity behind the ambiance of Bianchi Kiosko Caffe attracts you. It’s not a shop meant to lounge about and do your work. It serves its sole purpose of providing you with quality espresso. It’s like a little piece of Italy in Malasaña.
The famous dirty chai was also a big hit with us. Spotting Sandro’s own homemade chai essence, you just have to go there and experience it. The care and passion that goes into every beverage is noticeable. This little shop is definitely reminiscent to the roasters I find back home. Thanks to the espresso culture rescutiation going on there, we can’t go back to Bianchi fast enough. Bravo Sandro. If in doubt, just go and experience its je ne sais quoi for yourself.
To cap off the week, we paid a visit to the highly spoken of HanSo Cafe. I had a lot of high hopes for this new kid on the block of coffee shops in Malasaña. Because I work from home a lot, I’m always looking for places where I can feel comfortable in the ambiance and get what needs to be done banged out. Right from when you first walk in you feel like you just want to take in a deep breath. The place is spacious and has a clean and welcoming environment, perfect for enjoying a coffee and one of their amazing looking pastries. What distinguishes HanSo is that they combine coffee craft and the art of pastries to create a truly artisan coffee house. The pastries match the meticulousness of the beverages, they’re all made in house. Throughout the shop there are flyers that explain their current roast on rotation, where the batch came from; essentially, all the information you’d want to know regarding your bean. HanSo’s philosophy is highly communal; it’s not in it to solely make a profit. These people really care about their coffee and how it impacts their community. This educational approach is somewhat new to the Madrileño coffee scene and I can only hope that other third wave shops in the city follow its example.
Not a coffee drinker? Hanso also offers other great beverage options. I recommend their Red Velvet Latte. No coffee, just sweet deliciousness. Or, if into coffee and chocolate, then do what we did, order an off the menu Red Velvet Mocca. It’s a beaut.
Our coffee-filled week of adventure showed us a new side to the Madrid culinary scene. The rise of independent shops means that quality coffee will be ever more easier to find. Torrefacto will always be the dominant player, but these shops do a good job of balancing things out. Madrid is doing great things, Madrid’s coffee lover’s are doing great things.