Perfect Cup

Carousel near the Royal Palace in Madrid
Carousel near the Royal Palace in Madrid

We were in the Madrid airport so long I forgot we were in Spain and then we had another cup of coffee. I’ve mentioned the coffee so often in the last months’ posts because it is more significant than you may realize. It is very rare to have anything close to this ritualized experience in the States.

We’re on the street, walking by shops, and looking in the open doors of cafés. We’re a little fussy. We like a café with food on the counter, Tortilla and exotic tapas under the rounded glass case. And the old man bars with holy cards by the cash register are always more interesting than the ones with a contemporary spin. We walk in and immediately say “Buenos Dias.” It is directed to the person behind the bar but also to the room as well. “Dos con leche” does the trick. You are waited on immediately. We like standing at the bar, occasionally sitting if we’ve been walking all day but we’d rather not sit at one of the small tables. You miss all the action.

These people aren’t underage kids, they are professionals. They load the coffee and slam the handle in the espresso machine with gusto. The coffee drips into both cups at once. Our favorite places serve it in a glass, sometimes too hot to handle. The cup or glass is placed on a small saucer along with a packet of sugar and a tiny spoon. We never use the sugar and I’m sure it winds up on the next guy’s plate. The arrangement is placed in front of you and then the hot foamy milk is poured into your cup. You say, “Gracias” and they say “de nada.”

It is an advanced civilization.

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