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Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Desayuno! Coffee and Breakfast on the Camino Santiago 2018

Desayuno, or breakfast, is often the second thing 
on a pilgrim's mind each day.

And unless you are staying at a Parador
or have a bottomless pocket,
the breakfast shown above
will be something a Pilgrim only dreams about!

If you are like me, 
by morning, you've already scoped out the closest bar 
and know exactly how long you'll have to walk 
for that first cup of COFFEE!

It is said the first Spaniard to drink coffee 
was a Jesuit missionary named Padro Paez. 
His journal about his imprisonment in Ethiopia describes it 
as a "dark, bitter infusion."
 100 years later, the Borbon dynasty formally introduced coffee 
to the country.
They've never looked back!

Starbucks can't hold a candle to the coffee in Spain, 
as far as I'm concerned! 
Following are some of the choices you might find. 

some of the smaller villages may not have such a long list.
Save exploration for the large cities.
Generally, you will have at least 3 or 4 choices.

Here is a good option to carry in your mochila 
for those mornings where there is a kitchen 
and the equipment to boil water. 
It is called Nescafé and you will find it 
in just about every tienda in Spain. 
I don't believe I ever paid more than 2 Euro for a box,
much less than I'd pay in the USA, 
so I wait and buy it there.
Open the package and you find these cool little single serving tubes.
It's not the same as a brewed cup of coffee, 
but it's pretty danged close. 
I discard the box and just carry the tubes in my pack. 
They're sturdy and I've never had one break open. 
Pour the contents of one tube into your cup, 
add boiling water, 
and voila! 
It'll get you down the road to the next bar.

Once you locate the bar 
(they almost always are open by 7 am), 
pull yourself up a seat and order. 
Your choices are numerous, depending on where you are. 

You'll almost always have at least these first three options 
in even the smallest villages along the Camino Frances. 
Why not try them all!?

This is ESPRESSO. 
You will get one shot of espresso in a small glass or cup.

  This is a double shot of expresso 
and may come in a cup or in a glass, 
as may the single.

  This is coffee with milk, generally about half and half of each. 
The milk is steamed 
so it's probably what you would call a "latte" 
except the richness is much greater, 
in my opinion.

You will notice that there are always 2 packets of sugar and a spoon on your saucer. This is standard. If you don't want to use both packets of the sugar, put the packets on the counter and the attendant will pick them up. Or put them in your backpack to use later in those places where you can not find a bar and need to drink your instant Nescafé.

This is two shots of expresso with just a tiny bit of milk added.  
It is NOT the same as a Café Bonbon. 
Often, condensed milk is used, so this can be quite sweet.

(different from Café Manchado) 
is hot foamy MILK with a drop of espresso. 
It is a bit like a Cappicino and is very rich; 
nice on a cold Camino morning!

Decaffeinated Coffee. 
You can ask for it "de maquina" (from the machine) 
or "de sobre" (from a packet). 
It is not generally brewed fresh from beans.

 Café Bonbon is also called Café Cortado Condensada. 
It is espresso with sweetened condensed milk. 
It comes layered with the heavy milk on bottom. 
You stir it before drinking.

 Café con Hielo is coffee with ice. 
It comes separately. 
You pour it over yourself.

The first time I walked the Camino, not every bartender understood this.
The second time I walked, they all knew it by heart.
If you are not adventurous and just want a plain old coffee
like you'd have in the USA
order this.
It's a shot of espresso
covered in hot water.

Please bear in mind there will be regional variations, and it can be confusing. On the Norte and Camino Frances routes, a cortado is a tiny cup of espresso with just a dab of milk while a café con leche is equal parts of milk and coffee in a modest serving. However, on the Via de la Plata, you may find a cortado more like the café con leche you are used to, while a café con leche is mostly milk with a dab of coffee - what you might call a leche manchada.

If you drink tea, you have options.
You can purchase teabags in most tiendas and markets.
Carry them along if you have a favorite.
Otherwise, plain black tea can almost always be ordered.
If  you ask for TÉ CON LECHE
it may come with or without
the milk already added.

If you prefer to use your own teabag, 
simply ask (and often pay for)

* * *

Buy it or carry it.
The choice is yours.

Breakfast can be a challenge for the Pilgrim. Often, your choices at a bar are a bocadillo, a bocadillo, or a bocadillo! Unbelievable to some, the Spanish do eat sandwiches for breakfast, which often doesn't happen until mid-morning. It reminds me of a hobbit-like "second breakfast."

A good start is the ZUMO. Your heart will sing when you see the telling zumo machine on the bar counter top! It means FRESH ORANGE JUICE for desayuno!

THE BOCADILLO will be offered in nearly every bar. It is a sandwich, and the breakfast version may or may not offer scrambled eggs. You may get jamon y queso (ham and cheese) or any number of combinations of items on a freshly baked bun. If it doesn't feel like the breakfast you're used to, I suggest you get used to eating it anyway. It will sometimes be your only choice and you need the energy.

If you are in a larger city, look for CHURROS y CHOCOLATE. I wouldn't say they are common along the Camino Frances. But you can find them if you keep an eye out.

The chocolate is often very thick, almost like a pudding. The churros are long donuts. The batter is pushed into the hot frying oil with a tube. You eat these with your fingers, dipping them into the thick chocolate. MMMMMmmmmm!

TORTILLA. This is not the tortilla you find in California! This is more like a frittata. It is made most often with potatoes, onions, and maybe garlic and/or peppers. They are cooked until soft and then beaten egg is poured over the top and the entire thing is cooked until firm. Sometimes it is baked. Sometimes it is cooked in a skillet and flipped. However it is done, it is delicious and each one is different. It comes in a wedge or square slice. It keeps well for a full day in your pack if you wrap it up in a napkin. It also makes a great sandwich filling  so if they're offering it, you may want to buy two and save one for your picnic lunch later.

Many villages will have a bakery, and a bakery means pastries! An adventurous pilgrim won't pass up the opportunity to try all the local variations of pastries! Heck, you can walk off those calories in an hour or two! And you're only here for a short time. Enjoy!

Another option is to go to a tienda or market and buy something for tomorrow's breakfast. There are fresh fruits everywhere in Spain. Just remember, "No toca la fruta!" Don't prod and squeeze the fruit - it is not appreciated! This is especially true in the small markets where they buy the fruit by the case and don't want it bruised. Just point and the attendant will hand you the fruit. Don't worry. It's sweet and good, unlike the stuff that is picked green and gassed in the good old USA. This is REAL fruit. Trust...

You can find YOGUR (yogurt) for half a Euro or less. It comes in these nice little cups and travels well. I have kept it for two days in my pack with no problems. It is, after all, curdled milk.

(rice pudding or rice with milk) 
is another option.
You'll find it in the same little containers as the yogurt
in the same cold case.
It's very good and filling.

These are lovely milk crackers.
They have different brands but are pretty much the same.
They are not too sweet and are wonderful for dipping
into your coffee.
They make a great snack also.
I always carry them in my pack.
They are always under 1 Euro.

Fresh farm eggs are everywhere in the tiendas along the Camino.
They are so much different from the processed eggs you buy in the supermarket, 
you will be surprised. The yolks are dark yellow and sometimes even orange. They stand up rather than run all over the skillet. They are FRESH and full of goodness. Don't pass by the opportunity to eat eggs straight from the farm. You can buy them by the 'each.' You don't have to buy a dozen. I have paid anywhere from 10 to 30 cents each. Take them to the albergue and boil them up. Carry them in your mochila. Peel and slice them, making your own fresh breakfast bocadillo

In Spain, tostada means "toast."
 It comes dry unless you specify "con" something.
You may or may not get butter and jam.
You may or may not get another type of spread.
My favorite spread was one on the Via de la Plata.
It was made of lard mixed with minced meat,
and colored with paprika.
It is called manteca colora,
and I have a blog on making it at home
if you like it.

Here is a photo of tostada con tomate,
a paste made of tomatos and olive oil.
Delicious for breakfast!
Sometimes, if you stay in a private albergue, breakfast will be included in the price.
Breakfast is continental and generally consists of
coffee, bread and butter, and jam.
You can almost eat all you want.
Local bakeries are often required by law to donate a certain number of fresh loaves of bread daily to the refugios to feed the pilgrims. So be happy that someone loves you!

There are probably many more choices, 
but these have been the ones that I am most familiar with.

In the end, no matter what you order, 
if your Spanish isn't up to par, 
you may get a surprise!

My advice is to be a good pilgrim and take what is offered with grace. 
You will have learned something new, 
and after all, 
that is part of the Camino adventure!

Buen Camino!

Note:  If you would love to walk the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino

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