Finding good coffee in Barcelona requires an investigative spirit. Though coffee has long been ubiquitous in the city, it’s consistently been of poor quality–over-roasted and drenched in milk. Like many traditional European coffee markets, the idea of “third wave” is new to most locals, and they are still learning not to frown at the idea of filter coffee. Nevertheless, there is a palpable excitement that a coffee scene is taking shape in Barcelona, and it’s happening at a blistering pace. Up until last February, one of the only places for good coffee was Satan’s Coffee Corner, nestled at the time in a bike shop in the Raval area. But this spring, the pace of coffee in Barcelona accelerated quickly. Nømad Coffee Productions and Skye Coffee opened—unknowingly on the same day—Onna followed very closely, and Satan’s Coffee moved from its original small cornershop to a new location a few months later.
Barcelona's best cafe offerings are not immediately visible: they are tucked away in quiet plazas, passageways, and off-the-beaten-track neighbourhoods. It's as though the local coffee professionals cultivate a certain pleasure in making the getting-there a journey, as a way to highlight how much effort goes into a cup of coffee–attention to detail, high quality standards, careful control over all the variables, and a great deal of dedication. I've chosen four of these great cafes—and one roaster—to profile in this first look at Barcelona's emerging coffee scene.
Satan’s Coffee Corner
Satan’s Coffee Corner is the brainchild of 25-year old barista/entrepreneur Marcos Bartolomé (in his distinctive, quirky humour, he tells me he’d rather be referred to as “coffee lord”). The first of Satan's corners in Barcelona appeared in 2012 as a hole-in-the-wall, take-away counter inside a gift shop, before moving to a bike shop the following year. This past June, Bartolomé's dream finally came true: Satan’s Coffee Corner moved into its own space, in the central Barri Gòtic neighbourhood. Upon entering the space, you’ll find Marcos making coffees at a La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine with its fiberglass case purposely removed so as to show its insides–a metaphor for his approach: raw, accessible, no-bullshit.
Bartolomé has extensive coffee knowledge, but prefers to steer away from professional jargon and would rather avoid barista circuits altogether. The beans used come from Right Side Coffee (see below), local roasters that work closely with Satan’s Coffee. You can order anything from espressos and flat whites to the full range of pour-over filter brews, AeroPress coffee, cold brew and coffee with beer. There’s also a seasonal menu of breakfast and lunch items, carefully put together to match the taste profiles of the available coffees. In addition to drinks and food, there’s also a curated selection of independent magazines, limited-series prints by El Puto Ken and a selection of plants (succulents!), all of which can be purchased. Marcos is relentless, and his intentions for the future do not include slowing down: the plan is to add a whiskey bar in the evenings, and eventually open Satan’s Coffee in other cities (Copenhagen? Montreal?).
Located at Carrer del Arc de San Ramon del Call 11, Barcelona. Open Sun–Thu 8:00 am–8:00 pm, Fri–Sat 8:00 am–1:00 am (subject to change).
Nømad Coffee Productions
Nømad Coffee Productions is hidden in a charming, almost secret passageway in the neighbourhood of El Born. The space is like a coffee oasis, peaceful and pleasant. The barista, Jordi Mestre, was trained in London at Nude Espresso, where he also learned the ropes of roasting, before returning to his native Catalonia to start his own venture. Mestre, who won the National Barista Championship in 2012 and 2013, describes the establishment as a “coffee showroom” rather than a café. There are no pastries and no sugar, the idea being that the place is meant for learning about coffee while you’re enjoying it.
During the morning, Nømad is open for the public to come drink coffee, and in the afternoon, the place turns into a training space operated by Kim Ossenblok—the other proprietor, who is also a national cupping champion and third place World Cup Tasters finalist in 2012. (Additionally, Kim runs the most-read coffee blog in Spanish, Barista Kim). The bar, where a Dalla Corte DC Pro espresso machine presides, is designed to welcome guests on either side of the machine so one can ask questions, and even make your own coffee if you’re in the business. Nømad Coffee Productions is also a roaster, a consultant for coffee-related businesses, and event organizer. They also recently started making and distributing bottled cold brew, which is still quite the novelty in the city.
Located at Pasaje de Sert 12, Barcelona. Open Mon–Fri, 8:30 am–3:30 pm.
Skye Coffee is located inside a sleek industrial, multidisciplinary art and design space called Espacio 88, in the area of Poble Nou, and is named after British designer and owner Skye Maunsell. The idea of opening a cafe came from a nexus between her two passions—vintage cars and coffee. The coffee is served from a beautifully restored 1972 Citroën HY that has been converted into a coffee truck, now parked inside the space beside a set of sofas and a massive wooden table where guests can sit down. Their espresso machine is a La Marzocco Linea PB.
Since opening in March, Skye has attracted a growing crowd of local businesspeople, neighbours and coffee aficionados willing to step out of the city center. Local bakery Pastelería Hofmann supplies pastries daily, which can also be accompanied by a selection of organic teas from Whittard of Chelsea. Right Side Coffee roasters provide most of the coffee beans, but Skye likes to bring in coffee from international roasters as well, such as Café Grumpy in New York and soon, Workshop Coffee from London. The offerings will slowly expand, with drip coffee becoming available in September.
Located at Carrer Pamplona 88. Open Mon–Fri, 9:00 am–1:30pm.
Anahí Páez is an entrepreneur from Costa Rica whose family has long been in the coffee growing business. She opened a cafe in Costa Rica at only 17 years old, which became the first internet-café in the country. Years later she relocated to Spain, where she is now dedicated to bringing high quality Costa Rican coffee not only to the city, but to all of the EU. Onna Coffee, which opened this past March, is a roaster and also wholesaler of green beans. Located inside the Valkiria co-working hub in Poble Nou, Onna is also a large but cozy cafe that serves espressos and flat whites (using a Dalla Corte dc pro), in addition to Hario v60, Aeropress and Chemex.
All the coffee beans at Onna come strictly from Costa Rica. Anahí’s idea is to have people experience the different terroirs within one single country – the one she knows so well. As she points out to me, her coffee isn’t a light roast, but perhaps “somewhere in the middle.” Anahí is also concerned with reviving the cafe as a place for discussion and exchange of ideas, as she notes that in Spain, coffee has long been served at bars alongside booze and without the particular attention it requires. Currently, the food offerings include locally crafted sandwiches (try the Spanish ham) and pastries. In September, there are plans to open a kitchen and expand the menu. The future of Onna Coffee includes a wider exporting market and perhaps a new location elsewhere in the city.
Located at Carrer Pujades 126 – Valkiria Hub Space, Mon – Fri: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, cash only.
Right Side Coffee
This isn’t a cafe, but as an exceptional local roaster, it's well worth mentioning. Right Side Coffee got its start in 2012 and is based in Castelldefells, a twenty-minute train ride from Barcelona (where, by the way, there are great, less touristy beaches). This young roaster is anything but traditional, as its website makes clear: “we hate latte art. But don’t be scared! We like to provoke so that you look beyond the surface.” Their philosophy is based on traceability, fair labor, educating the public and maximum quality and flavor. They opt for light roast in order to maintain and reveal the idiosyncrasies of each coffee. To say the least, their team is pretty solid: Joaquin is the roaster and works with Javier García Fúnez, three-time barista champion of Spain, and Lara, who was this year’s national Aeropress champion. Their coffee is served at Satan’s Coffee Corner (where you can also purchase their beans), Skye Coffee, and other establishments in Barcelona, like the restaurant/bar Caravelle (carrer del Pintor Fortuny, 31), as well as Toma Café in Madrid (calle la Palma 29).
Leticia Trandafir is a writer, photographer and artist based in Montreal. You can find more of her work at www.leticiatrandafir.com. This is her first piece for Sprudge.com
Photos: Maya Venkova & Leticia Trandafir