Archives for posts with tag: Drinks

Coffee at our regular breakfast spot, Bar Alfalfa

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a national cover-up afoot! Our vocabulary would lead us to believe that the energizing element in both coffee and tea is one and the same, caffeine. Not so! At least, according to the Spanish. Caffeine (cafeína) is in café but NOT in tea (té)…that would be teína, of course.

Julia unexpectedly walked into this debate a couple of weeks ago at a roadside café. As a busy waiter paused to listen to her order, Julia told him ” un té.” The waiter rushed off to complete her and the many other patrons demands, and as he happened to rush by her again a moment later, Julia remembered she wanted to modify her order, and told him “descafeinado, por favor” (de-caffeinated, please). The waiter nodded at her and sped off once more. A minute later, he arrived with Julia’s tea…and a de-caffeinated coffee.

“I’m sorry,” Julia said, “I only ordered tea.”

“No, you didn’t, miss,” the waiter replied, “You asked for a tea. Then you asked for a descafeinado.”

“Actually, I just wanted a de-caffeinated tea,” Julia tried to clarify.

Looking at her with as much surprise as if she had just told him that Spain hadn’t actually won the 2010 World Cup he responded “What are you talking about? Tea doesn’t have caffeine.”

Julia wanted to argue that yes, indeed there was caffeine in tea, but she could see she was in a minority position as her co-worker near-by confirmed the waiter’s pronouncement.

“You’re thinking of teína,” her co-worker said, trying to help, “teína is in tea, cafeína is in café” he continued matter-of-factly.

Sensing herself defeated, Julia held her tongue but later told me the story.

The very next week, one of the teachers in my department offered me some tea, and he added, in Spanish, “I have tea with or without teína. What’s the English word for teína again?” I tried to explain what Julia had attempted, that we use the word “caffeine” for both coffee and tea, but his doubtful look made me suppose he didn’t entirely believe me.

How to solve this difference of opinion? Wikipedia is very helpful. It states that caffeine is obtained by “infusions extracted from the bean of the coffee plant and the leaves of the tea bush.” When “teína” is typed into the Spanish Wikipedia search engine, the page re-directs to the “cafeína” page. And finally, when “teína” is translated by a Spanish-English on-line dictionary,  the result is “caffeine.” Now, none of these methods are exactly scientific or conclusive, but I like to think it at least justifies our non-discriminatory use of the word. Just take care when ordering drinks in Spain…you may end up with a surprise…and a debate!

Coffee and tea in Granada, Spain




The prospect of our long weekends here in Sevilla from the perspective of Thursday night can seem a bit daunting in figuring out how we will fill up the many hours without deadlines, commutes and early bedtimes. After our initial “hallelujahs!” at the end of the work week, we turn to pondering this “problem.” Since our social circle is still small, this can seem especially challenging.  Here is how this weekend unfolded…

FRI.: A little bit of culture…

Chilling in the museum gallery.

At the moment, there is an exhibition of a wildlife photographer’s work near the Alcázar. Julia and I went to take a peek. The collection is titled “A Zebra in My Bed.” Though there were no beds to be found in her pictures, there were lots of incredible nature shots. The exhibit is organized around 6 high-def TV screens set to slide-shows of the photos. Each TV screen represent a a “theme” of wildlife that the photographer focused on: Intelligence-looks, love-maternity, beauty-black and white, connection-pairs, fascination-birds and power-action and the photographs were grouped accordingly. It was impressive! Here is a link that shows just a few of her photos:

That night, we also attended the European Film Festival that’s been in Sevilla for the past week with one of our neighbors. We saw a film which was an hour and a half of interviews with a 91-year old Spanish woman! It was certainly a linguistic challenge for Julia and I.

SAT.: Deep sea encounters…

Pulpo a la gallega

On Saturday, a friend from our program was in town, and so went to lunch…around 3pm of course! Julia was brave enough to order the pulpo (translation=octopus) a la gallega, which involves a drenching of olive oil and a showering of sweet paprika. The dish was a bit intimidating, especially without the cooked potatoes that sometimes accompany the octopus. Needless to say, there were a couple of tentacles left on the plate when we left. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste!

SUN.: Rain, rain, rain…

Riding the tranvía

We found a church in an outer neighborhood of Sevilla (Protestant churches are few and far between here in predominately Catholic Spain), and it’s a bit of a public transportation adventure to get there for Sunday morning services (not that Julia and I have any lack of experience on public transpo thanks to our commutes!). Here’s a pic Julia snapped of me on the tram outside of our apartment.

Today was the first really rainy day we’ve had here. This meant 2 things…

Julia at the Starbucks across from our apartment. No peppermint mochas and eggnog lattes here- Starbucks decided that toffee nut lattes and praline mochas are more to the Spanish taste.

Holiday drinks at Starbucks and…

Santa penguin socks!!!

Have a jolly pre-holiday day!



Cut to 12pm the night before Julia and I have a 9am flight to Paris…frantic throwing of things into suitcases and cries of despair- “I have nothing to wear!!! Paris is too cool for any item in my closet to show its non-chic face. We will be laughed out of the city by all of the stylish Parisian girls!”

After our trip, I can say that packing for Paris should be very easy if you follow 2 rules: take every black article of clothing you own and, if you happen to be visiting in the fall, every warm article of clothing you own that fits rule number 1.

Fortunately, we weren’t laughed out of the city limits. However, we were faced with an equally challenging dilemma several times a day while we were there- what to eat?

Now, it would seem that in the land of pain au chocolats, baguettes, french onion soup, macaroons, and butter galore, finding something to eat should be easy, right? I would like to believe so too. However, the city is fraught with pale imitations of these dining gems, luring innocent little tourists like me right into their bland, unremarkable traps. Our quest was to not only eat French food, but amazing, soul-expanding, epiphany-causing French food. On a budget, of course!

Here is what we found…

1. Let’s start with breakfast…at the Jean Millet patisserie. Julia and I managed to try a good amount of pain au chocolats and other various pastries on our trip, and we chose to come back Jean Millet for our last breakfast in Paris. The outer shell shatters into a million little butter-infused pieces, and the ratio of chocolate to pastry is perfect. If you’re searching for classics done right, look no further. What a wonderful way to greet the day!

2. These are some Laudrée macaroons in the Versailles gardens. Laudrée macaroons are to pastries what Christian Laboutins are to the shoe world- a brand of pure luxury. Although I’m slightly breaking my “on a budget” rule here, one bite of their vanilla bean macaroon is practically worth a pair of those red-bottomed heels. Flecked with vanilla beans, the pastry cream is strongly reminiscent of creme brulée and encased in the most delicate macaroon shells. We also tried chocolate, coffee and rose petal, but the vanilla bean was the one I was dreaming of on our plane back to Sevilla. Getting into the spirit, we ate our little cookies with hearty cries of “Let them eat Laudrée macaroons!”

3. Ok, ok, so although we could have fueled ourselves entirely on a bevy of Parisian sweets, we took a break for sanity’s, and our health’s, sake, to have some other kinds of food. Like fondue! Joanna, in the picture with me above, took us to a place that she said was very touristy but which I completely enjoyed despite the usual negative connotations that adjective usually holds. Le Refuge des Fondues is close to the Sacré Coeur, and came up with the creative solution of getting around a tax on wine served in stemmed glasses by perversely putting it in a baby bottle instead! It felt a little Twilight-esque with our blood-red bottles. Although neither the fondue, or wine, is out-of-this-world amazing, the funky atmosphere and fun dining experience make this place worth a visit!

Out of the many, many dining out experiences we had in Paris, these are my taste bud highlights. I hope you had fun reading about them!