Strolling around Barcelona on a not-so-warm morning in April of 2007, I popped into a small, modern-looking cafe to order a coffee and continue my walk towards the nearby harbor and waterfront. I stepped up to the counter and asked for a café con leche, para llevar – to go. While I was sure that I spoke well, and with an understandable Spanish accent, the look on the face of the barista was pure confusion. “Para llevar?” she repeated, “No podemos,” – we can’t. The expression on my face must have looked equally confused as she kindly offered to make me a coffee in a plastic glass the size of a dixie cup, the only disposable option that they had, warning me that it would probably melt.
Fast forward to the fall of 2010, I had just moved to Madrid, a place reputed for its strong coffee culture, and still, not a single place offering coffee to-go, save for the very un-Spanish Starbucks. Luckily for me, and Madrid’s many caffeine addicts, a little place called Toma Café came along in 2011, offering not only coffee to-go, but AMAZING coffee to-go, prepared in a variety of ways made with freshly ground, premier quality beans, roasted in-house.
The then up-and-coming Malasaña neighborhood was abuzz over this self-proclaimed “house of coffees and espressos”. Today, Malasaña is a full-blown Hipster haven and the craft-coffee crazy that Toma Café single-handedly launched has inspired the opening of several other coffee specialists the area. In the face of their growing competition, Toma Café remains as popular as ever. Once you know a bit about them and what they do, it’s easy to understand why.
Toma Café’s proud owners, Patricia and Santi, are true lovers of coffee and champions of the art of the Barista. They offer their beverages crafted in any of 6 brewing methods, from a traditional espresso pull to cold brewing overnight. More patience-demanding preparations of hot coffee with Toma Café’s Aeropress or Siphon are reserved for when there isn’t a massive line spilling out the door, so their coffee-craftsmen have ample time to work their magic.
In addition to various methods of preparation, Toma Café offers various bean blends and drink recipes. Their beans are 100% Arabica, with origins in Colombia, Brasil, Nicaragua, Java, Guatemala, New Guinea, Perú, Panamá, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Etiopía, Kenia and Bolivia. If you aren’t sure what to order, the team at Toma Café is happy to advise you on a bean / brewing combo. For the more traditional coffee drinker, all of the classics are offered; lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites and more. For those with a sweet tooth, the cafe mocca, vienés, bombón and caramel macchiato are among your choices, or go for an affogato, our personal favorite among the sugary options. Purists can opt for a shot of espresso, the cold brew or a cup of freshly brewed pour over coffee. And if you are feeling adventurous, give their espresso-tonic a try, certainly a refreshing option and not something you are likely to encounter elsewhere.
As important as their craft is their commitment to customer satisfaction. Everyone who works at Toma Café is friendly and helpful. It’s evident that the staff wants you to not only enjoy your order, but your visit as well. Simple things, like asking if you prefer a sprinkle of coco or cinnamon atop your cappuccino, and what brewing method you want beans ground for when you purchase coffee to take home, really make Toma Café stand out from the rest of the city’s many coffee shops and cafes.
Beyond satisfying your caffeine cravings, Toma Café has a light food offering which includes a rotating selection of 3 sandwiches, one of which is vegetarian, two salads, and a case full of mouth-watering pastries and cakes, all made by their in-house chef. Recently, Toma Café has expanded their services to include professionally-aimed coffee-brewing courses and hosting coffee tastings. Coffee tastings are held on Friday and Saturday afternoons for groups of 3-6 people, in English and Spanish. Although we have yet to try their coffee tastings, we love the concept, are certain we’d be in good hands and are eager to sign up for one soon. In the meantime, if the craving strikes for an expertly crafted cup of coffee in a laid-back atmosphere with outstanding service, we know where we’ll go find it!
What to Order
- Espresso however you prefer it
- Cold brew