I guess it’s time for a true confession. I’m a coffee snob. And when I travel, I have a passion for supporting local roasters and coffee houses. Let’s just say I’ve BEAN Around the World and I’m feeling like now is the time to start sharing the love… and caffeine, one city at a time. Recently, I had a wonderful holiday in Madrid, Spain. And though it was hard to tear myself away from the incredible pinchos and rioja, I did explore the coffee houses, and I’m glad I did. I drank plenty of coffee, talked with baristas, and I’ve got lots to share with you. Let’s open the TWG cafe society doors and talk coffee, Madrid style.
It was my good fortune that when I mentioned I’d be writing about the coffee scene in Madrid, my friend Eduardo told me that one of his friends had recently opened a coffee house and that I must talk with her. Sure enough, talking with Michelle and seeing her coffee house was absolutely the place to start.
Michelle and Rodrigo opened up Faraday Coffee House in April 2018. Before we get to the coffee, let’s talk about some other things first. Of course the first question that came to mind was why the name Faraday. Faraday was an English scientist, and to Michelle, he represents the best characteristics of curiosity and finding one’s own place in the world. She feels the coffee culture could be more welcoming to people who want to learn and explore coffee. Michelle also wants to exemplify that when one has a passion for the work they do, life is better.
Michelle’s background as an artist and potter shows in the design and creation of Faraday Coffee. It’s a beautiful, artistic, open, bright welcoming space. She’s Argentinian and a mate drinker who five years ago turned her taste buds towards coffee. Rodrigo is a music lover, so besides the displays of Michelle’s art work, you’ll find a box of albums to play while you’re there and also vinyl albums for sale. Michelle and Rodrigo designed the stand that displays the turntable. I loved the design of the stand and want one for my house! They wanted to create an ambiance similar to the diners of old where there was a jukebox and people could play music, only at Faraday it’s free. You’ll love this space!
There are a few neighborhoods in Madrid that we might call trendy where you’d expect to see one-off coffee houses. Malasaña and Bilbao (two of those trendy areas) seem to have one-off coffee shops, but not Chueca. Chueca is a fun area to enjoy with lots of little art shops, designer clothing stores, and eateries, so this is where Michelle and Rodrigo decided to open Faraday Coffee.
Faraday uses one roast for espresso and one roast for filtered coffee. They are using Toma Cafe beans. Their selection of baked goods is from Toma Cafe as well. This is a good thing! I’ll be talking about Toma in a bit. Michelle credits the owners of Toma, whom she met through a Buenos Aires coffee connection, for helping her and Rodrigo get started as well as helping them understand what it takes to run a successful coffee shop.
As with many of the one-off coffee shop owners I’ve spoken with, the biggest challenge is inspiring the locals to try something different. In Spain’s case, it means asking the Spaniards to give up their beloved cafe con leche for perhaps a single origin latte, or single origin cortado. Cafe con leche is typically less coffee and more milk and what the Spaniards prefer. So even a cafe con leche with a single origin espresso will taste very different than what the typical Spaniard drinks. The Spaniards I spoke with about coffee readily admitted that they are slow adopters of change. At home, the Spaniards tend to use a Bialetti or Moka stove top and take their coffee black or with sugar. In many coffee shops and restaurants in Madrid, they use the same distributor who provides the beans, the machines, and all the supplies, so you certainly can order a specialty coffee beverage, but it won’t be from a single origin bean and the beans won’t change with the seasons, and certainly the coffee experience is very different from visiting a cafe like Faraday.
Another interesting aspect to the Madrid coffee scene is that the one-off coffee shops do not carry a decaf bean. While this is not unusual for one-off cafes around the world, the Spaniards tend to stay away from caffeine after 4pm. We could argue that by 4pm, it is time for wine or beer :) However, cafe owners like Michelle tell me that people come in after 4pm asking for decaf, so like me, they do want a later afternoon coffee, but unlike me, they will only drink decaf.
I asked Michelle if young people in Madrid seem to be learning about specialty coffee here in Madrid or if they learn about it when they travel and then explore it when they get back to Madrid. It’s her impression that young people in Madrid are exploring the specialty coffee scene locally, first. The one-off coffee shops do get tourists, of course, and it’s easiest for Michelle to explain the beverages by using cup sizes. For instance, a cortado comes in the smallest cup and really is 2 shots of espresso and a splash of milk. It’s similar to a macchiato with a bit more milk. In a middle sized cup, you’ll get a flat white, and in the big cup a latte. This is good to know because what often confuses tourists when they visit one-off coffee shops is not that a specialty coffee will come with two shots of espresso, but it’s the size of the cup and the amount of the milk that’s unknown.
At Faraday, Michelle crafted a cortado for me. It was strong due to only a splash of milk, but it was delicious and the blend was smooth. One other fun coffee beverage to try is called espresso con hielo. Add a shot of espresso to a glass of ice cubes and you get café con hielo—“coffee with ice.” It’s a nice pick-me-up that Spaniards often drink on warm summer afternoons when they’re craving some caffeine but don’t want something too hot.
If you’re wondering about pour-over coffee in Madrid, it’s not there yet. Michelle said, “We’ll see!” Michelle felt that both the owners and the Spanish customers of the local one-off coffee houses looked to Berlin as the great place where the specialty coffee house scene is happening. And if Michelle could visit anyplace to see what’s happening with specialty coffee, she’d go to Japan. As an artist, potter, and creative cafe owner, I could see this choice made so much sense.
I totally loved the space at Faraday Coffee. The chairs and tables were comfortable and well-placed so as not to feel crowded. The natural light from the street was great and the tall ceilings, white walls, and the way it was decorated, felt peaceful. It’s a place to enjoy coffee and a respite from the Madrid streets. Michelle is a wonderful coffee host, and it was great to share coffee and stories with her!
Next up, we’ll talk about the granddaddy of the coffee scene in Madrid, and I’ll have three other coffee houses for you to explore, as well. Madrid is a city that’s passionate about its beverages! Stay tuned for part two of Bean Around The World: Madrid.
If you liked this post, please check out all the other cities I reviewed in Shelli’s World Coffee Tour.