A Buenos Aires Coffee Guide (with pictures)

5 Feb

La Helvetica in Buenos Aires

There is a procedure to ordering coffee in Buenos Aires – part explicit, part understood.

While living in San Cristobal, our favorite hangout was La Helvetica, a top-of-the-line café and confiteria. There, and with the help of some Porteño friends, we received our B.A. coffee education.

With one week left before a move to Las Cañitas, we decided to compile a list of the variations of coffee that are ubiquitous in all cafes around the city. In our efforts to assist fellow travelers, we put in our due diligence and helped ourselves to a different type of coffee every day this past week.

Most Porteños know what they want as soon as they sit down. As a result, menus aren’t usually offered, you have to request them (“Podrías traerme la carta?”). While extensive, it doesn’t offer much in the way of descriptions or sizes. Here’s some information the menu doesn’t include, which we found helpful:

Coffee Sizes in Most Buenos Aires Cafés

First, the sizes (left to right):

Chico – small, popular for afternoon or evening drinks

Jarrito – probably the most popular size

Doble – double the pleasure (of the chico)

Café con leche – An odd name for a size, but only café con leche (or crema) drinks are served in this cup.

Cappucino – Similar to the café con leche, only cappuccino is served in this cup – although you’ll see many places get creative with the sizing and style of this drink.

The glasses in the back don’t have names that we know of. They are used to serve specialty drinks like the submarino listed below.

Next, the drinks:

Café – Espresso, straight-up. (Comes in chico, jarrito, and doble)

Café Chico in Buenos Aires

Cortado – ¾ espresso ¼ milk. Means, “cut with milk.” (Comes in chico, jarrito, doble)

Café con leche – ½ espresso ½ milk. (Comes in one size)

Café con crema – ½ espresso ½ cream. (Comes in jarrito and café con leche)

Coratdo en Jarrito and Café con Leche in Buenos Aires

Lágrima – 1/10 “a tear” espresso 9/10 milk. (Comes in chico, jarrito, doble)

Café Lágrima (Doble) in Buenos Aires

Cappucino – espresso, cream, milk, and cinnamon (Comes in one size)

Capuccino in Buenos Aires

Submarino – milk, chocolate on the side – a Porteño hot chocolate, genius! (Comes in one size)

Submarino (Hot Chocolate) in Buenos Aires

Submarino (Hot Chocolate) in Buenos Aires

If we’ve left anything out, please let us know about it here.

11 Responses to “A Buenos Aires Coffee Guide (with pictures)”

  1. marinasisi February 5, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Ha, ha, I loved this post.
    I just realize that I have a lot of knowledge regarding coffess without even being aware of it.

    • Stephen February 7, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Did your husband tell you we saw him at La Helvetica one day? He did say it was his favorite place for coffee too.

  2. Jill Friesen February 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    The Lagrima is what we call “coffee milk” in New Orleans. Usually drunk by kids and as they got older the concentration of coffee would increase…….it’s how I learned to drink coffee. I never saw it on restaurant menus. My mom would often pour coffee milk over leftover rice from dinner (sort of like a rice pudding) as a late-night snack.

    Half coffee and half steamed milk is a cafe au lait……..a standard on menus in New Orleans and always excellent with beignets.

    Have y’all already moved into your new digs? When do we get to see pictures?

    Love reading your blog…….Jill

    • Stephen February 7, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Coffee milk over rice? Do your kids get to enjoy that as well?

      We have moved, it is wonderful, and we’ll post pictures up soon. Hopefully this weekend.

  3. Pat Dena February 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Very interesting… Can I just say i’m glad I’m not a coffee drinker… hehehhehe

    • Stephen February 7, 2012 at 10:38 am #


  4. Becky Buccola February 10, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    I’m on a caffeine high just reading about all the coffees available. They all sound delicious. Looking forward to seeing pictures of your new abode.
    Love reading about all your adventures. What a life!!!!!

  5. Ellen Reekie February 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Hm. Yes, What a life! I learned to drink coffee with a Hershey’s candy bar. Totally defeated my purpose of going without the sugar in Coke so I soon gave up the chocolate. My favorite is iced coffee – strong, poured over ice (no milk) because it leaves a nice after taste. Do you find it in Argentina?

    We have heard only a little about Maggie’s work…hope all is well!


  6. yam February 24, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    oooh, i like coffee a lot so this was a fun one. maybe one day i can enjoy it at the same cafe! :)

  7. Zehan March 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    This is a nice note.. since it has been very difficult for me to find a coffee shop that actually serves GOOD coffee in Buenos Aires. Just wanna share my thought and experiences.. I found a place called Lattente, and they DO make good coffee, i love the capuccino and most of the coffee they serve, they serve it with latte art. Besides, they actually have BARISTAS working behind the bar, when i never seen one in buenos aires, most of them are just waitress who learn the basic of making coffee.. If you wanna check it out, i leave their link here. Thanks for reading..


  8. Kate March 30, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    My favorite by far (for obvious reasons!). Love you and your mad coffee-ordering/drinking skills!

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