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From Cortaditos to Lattes: A Coffee Lover’s Guide to Coffee in PR


Picture this: I’m standing in line at my local coffee shop, (#SupportLocalBusinesses!) fantasizing over the sweet cafecito I’m about to order when I overhear a conversation between two adults, seemingly around my age. It went something like this:

Millennial #1: “Ugh I’m so tired, I think I’m gonna order a cortadito.”

Millennial #2: “Dude, no! Get a latte, it’s bigger so it has more coffee.”

Millennial #1: “Seriously? I thought the coffee was more concentrated in a cortadito.’’

Millennial #2: “Okay, no. You’re all confused. I love coffee, okay? So, just listen to me. Get the latte.”

At this point I had already tuned out in fear of a heart attack before I even had my own dose of caffeine- serves me right for listening in on private conversations!- but it did get me thinking. In Puerto Rico, coffee is a fundamental part of our culture. Generations upon generations before us have loved and respected the caffeinated drink and have gone to their local corner shops and cafes to get their daily fix.

Aside from our traditional Puerto Rican coffee styles, we’ve inherited lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and more! Our parents and grandparents all know the difference between a bibí, a cortado and café con leche. They know the difference between café puya, melao and coffee a término. So when did we, as a generation, start to forget our coffee roots?

That’s where I come in! Here is my gift to you, lovely reader. A break down of coffee styles, old and new.


  1. Espresso- Finely ground coffee beans, brewed by forcing about 1.5 ounces of almost boiling water at up to 15 ATM (atmospheres) of pressure. The result is a beautiful shot of dark brown, ever so slightly thick liquid with very little crema (the foam layer topping the coffee).

  2. Drip coffee- This coffee is a coarser grind than espresso and is made by dripping boiling water directly over the grind. This brewing process is longer than that of espresso but- fun fact!- a cup of drip coffee contains more caffeine than a shot of espresso!

  3. Latte – Made with espresso and steamed milk.

  4. Cappuccino- Made with espresso, hot milk and topped with milk foam.

  5. Macchiato – Espresso with a touch of milk. Another fun fact! The macchiato originates in Italy and it literally translates to “stained”. So a macchiato is coffee with just a “stain”of milk”.

  6. Cortado – The Puerto Rican version of a macchiato. It can be made from drip coffee or espresso. The important thing is that it is more coffee than milk.

  7. Bibí – The very opposite of a cortado. More milk, less coffee.

  8. Espresso- Strong, dark coffee. The base for most popular coffee drinks.

  9. Americano – Espresso topped with hot water.

  10. Mocha – Coffee with milk and chocolate.

  11. Puya – This is the Puerto Rican term to describe coffee that has no milk or sugar. It’s just black coffee, in general, drip coffee.

  12. Melao – The direct opposite of puya! This is our way of saying coffee is very, or even, too, sweet.

  13. Café con leche- The standard cup of coffee.

  14. Termino – The Puerto Rican way to describe a cup of coffee that is not too strong or too milky.

I know what you’re thinking. “Carla, some of these are so similar!” and you’re right! The great thing about knowing both our local terms and the terms we’ve come to know is that A) It will guarantee you get exactly your coffee how you like it, whether you go to the local community bakery or a “fancy shmancy” coffee shop and B) you’ll look #CulturedAF and will seem like a total coffee connoisseur! Now go to your favorite shop, order your favorite cafecito and spread your newly acquired knowledge with your fellow coffee lovers!

Image description: a very cute flower design on a white chocolate mocha latte made by yours truly!

Just a little Latina trying to make it to Broadway. September 10th, 1996, San Juan, Puerto Rico at 7:24 am. I was born surrounded by the torrential winds and rain of hurricane Hortense and since then, I have carried that same fierce energy with me wherever I go. A lover of all things related to the sun, coffee, makeup and musical theatre. Political and opinionated. Feminist. Will most likely be found around campus listening to cast recordings of musicals old and new, iced mocha latte in hand. Follow me on IG and TW @carlaivelisse_
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