My love affair with tapas in Spain

I had read a lot about the ‘free’ tapas in Granada before we arrived but didn’t think much about it other than it might be a nice garnish (pun intended) to our experience. Now that I am here, I have become enamored of, perhaps even addicted to, the ritual of going for tapas.

Having a drink and a tapa is a social event and one can either stay at the same place ordering several rounds of drinks and tapas or move from place to place to try the different offerings.

For me there are two times of the day I like to ‘tapear’: In the late afternoon to tide me over until dinner, which is rarely eaten before 9pm or alternatively, in the evening as a kind of light dinner. The main meal of the day is eaten at lunchtime (2.30pm).

So what’s involved?

While partaking in a tapa or two on a daily basis, what I have learned about this highly valued custom is:

  • A tapa (singular) or tapas (plural) will accompany any drink order (except coffees or hot chocolate) from 12pm until late.
  • The tapa is free of charge with any purchased drink
  • A glass of wine cost between €2-€3.50 in Granada and a caña of beer costs €1.70
  • Each subsequent drink you order will be accompanied by a different tapa and you will never be served the same tapa twice.
  • You can often hear the waiters telling the kitchen “first tapa” or “second or third” and the cook knows to make a different tapa.
  • The tapa changes every day in each bar or café.
  • Many bars pride themselves on their new invented tapas while others just do the same standard fare of potatoes and bread.
  • If you are a group that orders several drinks then you will often be presented with a share platter and several small forks around the plate
  • The Spanish language has its own verb for having tapas: ‘TAPEAR’.
  • Granada is the last place in Spain, I am told, to serve FREE tapas with a drink.
  • You do not have to drink alcohol to get a tapa. Our kids also receive a tapa with their apple juice.

So what exactly is a tapa?

It is a small portion or taster of a meal, often cooked but not always. Here are some visual examples of tapas I have eaten in Granada:

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Fish stew on potatoes
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Patatas a la pobre – a typical dish from Granada
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Tortilla de patatas
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Typical Granadino bean stew
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Paella shared tapa plus a tabla of cured meats and cheese (ordered in addition to the tapa)
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A ración of albondigas, patatas a la pobre and gazpacho
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A platter of tapas

The result of my affinity for tapas is that I no longer buy unhealthy snacks on the street like a packet of chips (crisps) or a bread roll as I can sit down in a bar and have a cooked snack made for me. On the negative but also fun side: I am drinking far more beer and wine than ever before. I pretty much have at least one ‘caña’ of beer or ‘copa de vino’ every day.

I will very much miss this Spanish custom when I return home. With a glass of wine accompanied by…zilch costing $10-$13 in Sydney, I could run out of cash pretty quickly if I tried to import my Spanish lifestyle.

My dad recounted a funny (in a dark sort of way) story to me about his return to Sydney after spending a month with us in Granada. He went for a drink with his tennis buddies at the local bowling club and rather than take his wallet, he put $5 in his pocket thinking it would buy a couple of beers just like in Spain. After ordering a beer, the bar tender said: “That’ll be $7.50 please”, at which point my dad, red faced, had to borrow money from his mates. He said he didn’t venture out again for two weeks after that as he was shocked by the cost of things in Sydney.

Needless to say, I think we will be eating at home quite a lot when we return to Sydney, particularly as I just read a survey released this month that ranked Sydney as the 5th most expensive city in the world. It’s certainly no longer the ‘Banana republic’ I grew up in with its laid-back lifestyle and struggling economy. For now though, I might just meditate on that thought over a tapa at my local bar in Granada…while I can!!

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This is a pintxo bar in Barcelona not to be confused with Tapas. You choose your snacks on a stick (€1 each)
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A tapas dinner in Càdiz, different again from Granada (battered fried cheese, roasted vegetables and can’t remember the other one)
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A scenic place for a tapa at the beach in Barcelona
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Even the Japanese restaurant in Granada provides free sushi tapas with drinks

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10 thoughts on “My love affair with tapas in Spain

  1. Hello from Mildura 🙂
    Another inspiring post. Great photos, making me hungry
    We hope to follow your lead by the end of this year and move to Spain for a year. One husband and 2 girls 10 and 6 in tow. Granada sounds very inviting. Thanks for all of your insights

  2. Oooooh man! Looks like you really embraced our Spanish culture! I have just come across this blog today and I can’t stop reading it! This tapas thing (‘tapear’ as we Spaniards say) is part of our culture and lifestyle, specially in the south of Spain. ‘Tapear’ is not only about enjoying the food, I’d say it’s more about the people and socialising with friends and family. There are many cities in Spain for tapas and Granada it’s definitely one of the best ones!. I used to go to Sierra Nevada pretty much every year during my late 20’s and early 30’s and I could speak for hours about stories of being ‘tapeando’ for hours and then ending up in ‘the Teterias’ and then starting the tapas route again in the evening. Now I’m reading your blog from Melbourne and this is bringing back all that magic and wonderful memories of my country with some sense of joy and homesickness. I’m glad you enjoyed my country and embraced our culture so well. Now I’m living your experience in the opposite direction 😉 (casi me olvidaba… en Almeria también incluyen tapas gratis con la bebida pero ni punto de comparación con Granada) Saludos

    1. Hi Andres! So nice to hear you are in Australia! I love hearing about links between Spain and Australia as I often feel so far away from Spain. I wonder if you are experiencing the reverse culture shock than we did in Spain. I am sure you miss Spain….We certainly do! Haven’t had any Spanish friends come visit as it is too far and too expensive 😦 Enjoy your time in Australia and thanks for following our story. We will be back in Spain in June so will be writing more about our return…. stay tuned

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