Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Milk and honey (guilt free)

Por: | 08 de diciembre de 2011

Most Brits and other folk of Anglo-Saxon stock complain bitterly of the sterilized, long-life milk which tops up cafés con leche in Spain, or, still lukewarm from the supply of Tetra Briks in your larder, provides a suspiciously insipid pool for your flakes to float in. So do I. But what was more disturbing for me was the amount of packaging I started to feel responsible for when I moved to Spain. You can get "fresh" (simply pasteurized) milk in many supermarkets, but it still comes in a carton or a plastic bottle. In a household where two or three liters are absorbed on a daily basis, the guilt factor piles high for someone who "likes to think he is green... at heart."

In the UK, it is still possible to have milk delivered on the doorstep in good old glass bottles, which are collected for reuse the next day. My most recent experience of that, in London, was that what used to be as British as a back-alley dance scene from Billy Elliot had become a pricey "lifestyle choice," basically because very few people were now choosing it. As a consequence, gone was the near-silent, low-emission (it does have to be charged) milk float, that whirring, gently clinking companion of the dawn, and in was a diesel-fueled harbinger of the rush hour. The milk was reliably fresh on the doorstep, but it was hard to feel reassured that the household carbon footprint was shrinking, given the number of miles that little truck had to do to empty its load.

But back in Madrid mivavca has an answer. Straight from the family farm 50 kilometers north of the capital, the company dispenses milk from its own machines. You can buy an empty bottle (glass or plastic) if you come empty-handed, reuse them next time around or bring your own Aquarius container - but make sure it's a liter; that's how this fresh milk comes out when you press the green button: 1 liter for 1 euro.

SP_A0064Fed up with the shockingly low farm-gate price for milk, dairy farmer Álvaro de Miguel decided two years ago to keep back some of his output and take over the whole process himself, from cow to mouth. He got the idea of the vending machines after seeing a similar venture in Italy. But the switch was expensive. The pasteurizing equipment alone cost 30,000 euros, with more money required to fit out a suitable building to house it on the family farm near Navalafuente in the Madrid sierra, where he keeps 200 cows outdoors, except for milking time: "Cows are much better off loose than in closed barns," De Miguel says, adding that most dairy cows in Spain are kept indoors in cubicles all year round as "there isn't enough pasture to feed them outdoors." He means there isn't rich enough pasture to keep a large enough number of cows in one compact space to make the venture profitable, because the wholesale price is too low for farmers, and too low for the poor cows to roam in a field. But milk, however tasteless, is cheap.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, de Miguel recalls, you could get traditonal milk delivered to the doorstep. "We are fighting so that fresh milk makes a comeback," he says. But mivaca is a small enterprise, and there's a good chance you won't have a machine or a supplier (Sánchez Romero supermarkets are a client) nearby. Good luck if you do!

With honey, however, the problem of perishability does not exist, and I have found a supplier where they are more than happy to refill your pot to save on waste. Casa Pajuelo at number 95 Calle Atocha is a buzzing hive of amiability and, more importantly, a place to find a mind-boggling array of different honeys and other natural products such as herbal infusions and spices. My favorite so far is chestnut (castaño) honey, which is almost caramel-sweet like maple syrup. But the 'brezo' is amazing in a tangier way and the Holm oak is another aromatic favorite. All of Pajuelo's inexpensive honeys are delicious and the taste is sweeter still when it feels like you are doing the right thing.


Hay 10 Comentarios


A wether gives no milk. They're actually castrated rams.

Mr. Kinuyo, 1st of all, let me apreciate the way you express your information (already known). Secondly, I'd like to point out that what I complained about was someone else's way to express his opinion, in my opinion, in a totally unecessary rude way.
Wether milk is basic or not, that someone asks for better quality (and less harmful with the environment) in food, should not be used to insult that person.

Rosa, milk is not so basic as you seem to think: hundreds of millions in China and Japan never drink milk nor eat milk derivatives, such as yoghourt, butter or cheese and are adequately fed and healthy. In fact, a certain proportion of people become in adulthood incapable to digest and metabolize lactose, a sugar present in milk, due to a deficiency in the production of lactasa, the enzyme that breaks down lactose during the digestive process. This proportion is of less tan 10% of adults in the north of Europe and climbs up to more tan 90% in some asian and african regions.

So gren at heart you might as well buy yaself a cow and keep her company. What? You've already done that? She's Spanish? You married her?

@Go home - You go fuck yourself, wanker.

Yo soy de Madrid, pero desde hace 11 años vivo fuera y después de pasar por Holanda, Alemania e Italia y disfrutar diariamente de la leche fresca y de calidad, cada vez que vuelvo a España me doy cuenta del desastre lechero que tenemos allí. Algunas marcas (ej. Priegola) se salvan, pero el resto.... es realmente un desastre. Muchas veces pienso que en España la gente deja de tomar leche (sola) y miel por la mala calidad de la oferta standard.

"Go home", esto es una columna personal, no es una editorial, asi que si al Sr. no le gusta la leche, tiene todo el derecho y para eso esta este sitio. Ademas tiene razon en lo que dice sobre la leche. A mi me gusta la leche de Espagna porque me he acostumbrado, pero reconozco que la que tomaba de pequeña (directamente de la vaca en mi pueblo) estaba mucho mas buena. Y es cierto, que ademas se contamina un montón. No es normal que una persona que aboga por leche (alimento básico) de mejor calidad, le digamos que se vaya a su casa. No nos esta intentado vender la suya. No cree Ud.?

I like the post! I do not live in Madrid now, but I think is a great idea...and yes...we are far away comparing to other countries in "enviroment"!

Yes, yes Spain has all defects in the world. For example we have the nuclear bomb but we are sure this cannot contaminate. And we have several petrol companies that are literally stealing all the oil from third world countries with the help of dictatorships...and...oops, excuse me, did I write Spain in my first sentence? Sorry, sorry, I meant UK. Hypocrites. Brits go home.

Las navidades están a la vuelta de la esquina. ¿Tienes pensado ya todos tus regalos para ti o tus seres queridos? En nuestra web podrás encontrar un amplio catálogo para todas las edades y economías.


Publicar un comentario

Si tienes una cuenta en TypePad o TypeKey, por favor Inicia sesión.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

El País

EDICIONES EL PAIS, S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 – 28037 – Madrid [España] | Aviso Legal