The Tradition of the Tapa

December 19, 2022

The Tradition of the Tapa

The tradition of the Tapa

There are three main theories on how the tradition of the tapa started. Have a read and let us know what you think the correct one could be!

King Alfonso X and the tradition of the Tapa

According to one theory, the tradition of eating tapas started around 1250 when King Alfonso X – also called “El Sabio” or “The Wise One” – got well again eating small meals often. His recovery was so impressive that a law was implemented that bars or taverns could not serve wine unless they also paired it with something small to eat.

Another version of how tapa originated says that the very same King stopped to rest from a long journey in the province of Cadiz where he ordered a glass of sherry (naturally!). The Atlantic wind was strong that day, so the innkeeper covered his glass with a slice of ham on top of a piece of bread to keep the dust out of the glass. Enjoying the sherry (naturally!), the King ordered a second glass with another slice of ham covering it. The story goes that the word “tapas” got its origins from the Spanish verb, “tapar,” which means to cover or tapa meaning “lid” (This is the theory of the tradition of the tapa that we knew about).

A more prosaic, practical explanation of the tradition of the Tapa

The third version, and a more prosaic, practical explanation of the tradition of the Tapa, that many believe is that while centuries ago water was not always at its cleanest, wine and beer were a safe bet due to the alcohol content. When labourers took their lunch break, they would often have money to either eat or drink. To avoid going back to work drunk, the king at the time created a law that prohibited serving alcohol without food to keep the workers as sober as possible – and so the tradition of the Tapa was established to stop labourers getting drunk!

Variety of tapas


The best way to tapear is to order a drink and one or two tapas. In Cómpeta, they like you to go to a glass counter and pick what you want. In Málaga, you order the tapas, wait, and see what you get; It is completely acceptable and almost expected to order little by little in this way.  

You can also try various bars by ordering one drink and a tapa in each. In some bars, if you order an alcoholic drink you automatically get given a little tapa, and then if you like it you could order a bigger portion. Do your research beforehand and feel free to ask your hosts here in Villa Andalucía for the best dishes in each bar!

Here in Villa Andalucía, we delight in making sure you get the most authentic experience possible so don’t hesitate to ask your hostess Helen for the best “tapas” and “raciones” in town!

Most of the bars in Cómpeta do tapas with a wide selection for you to try, and if you have not tried one before do not be scared to ask for a taste. And you can order several for a fixed price.

You can go to some of the towns and villages in the Axarquía region and follow their  ‘Ruta de Tapa’ where you are given a card and you get it stamped when you have sampled one, it’s great fun to do.

Anchovy on toast tapas

Some Handy Phrases to tapear like a local:

Dame una copa de vino – give me a glass of wine

Ponme una caña –  give me a beer

Dame una tapa de – Give me a tapa of……

Dame una ración de…. Give me a larger plate of……

Que es? What is it?

Que lleva? What is it made from?

Muchas gracias – Thank you very much

La cuenta por favor – The bill please 

Tapas de tortilla

You´ll note that the Spanish don´t over-use please or thank you and regularly laugh at foreigners’ overuse of polite terms. Never be afraid to shout, “Give me a beer” across a crowded bar with a big smile on your face to fit in perfectly with the locals.

Now we have tempted you to come and try the tapas, let me tempt you to head over to the BOOK ONLINE page and check out our availability to come and stay at Villa Andalucía and we can help you to plan your own Ruta de Tapas.

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