The word “Tapa” is a Spanish word that means “lid” or “cover” – but which has come to mean, in Spain, a bar snack or appetizer served with a drink. Hunting down tapas is a common activity for visitors and tourists, but it can cause confusion.
Traditionally, tapas – which started out as edible “lids” for drinks – are served free in some places as Granada or Madrid with a drink, and it’s very popular around Spain. So much so, that there is the verb “Tapear” used to identify the action of going out with friends and “ir de tapas.”
Tapas have, however, spread beyond Spain – but they have morphed in the process. A “tapas bar” in Britain or America is a place which serves multiple small plates intended to be shared by the entire table, with the recipes influenced by Spanish and Mediterranean ideas, but often altered to fit local tastes. In Spain, this would actually be called a “aperitivo”.” In Spain, you’re more likely to fill up on tapas while going from bar to bar.
A “tapa” is anything served in a small portion – it’s not a type of food. However, some things are particularly popular as tapas – these include olives, either on their own or with other foods such as tuna or onions, chorizo, potatoes in a source or deviled eggs. Other recommendations for tapas to try while in Spain include croquetas (often filled with ham or cod), small toasted sandwiches, small shrimps or prawns and, of course, those olives – sometimes seen as the oldest and original tapas.