The literal meaning for the word "tapa" is "cover or "coaster." According to popular stories and old legends, in Castilla, Spain, the land of Don Quixote, men frequented taverns where the most popular drink was red wine. Wine barrels and taverns were an attractive place for wine flies and other flying pests. The custom of covering a glass of wine with a Tapa became a necessity to avoid flies drowning in the wine.
Original Tapas were thin slices of bread or meat, normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners created a variety of snacks to serve with the wine, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The Tapas eventually became as important as the wine itself.
The meaning of Tapas has changed over the years. According to the official Spanish dictionary any small portion of food that is enough to accompany a drink is now considered a Tapa. New fashionable bars and restaurants are reinventing tapas and now serve them as a complete meal composed of many little dishes.
Still, Tapas are not only another type of food; they are a fun way to get together for a brief drink and a chat with friends. In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 and 11 p.m. (sometimes as late as midnight), leaving significant time between work and dinner. Therefore, Spaniards often "go for Tapas" (Spanish: Ir de tapas) to bridge the time between finishing work and having dinner.