Coffee is important. It gets us up in the morning, it keeps us going, it smells amazing, and it tastes great. But coffee is more than just a drink. Coffee is embedded into cultures all around the world in varying ways, and the rituals surrounding coffee are just as important as the drink itself. From country to country, the coffee produced is different, the coffee pots and cups are different, the way the coffee is made is different, even the way we drink it is different. For many people, coffee is an integral part of the day. Here are eight ways coffee is enjoyed around the world.
Swedish fika is a daily ritual observed by Swedes of all ages with family, friends, and work colleagues. Fika is basically coffee and cake, usually a cinnamon bun, and is used as a way of getting together. If a friend says “let’s do fika,” it’s an invitation for a coffee, cake, and a catch-up. Swedes take their coffee seriously. They don’t accept poor-quality coffee and won’t pay over the top for fancy brands. In Karlstad, you’ll find Löfbergs Coffee Roasters, in Gävle there’s Gevalia, in Hälsingborg there’s Zoegas, and in Stockholm there is Arvid Nordquist. Kokcafe, or pot coffee, has a long history, way before the filter machines and French presses we have today. For this, Lemmelkaffe (Lemming Coffee) is well known. They are based in Swedish Lapland and have a wonderful story. According to the story, lemmings brought the beans from Africa and spoke to the founders, who were by their campfire, and told them to roast the beans and make coffee. So in honor of the lemmings, the company was named after them.
Pro Tip: There’s also “Arctic Fika” with dried reindeer meat and coffee cheese! Coffee cheese might not sound good, but it is actually wonderful once you get past the idea of it!
You don’t get much more serious about coffee than in the place where coffee possibly began. Yemen and Ethiopia are the two countries where coffee most probably originates, and Yemen has a solid claim to this title, as Mocha is a coastal town in Yemen where the drink actually got its name. All the way back in the 1400s, it was discovered that coffee could help keep you awake, and it was first used as a way of staying awake for long periods of meditation by Yemeni monks. Coffee is enjoyed in various ways in Yemen. After lunch, they drink kisher, which is a less caffeinated coffee made from the shell of the coffee bean. Ginger coffee is also a popular traditional drink, sweet in taste and made with cinnamon and other spices. Because there are so many different kinds of coffee produced in Yemen, it can be enjoyed at various times of the day.
Coffee is a big part of Ethiopian culture and is normally drunk following a ceremonial preparation. The beans are freshly roasted over a brazier, ground up finely in a mortar and pestle, and brewed in a special pot known as a jebena. The coffee boils into the jebena’s long neck and is poured into another pot to cool down before being boiled for a second time. Sometimes frankincense will be placed on the burning coals of the brazier and popcorn will be served to accompany the coffee. Coffee is served from the jebena at intervals of the process, creating different strains of coffee. Widely thought of as the birthplace of the coffee bean itself, coffee is massively important in Ethiopia, and coffee houses are everywhere, as Untamed Borders can testify. Literally everyone here drinks coffee, and everyone prefers it from the jebena. You won’t see many coffee machines here.
Coffee has become a part of Italian life as if it was born there. Which, of course, it wasn’t. But coffee has become so important in Italy, they’ve managed to make it their own. We are all familiar with espresso as a finely brewed, very hot, strong coffee. But in Italy, there’s a little more to the habits and traditions that accompany the small coffee shot. Espresso means “fast.” It was made to be drunk quickly, to give you that shot of caffeine to keep you on your feet. To serve, an espresso must be made fresh at the time of ordering and takes precedence over other coffee orders. The “mano” or skill of the barista is thought to contribute to the taste, so extra care is taken with how baristas are trained and how good they are at their very important job. An espresso should be served in a glass, not a porcelain cup, and it should be enjoyed standing up, at the counter, where it is handed to you. To pair, serve with biscotti or with a piece of chocolate.
Coffee in Vietnam is strong. It’s made using a “phin,” which is a tin filter that’s placed directly over a glass, over which hot water is poured. Vietnamese coffee is enjoyed in different ways, but the most popular is with condensed milk as an iced coffee or as an egg coffee. Sometimes it is served black, but this isn’t for the faint-hearted. Vietnamese coffee is thick and strong and has a nutty taste to it. It can also be served hot with condensed milk, but most Vietnamese people choose to enjoy their coffee iced.
Vietnamese Egg Coffee
- Ingredients: 4 egg yolks, 150ml sweetened condensed milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 200ml strong espresso (approx 4x double espressos), dark chocolate (grated)
- Method: Beat the egg yolks and vanilla extract with the condensed milk for about 10 minutes until you get lovely soft peaks. Now pour this on top of hot espresso, and garnish with grated dark chocolate.
Coffee plays a significant role in Turkish culture. It’s even part of the traditional marriage process. When the parents meet, the bride-to-be must serve coffee with sugar to everyone except the groom-to-be. Coffee is also used for tasseography — telling fortunes using tea leaves or coffee grounds.
To make Turkish coffee, grind freshly roasted beans into a fine powder. Then place the coffee, cold water, and sugar into a pot. Brew solely on a stove. This should produce a light foam. Serve in small white cups, on saucers, accompanied by a glass of water. Once the coffee is consumed, turn the cup upside down on the saucer. The grounds left in the cup can be used to read the drinker’s fortune, just like tea leaves are “read” in fortune-telling. Serve coffee with baklava, Turkish delight, or nuts sweetened with honey.
Melbourne’s love affair with coffee can be traced back to after WWII with the arrival of Italian and Greek immigrants who brought their beloved European-style espresso machines to the city. The espresso boom of the 1950s soon became a way of life for Melburnians. Visit Melbourne tells us that since the “third wave” of the coffee scene, Melbourne has become a pioneer in the world of coffee and evolved into a unique art form. Known for being innovative with new coffee styles such as “pour over” and “siphon,” it’s no wonder why the bean and beverage are almost as sacred as football. Because grabbing a perfectly crafted brew has become a daily morning routine for many Melburnians, you can expect the highest quality in your cup when in the city. Firm local favorite roasted beans include Padre, Seven Seeds, St. Ali, Five Senses, and Di Bella.
Pro Tip: Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, known as one of the most liveable cities in the world and home to Australia’s cultural and sporting events, boasts a vibrant coffee culture for that perfect caffeine hit. Whether you’re looking for a hidden gem tucked away in a city laneway or a buzzing spot, Melbourne is a city hard to miss with its blend of edgy architecture and streets filled with art.
Botswana has a special cinnamon Amarula iced coffee that they serve at Great Plains Zarafa Camp. Coffee is a laid-back affair in Botswana, meant to be enjoyed leisurely and with a good view.
- Ingredients: 1 large heaped tablespoon of good medium roast ground coffee, 30 millimeters of Amarula liqueur, 150 millimeters boiling water, 1 cup of boiling hot milk, 1 cinnamon stick, a dusting of ground cinnamon
- Equipment: Tumbler glass, 2 coffee plungers, sieve
- Method: In the one plunger, steep the ground coffee in hot water for 5 minutes. Press the plunger down completely and pour the coffee into a plastic container. Drop the cinnamon stick into the coffee and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Sieve out the cinnamon stick, mix in the Amarula, and pour the coffee into the tumbler glass. Bring milk to a boil and pour into the other plunger. Vigorously push up and down the plunger to froth the milk. Drop a few ice cubes in the cold coffee and spoon some milk foam over the ice cubes. Sprinkle ground cinnamon over the foam and serve.