Coffee Cultures From Around The World
Here in the UK, we’ve developed a taste in recent years for cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and mochas that just a few decades ago, were completely absent from the High Street. As a result, many people assume this is how the rest of the world drink their coffee and some get a real shock when they travel abroad to find that their request for their favourite skinny caramel latte is met with a blank expression!
So how is coffee consumed in other countries around the world? We’ve taken some countries at random where coffee is taken seriously, and compared them to ourselves. Take a look and see how varied some of these coffee cultures are, and feel free to let us know about your own experiences when travelling overseas.
1. France Café au Lait
This famous drink (simply coffee served with hot milk in a mug or large cup) made it to the shores of the UK some time ago. This is consumed at breakfast time, and is traditionally served in a cup wide enough to allow a croissant to be dunked in. Available pretty much anywhere and about as basic as a coffee recipe can be (except for the croissant of course). They have joined the rest of the world in recent years, with the familiar Starbucks outlets in every major town.
2. Italy Cappuccino, Latte, Mocha, Ristretto, Macchiato
It’s fair to say that the Italians know a bit about coffee, and are responsible for many of the Italian-sounding concoctions you’ll see in any branch of Costa. Not that you’ll find a branch of Costa in Italy though, they don’t do chains of coffee shops, preferring family run bars and cafes instead. They don’t actually drink latte (which literally just means ‘milk’) and rarely add syrups, whipped cream and other such flavourings, preferring instead to drink mostly espressos.
Most of the best known brands of coffee beans are Italian, such as Lavazza, Segafredo and Illy.
And don’t order a cappuccino after midday unless you want the barista to roll his eyes or just point-blank refuse – it’s considered to be something only drunk at breakfast time, usually with a sweet croissant or pastry. After midday, it’s espresso or macchiato unless you’re a tourist. Italians drinks around 14 billion espressos each year!
Turkish coffee is rarely seen in the UK, mainly because it’s so far removed from what we here would call a cup of coffee. It’s usually served from a long-handled copperpot in small cups about the size of an espresso, and is thick, black and extremely sweet. Turkish citizens who come here to live or work in the UK won’t find any coffee widely available that will remind them of home, and so they often drink espresso or ristretto with lots of sugar, or simply make traditional Turkish coffee themselves at home.
Another nation that prefers its coffee thick and strong is Cuba. Here though, it’s very much a social event consumed in a similar way to alcoholic shots, but in no way limited to the evenings. Many Cubans enjoy their coffee first thing in the morning, throughout the day and particularly after meals. It’s not quite as strong as the Turkish brew however, and is quite acceptable to Europeans palates.
The Ethiopians should know a bit about coffee – their country is the birthplace of the stuff. They do take it pretty seriously too, with the traditional brewing process of ‘Buna’ as it’s known, taking anything up to 2 hours. It’s a social thing here, drunk with guests and friends and served with salt or butter instead of milk (which isn’t always available).
Many other countries drink their coffee in forms that would seem strange to us here in the UK. In Japan for instance, coffee in cans is extremely popular and has been for decades. It’s available from vending machines in both hot and cold forms, allowing busy commuters the chance to grab one on the go.
In Saudi Arabia and other Arabic cultures, coffee ceremonies follow many rules of etiquette, including always serving the elders first. It is also a common custom to serve this a cardamom-spiced coffee with dried fruit such as dates, partly to compensate for the bitterness of the coffee.
In Mexico, Café de olla is a spiced coffee brewed with cinnamon sticks in earthenware pots. Not to everyone’s taste, the Mexicans say it brings out the taste of the coffee. Each to their own of course!
In Vietnam, they have been drinking iced coffee for years. Unlike us, however, they like theirs made with very dark roasted beans and sweetened using condensed milk.
Australia. Ever since an influx of Italian immigrants after World War 2, Australians have been drinking coffee like the Italians and enjoying a real café culture of their own. The now world famous flat white originated here (see our article on how to make one), though don’t mention this if you are visiting New Zealand – they also claim to have invented it!
Last but not least, our cousins in the US are prolific coffee drinkers thanks to chains such as Starbucks. While the menu in a US branch of Starbucks is little different to one here, they do like filter coffee more than we do, and take their frappes and iced drinks with far more cream, sugar and chocolate sauce than many European countries.
It seems that no two countries have exactly the same taste when it comes to coffee, and this should be considered a good thing. We have absorbed a wide variety coffee drinks from Italy, France, Australia and the USA, and if we hadn’t, we might still all be drinking instant!