Here is an awesome way to take in new cultures from around the world. Have a cup of coffee at the local plaza, piazza or platz and soak in the local culture like never before.
This rich, dark, bittersweet nectar has a long history that has become inextricably linked with various cultures. It’s so popular that it’s the second most exported commodity in the world after crude oil. Here’s a look at what you’re likely to experience when going for a cup of coffee around the world!
A Brief History on Coffee
As the story goes, a goatherd (a person who tends goats) in Ethiopia discovered that his goats “danced” every time they ate the berries of a certain plant. Seeing this, he built up the courage to finally try some and to his surprise was hit by the stimulating effects of the berries.
He rushed to tell a monk from a nearby monastery about it, but the disapproving monk threw them in a fire from which rose an alluring aroma.
The roasted berries were quickly removed from the fire, ground and steeped in water giving us the first cup of coffee. The beans then made their way from Ethiopia to Yemen, Mecca and the rest of the Arab world.
Fun Fact: In the 1600s, Arabian coffee traders rendered coffee beans infertile by roasting them before exporting to other countries in order to preserve their monopoly. This is before an Indian pilgrim smuggled a few fertile seeds out of the region causing the spread of coffee cultivation in India and the rest of the world.
So passionate were the Italians about coffee that they went to great lengths to create the deeply full-bodied espresso. Their aim was to create a concentrated yet filtered essence of the caffeine-rich seeds but this simple fact is why it’s so interesting that you should never ask for an “espresso” in Italy. You simply ask for “un caffè”, because it’s just like going to Mexico and asking for Mexican food: espresso like Mexican food is the default.
Also, while in other countries, you may enter a coffee shop, find a seat or a table at the corner and enjoy your brew, this is something that you just don’t do in Italy. If you do want to sit, you’ll have to pay extra. Espresso (which, by the way, means pressed or forced out) is express (to go).
One more thing to remember is that you don’t have a caffè macchiato or cappuccino after 11am unless you want to get strange looks.
Fun Fact: The “Cappuccino” was named for its similarity to the brown robes worn by the Capuchin monks.
The French, Kings and Queens of gastronomy and creators of the ‘French Press’, are acquisitive at making coffee. I know… shocking, right? But that’s just the way it is. Like the Italians, the French tend to reserve their Cafè au Lait (coffee with milk) for breakfast with the most commonly ordered drink being the cafè (espresso).
This espresso falls on the bitter side and is likely a consequence of their colonial exploits. During that period the French received the more bitter Robusta variety of coffee, duty-free from their colonial territories and this rendered the milder Arabica, more expensive.
Till today, 50% of the coffee consumed in France is of the Robusta variety. Despite the harshness of their coffee, the French love a good sit down to catch up with friends and enjoy good conversation. Where the Italians prefer standing space at “il bar”, the French are likely to have a few seats almost spilling onto the road as people kick back to enjoy a café.
Fun Fact: There’s a café called La Petite Syrah where you get discounts for being polite! Saying “Un café” gets you a coffee for €7 ($7.81), “Un café, s’il vous plait” gets you a coffee for €4.25 ($4.74) and “Bonjour, un café, s’il vous plait” gets you one for €1.40 ($1.56). I guess it pays to be polite, eh?
You’d think that with the proximity and relationship created by common ancestral language that the cultures of the French, Italian and Spanish would be closer but that’s not quite the case. The Spanish will drink a Cafè con Leche (espresso with milk) at just about any time of the day, unlike the Italians and French who prefer to leave that in the breakfast realm.
The Spanish also have a variety of coffee drinks some with minor differences that alter the flavor of the simple espresso. Where the Café con Leche is equal parts espresso and milk, the Café Cortado is espresso with a dash of milk and the Café Bombon is an espresso with condensed milk (yum).
On the other hand, you have the Café Manchado which is milk with a splash of coffee. To see for yourself how these small changes make a big difference you should try making one or two of them. Some other fun combos are the Carajillo which is an espresso with a drop of brandy, whiskey or rum and the Trifasico which is just the Carajillo mixed with a little bit of milk.
Fun Fact: Drinking caffeine can increase your metabolism 3 to 11%. It’s one of the few chemicals that can actually help with fat burning.
As the home of 40% of coffee consumed globally, you’d be crazy to think they don’t drink a heck of a lot of coffee. In fact, they drink so much coffee they can’t afford to use the really high-quality stuff allocated for export. I mean, it’s still really good coffee but you catch my drift.
Over there, they have their own version of the espresso which is a really sweet and piping hot drink called a Cafezinho. The reason Cafezinhos are so sweet is because lots of sugar has to be added to offset the naturally bitter coffee grown in the lower altitude Brazil. You can usually get your Cafezinho free at a gas station or a restaurant.
Fun Fact: The second largest producer of the Arabica coffee in the world is Vietnam with 16% of global production. Brazil however, is the ‘Usain Bolt’ of the coffee production, ranked No. 1 for over 150 years!
Germans are (much) better known for their fantastic beer and automobile traditions but you’d never believe how big a hand they’ve played in coffee consumption. Drip coffee was invented in 1908 by a German Melitta Bentz, a housewife from Dresden, who got tired of the grounds at the bottom of her coffee and decided to use blotting paper from her son’s school exercise book to create a grounds-free, less bitter coffee.
Her compatriot, Gottlob Widmann, followed that up by inventing the electrical drip brewer in 1954. That’s as far as coffee “culture” goes in Germany. Until this day, the drip brew is still the preferred way to drink coffee and the Germans are pretty reluctant to try anything else.
Fun Fact: The buzz you feel after drinking coffee is actually from ingesting tiny 0.0016-inch crystals of caffeine. So small, yet so energizing!
Surprisingly, coffee is gaining a foothold in the ancestral home of all things tea. Coffee is still being far from a daily activity for a few reasons, there’s the fact that there’s still resistance from the people who have had tea flowing in their veins from centuries. It’s also seen as a luxury and something for the “cool kids” due to its association with Korean pop culture.
At this point, it costs as much as the broadband internet for a month or a whole take-out meal, and that’s something that the average Chinese can hardly afford to turn into a regular routine. However, you can expect coffee to permeate the country as it gains a stronger and stronger hold in China.
Fun Fact: It only takes ten minutes to start feeling the effects of caffeine after you take a sip of coffee
Much like China, coffee drinking is a fairly recent occurrence in Russia but in the last two decades or so it has begun to receive some level of acceptance.
Unlike most western cultures where a coffee lasts for a few minutes and the waitresses give you death stares for staying too long after your drink is done, the Russians believe in a concept called “anti-cafes”. The idea here is that rather than paying for food or drinks, patrons of the “anti-cafes” pay for minutes or for hours and enjoy the food and drinks free of charge.
That’s a strange concept for most but the Russians love a good chat over tea, over alcoholic beverages and apparently over coffee too.
Fun Fact: All of the coffee grown on the planet is from an area called “The Coffee Belt.”
Traditionally, the Emirati (native residents of the UAE) tend to be spicier in their approach to coffee, often grinding their light colored roast with cardamom, saffron, cloves and oud (scented wood-flakes) to give it an extra layer of flavor. Their spicy, bitter coffee will likely be accompanied by dates to counter the bitterness.
Today, however, coffee chains like Starbucks and Costa have captured the hearts of the younger generation and dominate the scene.
Fun Fact: Globally, coffee is the 2nd largest traded commodity after crude oil.
If you had fun learning about the international coffee cultures, you should checkout the cultural language courses on Cudoo with more interesting facts, quizzes and videos.