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Culture in a Cup: Coffee Traditions Around the World
Coffee is one of the world's most social beverages and also one of the most diverse. Your simple morning pour over can literally be sipped in dozens of different ways, accompanied by an assortment of delicacies (popcorn anyone?) and in both sweet and savory varieties. So what does a cup of coffee look like around the world? Mind for a quick tour? We promise you'll love the buzz!
1. Ethiopian Buna
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and while Italian occupation has influenced the flavor profile, coffee here is garnished with salt and butter and accompanied by freshly popped sorghum kernels (which resemble tiny, cute popped corn).
Ethiopia is also home to one of the most beautiful and intricate coffee rituals in the world and their elaborate coffee brewing ceremony can take many hours to conclude. During an Ethiopian coffee brewing ceremony, it is considered a blessing to hit the magical number three in helpings of coffee.
2. Italian Espresso
Italy is the birthplace of the espresso and everyone knows that a perfect cup is the epitome of simplicity and craft. A real Italian espresso should be topped with a firm layer of dense, yet light milk foam tested by the weight of a single teaspoon of sugar. The sugar should sit on top of the foam for a good three seconds before filtering through.
In Italy, it is considered extremely rude to take your coffee to go; an espresso should be ordered, shot back in a single gulp, and paid for in one quick go at the counter. You'll also notice that an espresso is always served with a glass of water- this is to cleanse your palate before and after the shot.
3. Saudi Arabian Kahwa
Before we knew it as "coffee", it was called kahwa, meaning "that which prevents sleep". In Saudi Arabia, kahwa is still known by its original name and it is spiced with cardamom and served beside dried dates.
The simple flavor combinations of Saudi Arabian coffee culture rely on contrast. Coffee is always made strong, bitter, and savory and served beside subtly sweet deserts like dried fruit, rosewater custard, and almond pastries.
4. Mexican Cafe de Olla
Real Mexican coffee is boiled in a traditional clay pot and infused with spicy cinnamon sticks. The coffee has been pre-sweetened with a chunk of piloncillo, a Mexican sweetener made from raw, reduced sugar cane.
While some enjoy their coffee with a 1:1 ratio of coffee and warm milk, tradition calls for a simple jarro of black, sweetened coffee accompanied by pan dulce (sweet artisan bread).
5. Chinese Yuanyang
Perhaps one of the most interesting combinations so far is the Chinese Yuanyang, a milk tea and coffee combination that makes for double the caffeine and twice the flavor of your regular cup of Joe.
Made in the traditional method, yuanyang coffee should be prepared with proper Hong-Kong style milk tea, a combination of strong black tea mixed with warm milk, and then topped with a strong brew of black drip coffee (not espresso).
6. Turkish Kahvesi
The Turks like to make their coffee thick, sweet, and gritty. Turkish coffee is made by grinding coffee beans into a very fine powder mixed with sugar. The coffee is then placed in a traditional cezve (or ibrik) coffee pot along with a small amount of water and brought to a boil. The whole concoction is then poured into a cup, grit and all and allowed to sit for just enough time to clear some sipping space.
It is ancient tradition to leave the coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup for fortune-reading after you've sipped the last bit.
7. Greek Frappe
The great thing about a Greek frappe is that it is a no-fuss, cold, caffeinated drink that is enjoyably simple to prepare. Made with a simple combination of instant coffee (even coffee snobs agree to this one exception), cold water, milk, and sugar- shaken , not stirred. Also- you get to drink it through a straw- bam! Modern as Starbucks!
8. Vietnamese Ca Phe Sua Da
Ca Phe Sua Da is very fun to order because you can watch the magical coffee metamorphosis right in front of your eyes. Traditionally prepared tableside, you can watch as hot water is poured over a filter containing finely ground coffee drips slowly into a creamy pool of sweetened condensed milk to form a rich, caramel-colored coffee beverage that can be enjoyed hot or cold.
9. Indian Kaapi
Indian "meter coffee" or kaapi is a simple drip coffee/ chicory combination made frothy by the cooling technique of passing the coffee from one tumbler to the next. The chicory makes the coffee slightly darker in taste with a bitter aftertaste and cooling the coffee is a technique that encourages the drinker to enjoy the coffee immediately.
10. Cuban Cafe Cubano
Cuban coffee is a sweet take on the traditional Italian espresso. Instead of acquiring the foam from steamed milk, Cubans like to mix about a tablespoon of hot water with demerara sugar and then proceed to shoot in the espresso. This technique makes for a sweet shot of very strong espresso topped with a delicate layer of brown foam.
11. Moroccan Cafe des Epices
Cafe des Epices can be translated to "spicy coffee", as in, "coffee with a whole bunch of spices". Born of the aromatic and flavorful Moroccan spice markets, each brew is improvised on the individual merchant's whim.
Moroccans also have a very unique take on sweet or bitter coffee: while the former is often served on light occasions such as weddings or birthdays, the latter is reserved for funerals- sweet for sweet and bitter for bitter!
12. Finnish Kaffeost
One of the most unique coffee preparations in the world is the Finnish Kaffeost, the chunky residue of submerging a thick chunk of reindeer milk curd into a cup of drip coffee. This drink is a homemade specialty and you will be hard-pressed to find it in any shop- you can, however, buy the reindeer curd and prepare the drink yourself- if you dare.
13. The American (USA) Frappuccino
Americans love the good, comfort stuff and that's exactly what the frappuccino (popularized by Starbucks) is- a milkshake/ coffee combination with all the fixin's.
A frappuccino is basically a huge, customized drink made with literally anything your heart desires: chocolate, cookie chunks, ice-cream, hot fudge syrup, and a heaping dollop of sweet, whipped cream. A monster of a drink super-packed with caffeine and sugar, the frappuccino is not only a drink- it's a way of life.