5 things you didn't know about Greek coffee culture
A slightly different post this week! This photo popped up on my phone 'memories' this weekend and had me yearning to be sitting in one of my favourite places on earth, sipping cold coffee in the winter sun. It also got me thinking about the differences in coffee culture between my two countries.
Greek coffee culture is so underrated. One of the main things my dad used to mention missing about Greece when I was a kid was that you couldn't just go for a coffee in the evening in Wales. It's the pub or nothing. I never understood this -I mean, what's wrong with the pub? -Until I moved to Greece and realised what a big part of life coffee is.
So here is a little introduction to Greek coffee culture!
1. Greeks (probably) invented the coffee shop
We all know that we have our Ancient Greek forefathers to thank for democracy, logic and all that good stuff, but more importantly they might have even invented the world's first coffee shop in Constantinople (Istanbul) in the 15th Century. They also might not have, as there's a pretty strong case for Turkish coffee, but we don't talk about that. Greek coffee is made from finely ground Arabica coffee beans, which are brewed with water and sugar in a briki and allowed to settle at the bottom of the cup before drinking. Coffee was drunk like this all over the Middle- East hundreds of years before Europeans started filtering it to make Espresso.
Click here to find out how to brew the perfect Greek coffee
2. There's more choice than your local Starbz
The coffee shop, or kafeneio is the centre of a Greek village, and the little old men playing backgammon is not just a scene from a postcard. If you don't believe me, go to Bayswater in west London. While the kafeneio is a traditionally male dominated space, Greek towns these days have a coffee shop to match any lifestyle and budget and even your basic, local, plastic-chair kafeneio offers an impressive range of coffees as standard. Greek coffee, Frappé, Freddo Espresso, Freddo Cappuccino, as well as all the usual Americano, Latté etc. And they always come with a sweet snack! Forget about Starbucks, the Greek chain Mikel is where the cool kids hang out.
3. There's no such thing as a quick coffee
My British friends have often joked that they won't go for coffee with me because they lose half the day, while my Greek friends have laughed at how quickly my frappé disappears. Going for coffee is an event in Greece. Around 6 in the afternoon (yes, 6 is still the afternoon in Greece) after the siesta (culturally approved nap) you meet your friends on a terrace by the sea to catch up, gossip and plan meeting up later for beers. This can take several hours, so it's no wonder you don't end up going out until around midnight.
4. They made Nescafé good
If you've been to Caffi Kiki then you probably know by now that instant coffee is not on the menu. I'm a bit of a coffee snob, but I absolutely swallow my pride when it comes to Frappé. Frappé is the original iced coffee, and is available on almost every corner in Greece, for as little as one Euro. Nescafé is shaken with cold water and sugar (optional) and poured over ice cubes, then topped up with more cold water and a dash of milk (optional) It's the thick, impenetrable froth that makes it so special. It's pretty simple to make, but for some reason never tastes quite the same back home. Check out this video to learn how to make an authentic frappé
5. Coffee is the future
Forget tea leaves, in Greece your future is read from your coffee cup! Fortune telling, or Kafemandeia, is an old tradition that some yiayias and even professionals still practise. It is done with Greek coffee of course, which leaves a thick residue at the bottom of the cup. Once you've drank your coffee you turn the cup three times clockwise, tip your cup upside down onto a paper towel, and then turn it back over to see what the future has in store for you. This guide has more information if you want a sneak peak at 2021...
Did I miss anything? What do you love about Greek coffee culture? Or the coffee culture of your own country- Let me know in the comments! Don't forget to like and share, and subscribe by email if you would like more posts about Greek food and culture!