Coffee Culture In Eight Countries Around The World
October celebrates a few things: the first feels of autumn, the first sights of pumpkins and signs that Halloween is soon approaching, and of course, the celebration of International Coffee Day, which took place on the first of October this year. The world today truly runs on coffee. Coming from a coffee crazed city like New York myself, and raised by Hispanic parents who’d each drink two cups every morning, I’m not entirely sure that human civilization, or at least those who go to university and work on Wall Street, would be able to survive without the power of cocoa beans. After traveling around over the last few years, I’ve soon realized that coffee isn’t only a New York thing, but more like a global phenomenon. Here’s our list of unique coffee culture customs in eight caffeinated countries around the world.
Australians are very particular about their coffee. From how it’s made, to how it’s presented to the precise measurement of how much foam there should be on top. I’ve never not had a conversation with an Aussie that didn’t either start or end with how much they love their coffee. As a nation, Australians have developed an obsession with quality coffee because of their distance from the rest of the world. And the reason for why Australians have such high standards when preparing their morning quencher is because of the influx of Italian and Greek immigrants that migrated to Australia back in the early 20th century. Fast forward to the year 2000, when mega-franchise Starbucks opened 84 cafes down under. Eight years later, 60 of them were shut down in favor of local, independently owned shops, many run by people influenced by Italian and Greek practices. Other countries should take note, while simultaneously thanking Australians for their generous contribution to coffee: the flat white.
Costa Rica’s coffee story dates as far back as 1779, with a presence today as strong as ever. Back in the 1900s, the United States and Europe were the main importers of the Costa Rican goodness, coined the “golden bean,” since it helped stimulate and increase the country’s economy. Today, Costa Rica is still rich with farms and plantations. Many of those working the fields are content that their way of life provides them with pure, Arabica nourishment every single day. And coffee isn’t solely a central part of the economy, but also of the local life. After work, many Ticos indulge in relaxation at home that involves lots of coffee, or as they would say in Spanish, “cafecito,” freshly baked goods, like breads or pastries, and hours of conversation. As tourism over to Costa Rican soil continues to thrive, it’s no doubt that so will its rich coffee industry.
Britain and Ireland
This one is a bit of a head scratcher. When you think of these sets of countries, the first choice of beverage that comes to mind isn’t exactly coffee, but its rival: tea. In the last few years, the emergence of coffee shops have made Britons and the Irish fall in love with the bean. People in these parts are becoming more curious about the industry, even thinking of becoming a barista as a strategic career move. British and Irish markets have seen continued growth within the industry over the last 15 years and have no signs of slowing down. Today, over 50% of the market is invested in chain brands like Starbucks, Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee, to an Australian’s dismay, but the demand and the intrigue for more finely tuned options is rapidly growing (even if it’s just for the free WiFi for now). However, if none of those options suit you, the Irish coffee is definitely one to be reckoned with.
On a recent trip to a Italy, I was reprimanded by a friend when I asked if we could take our cappuccinos to go. “Taking your coffee to go is such a New York City thing to do,” she responded, which made me realize that most people actually drink coffee to enjoy it. Like the Australians, Italians take their preparation and consumption very seriously. Order a latte and you’ll get a glass of milk. Order a skinny latte and you might as well pack your bags and leave the country. It’s as if the Italians have made up a second set of commandments solely for the purposes of drinking coffee. So here is a quick rundown: decaf doesn’t exist, asking for a regular “caffè” means you’ll be getting a very strong espresso, a cappuccino should only be consumed in the morning with something on the side, ‘caffè Americano’ is a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist, and most importantly, do what the Italians do and drink your coffee at the bar and be sure to enjoy it.
Though Sweden is not the highest consumer of coffee per capita in Scandinavia (Finland is), it is certainly among the top ten in the world. One of the coolest customs that I was able to experience personally while visiting Stockholm this past summer was the notion of “fika.” One of my tour guides said that it’s very common for people to enjoy more than one fika a day. It is even mandatory for all work employees to take one, and that hour is separate from their lunch hour. A fika, in English, translates to “having a coffee break.” So instead of saying, “let’s grab a coffee,” Swedes would say,”let’s fika,” as it is used as a noun and a verb. The Swedish take this custom very seriously, spending hours and hours lounging, talking, eating a kanelbulle and sipping coffee. Fika is time taken to slow down. It’s not just another activity for them, but a way of life.
Having Turkish coffee is different because it isn’t served in the morning or for breakfast, but rather after dinner, like a dessert. Preparing Turkish coffee is also a unique part of the experience. First, the freshly roasted beans are ground to powder. Then the ground coffee, cold water and sugar are added to a coffee pot and brewed slowly on a steaming stove, and finally served, in a very small cup. Water is usually served with the coffee since it can be strong. It’s also important to note that you must request how much sugar you want before it’s prepared, since mixing anything in afterwards isn’t possible with the thick layer of grounds covering and hardening the cup’s bottom. But don’t think the grounds will go to waste; in Turkish tradition, they can be used to tell the drinker’s fortune!
If you visit the Netherlands and are in the mood for a coffee, do not go into a coffee shop. The people at the bar will probably laugh, while serving you something else entirely. Instead, drinking coffee is done so at cafes, though only recently. Coffee bars now make it easier to consume out of the house, but a few decades back, most consumption was done at home — which makes sense why the Dutch love their coffee pads and Senseo machines. Today, the Dutch rank in the top 5 of world’s highest coffee consumers, coining phrases like ‘koffietijd,’ similar to Sweden’s fika, and ‘koffie verkeerd,’ which translates to reverse coffee, a small glass of milk sprinkled with drops of coffee to end a long work day.
The United States
On one end of the country you have New York City, the city that never sleeps because its people drink too much coffee as a means to survive. On the other, you have Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks and the highest consumers per capita in all fifty States. America is not always in the lead when it comes to annual coffee consumption, but everyone seems to love (and need) their coffee. The culture in the East coast is a lot more fast paced, so much so that there doesn’t seem to be a culture at all. But trends in the West and across the Atlantic are giving us some balance. Every day, I see another spot open up in the West Village that tries to bring together an aspect of Italian, French or Australian coffee culture. And people are noticing and loving it. These scenes are vital in that they are transforming the way people think about and take their coffee. So, it’s not just about fuel anymore. It’s about the experience!