Did you know? Coffee holds the distinction of being the second most traded commodity worldwide after petroleum. A part of our everyday routines, a rejuvenating cup of coffee, whether hot and steamy or refreshingly iced, is much more than just a breakfast beverage. Coffee weaves itself intricately into the culture of every country around the globe, presenting numerous types and ways in which we consume this versatile drink.
Traversing borders, coffee has left an indelible mark on the social and religious fabric of society. But if you are wondering how the beverage was discovered and some fascinating ways in which it is enjoyed across nations, we have you covered. Read on.
Origins of coffee
Like all the great things in the world, coffee was discovered by accident. According to an Ethiopian legend, a local goat herder named Kaldi noticed his herd nibbling on small red berries growing in the nearby shrubs. After consuming them, his herd seemed more energetic. Kaldi took them to a local monastery to understand the reason behind the change in their behaviour. The monks discarded them into open fire, dubbing them ‘devil’s creation’. The roasted fruits, however, exuded an aroma which prompted someone to mix them in water and drink this concoction; thus beginning the humble journey of one of the world’s most popular drinks.
Although there is no evidence to this tale, the earliest proof of coffee consumption dates back to the 15th century in Yemen. A port on the Red Sea coast, Mocha, was considered a hub for coffee trade in the 17th century. Coffee was even known as the ‘wine of Arabia’.
Additionally, the age-old culture of meeting people for coffee at a shop or restaurant can be traced back to the first coffee house opened in 1555 in Istanbul. Soon, this beverage, known for its revitalising properties, reached European traders and became a rage in the continent by the 16th century. The first coffee shop here was opened in Oxford, England, in 1651.
France, which is one of the biggest consumers of this beverage, was first introduced to it in 1669 when an ambassador to King Louis XIV, Suleyman Aga carried a bag of these beans to the court. The first Parisien coffee house was opened by an Armenian national in 1671. Coffee reached America in the 17th century.
By the 19th century, coffee had captivated the entire world, reaching Asia through the European colonies. Sri Lanka and Java were a few preferred locations to grow these beans.
Diverse coffee customs from across the world
Buna in Ethiopia
The African country serves as the birthplace of coffee. Such is the reverence for this beverage here that it often plays an important role in social rituals. Locally known as buna or bunna, the preparation of this coffee type in Ethiopia is an elaborate process that involves hand-crushing the beans on the ground and then brewing them. Typically served from a spouted vessel, locals prefer to drink it mostly black and sometimes accompanied by milk, sugar, butter or even salt.
Caffeine intake is notably high in Ethiopia, with many locals consuming coffee up to four times a day.
The white coffee of Yemen
In Yemen, coffee has a distinctive character and a unique method of roasting that gives it a pale white colour. Here, the beans are roasted at lower temperatures for less time, resulting in a softer, less bitter and milder-tasting coffee. Local white coffee here is pre-ground and often blended with local spices, lending a special and aromatic flavour to this Yemeni brew type.
Espresso in Italy
Italians usually drink their coffee in the form of ‘espresso’, which is characterised by small shots of strong black coffee. Coffee beans of the Arabica or Robusta variety are typically used and the concoction is steeped longer. This coffee type is rich in flavour with a natural frothy layer on top known as ‘crema’.
Café-au-lait in France
Velvety smooth, mildly sweet and milky, café-au-lait is the favourite brew of the French. Hot, frothy milk is added to the drip coffee and served after adding sugar and natural foam on top.
The preferred coffee type of this Latin American country is known as cafezinho and is typically enjoyed in its black form. Usually brewed in small amounts, ground coffee beans are added to a pot of boiling water and steeped before naturally filtering through a cloth or paper. A local variety of unrefined cane sugar is dissolved in the boiling water before the coffee is added.
The spiced coffee of Morocco
Moroccans like their coffee flavoured with spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, clove, black pepper and cinnamon. Moroccan culture is a fusion of European and West Asian influences and that is reflected in their coffee drinking habits. Here, coffee is ground using mortar and pestle and brewed in a vessel called ‘dallah’. Served in tiny, artistically designed cups, the coffee type here is thick and strong.
Türk Kahvesi in Turkey
In Turkey, coffee is called Türk Kahvesi and is served as a post-meal afternoon delight. The boiler is placed over heated sand and espresso is made in it using coffee beans and hot water. Interestingly, Turkish coffee is unfiltered, and fortune tellers often study the patterns of coffee grounds left in the cup to predict the future.
The café de olla of Mexico
Coffee in Mexico, known as café de olla, gets its name from the earthen pot, or olla in Spanish, in which it is brewed. Interestingly, sometimes this coffee type is even mixed with alcohol. Traditionally, it’s infused with spices, chocolate, and orange peel to elevate the aroma.
Oilang in Thailand
Thai coffee, known as oilang, is traditionally served iced and black. Here, many other ingredients like sesame seeds, soybeans, corn, and rice, as well as spices like cardamom are roasted along with coffee beans, giving it a unique flavour.
The Cà phê sữa đá of Vietnam
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam during the French colonisation, which heavily influenced the way this beverage is enjoyed in the country. The Vietnamese are known to be heavy coffee drinkers and are also one of the largest exporters of the beans.
Their coffee type, known as Cà phê sữa đá, is similar to the café-au-lait but distinguished by the use of a single-serving press called ‘phin’. The coffee drips into a glass containing condensed milk, creating a delightful mixture that’s stirred and served over ice, offering a delicious and refreshing experience.
Filter coffee in India
The type of coffee consumed in India is a unique blend of dark-roasted locally sourced beans and chicory root is brewed in a double-compartment steel container or filter. Known as filter coffee, this blend gained widespread popularity in South India and eventually throughout the country after its introduction by India Coffee House in the 1950s. Typically served in a brass glass and tumbler, it’s enjoyed with hot milk and sugar.
South Korea’s Dalgona coffee
Dalgona coffee, which captivated the internet during the lockdown years, has its origins in South Korea. This delightful creation features a frothy mixture made from instant coffee, sugar, and hot water, with a topping of milk over it.
Australia’s ‘flat white’
Australians are equally passionate about their coffee like the rest of the world. Their preferred choice is the ‘flat white’ coffee type, a milder version of an espresso added to milk.
The frappe in Greece
Not to be confused with the American frappuccino, this is made by shaking up instant coffee and sugar and then pouring it over ice. This brew is often compared to Dalgona coffee. Frappe has no added flavour and was invented when a salesman at a trade fair in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1957, experimented with shaking up coffee and sugar in a children’s chocolate maker.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– What are some popular coffee preparation methods around the world?
Heating in open pots, using an espresso machine, single-serving drip and shaking instant coffee with sugar in an ice-cream shaker to make Dalgona coffee are some of the most popular methods.
– What is the difference between espresso and regular coffee?
Espresso is thicker as it is brewed under intense pressure and has a lower grounds-to-water ratio, while regular coffee has a coarser grind and more water and is lighter.
– How is Turkish coffee made, and where is it commonly consumed?
This coffee is called Türk Kahvesi and is served in the afternoon post-meal. The boiler is placed over heated sand and espresso is made in it using coffee beans and hot water. Interestingly, the coffee here is unfiltered and traditional fortune tellers study the pattern of the coffee grounds left behind in the cup to predict the future.
– What is cold brew coffee, and how is it prepared?
Cold-brew coffee is made by steeping ground coffee beans in room-temperature water for 12 to 18 hours, filtering it and then pouring it over ice.
– What is the significance of the espresso culture in Italy?
The social aspect of drinking coffee, especially espresso, is huge in Italy. There are coffee bars where people prefer to stand at the counter and take small sips of strong espresso.
– How do people in Scandinavia typically prepare their coffee?
It is a common belief that people add eggs to their coffee in Nordic countries. But, the coffee here is typically seeped into a drip coffee machine and served with milk, cream and sugar.
– What is café au lait, and where is it popular?
Café au lait is a form of cafe latte which is a popular drink in France.
– What is the difference between Americano and regular drip coffee?
Espresso is diluted with hot water for Americano and ground coffee is brewed with hot water in a coffee maker for drip coffee.
– How is Vietnamese coffee prepared, and what makes it unique?
Vietnamese coffee is known as Cà phê sữa đá and it tastes similar to the cafe-au-lait. The only difference is that a single-serving press known as phin is used to brew it while it drips in a glass with condensed milk. Special coffee beans grown in the Da Lat region of the country are used.
– What is the significance of the coffee ceremony in Ethiopian culture?
Jebena buna is a traditional practice that highlights the social and spiritual aspects of this culture. It celebrates warmth and togetherness.
– What is café con leche, and where is it commonly enjoyed?
This is a Spanish and Latin American drink made by mixing strong coffee with scalded milk.
– How is iced coffee typically prepared in the United States?
Usually, the coffee is brewed hot either in a French press or a coffee machine and then poured over ice.
– What are some unique coffee variations that are not well-known globally?
Nitro cold brew, Affagato and Mazagran are some of the unique and lesser-known coffee variations.
– What are some cultural rituals or traditions associated with coffee consumption in different countries?
Coffee culture is highly celebrated in countries like Italy, Turkey, Cuba, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. For example for Arabs, coffee is a status symbol. There is a strict protocol which is adhered to while serving coffee. Elders are served first and mostly, men enjoy this beverage only with the other men and women drink it at home.
– Is there a recommended way to enjoy coffee, or is it a matter of personal preference?
Enjoying coffee is a matter of personal preference, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
(Hero and featured image credit: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash)