Around the world in a coffee cup

March 21, 2014 by Chris Brunning

According to popular legend, coffee was first discovered in the Ethiopian highlands. It is said that Kaldi discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain type of tree, became so lively that they simply could not sleep at night. Reporting these findings to the Abbot of the local monastery (who in turn decided to make a drink with the berries) he too discovered that it kept him wide awake through the long hours of evening. From these spectacular findings, word then rapidly spread and moved east, with coffee reaching the Arabian Peninsula it began a journey which would spread its reputation across the globe. 

Today coffee is grown in a multitude of countries around the world in Asia, AfricaCentral & South America, the islands of the Caribbean & the Pacific and with each different place, comes a different way of drinking it. Each place varies in tradition, using different rituals and ways of making their coffee which is often embedded within their own culture. Knowing that coffee is a huge part of our lives here in the UK, I decided to find out a little more about coffee from around the world. Listed is a snapshot of my findings on popular ways in which to drink coffee in certain areas of the world. 

In Turkey order a Turk kahvesi 

A famous Turkish proverb says that coffee should be “as black as hell, as strong as death and as sweet as love.” Beans are roasted, finely ground and then they are boiled in a pot, otherwise known as a cevze, usually with sugar, and served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. This coffee is usually served alongside Turkish candy.

In Vietnam wait for a ca phe da

Made with coarsely ground Vietnamese-grown dark roast coffee, each cup is individually brewed with a small metal French drip filter (called cà phê phin) into a cup containing a quarter to a half as much sweetened condensed milk. This is then stirred and poured over ice. The coarse grind allows the use of the cà phê phi to work its magic.  Intensely sweet, rich and satisfying in taste this coffee is drunk throughout the day. It’s not just the incredible roast and the sweet condensed milk that you drink it with but the huge amount of time it takes to drip through the filter. That time is a gift. One that you can use to take in the scene around you, notice the graceful chaos that inhabits so many of Vietnam’s streets.

In Brazil sweeten up with a cafezinho

In Brazilian Portuguese this means “a little coffee”. A cup of cafezinho is a small, intense, and very sweet shot of black coffee. It is sometimes served unsweetened with sugar or sweetener on the side. A Brazilian will never drink a cafezinho unsweetened. Pure black coffee (unsweetened) is considered an outrage and any request for this is likely to engender an incomprehensible bout of laughter. Served from one large pot this is a highly sociable drink.A great one to try when you feel like talking to the locals and getting into the Brazilian way of life.

In Uruguay share a yerba mate

A traditional South American caffeine drink, this is primarily consumed in Argentina and Uruguay and is defined by law as the national infusion. More popular than coffee, this is prepared by infusing dried leaves of yerba mate into hot water.  Mate is a highly sociable drink, served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd.You will often see locals carrying a thermos and sometimes 5-10 friends sitting together, sharing from one gourd and bombilla. The host will fill the gourd and pass it across to the first person. The first person drinks the whole cup and then hands it back to the host. If they say “gracias” when returning it, this means they are finished. If they say nothing, the host will include you in the next round. This ritual continues around the group reusing the same mate and until everyone has had their share. A great social occasion and steeped in ritual this is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the local culture around you.

So the next time you venture to places far and wide and you feel like a steaming cup of hot coffee, remember that coffee culture is precisely just that and not everyone takes theirs the same. Embrace the new and exciting flavours, the varying textures and strengths of the bean and the way in which every cup is unique to the place you are visiting. Remember that an adventure starts with curiosity and each new experience you encounter simply adds to the richer travel stories you can tell upon your return.