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How Different Countries Around The World Enjoy Coffee
Coffee is perhaps the most influential beverage of all time.
This once unknown substance has taken the world by storm, particularly in the last two centuries. Even in many traditional tea-drinking countries, coffee is leaving its mark.
It’s estimated that 1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily around the world in one form or another.
While the United States consumes 45% of those billions of cups, coffee consumption per person is actually higher in other parts of the world.
It’s believed that coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia in the 9th century, and is still a strong part of Ethiopia’s culture today.
Others believe that it was first found in Yemen in the 6th century.
Either way, from that special region (of Yemen and Ethiopia) coffee spread to Europe and parts of Asia around the 16th century.
By the 18th century coffee had embedded itself more deeply into European culture and became a popular drink in North America.
Today countries across the world drink coffee in a variety of ways — a result of a long history with this popular beverage.
Coffee both picks us up and brings us together, as people everywhere together gather around hot and iced cups alike.
Ethiopia is believed to be the birthplace of coffee by many.
Legend has it that sometime in the 6th century, a goat herder noticed his goats behaving uncharacteristically energetically after chewing on some red-berried shrubs nearby. The coffee farmer ate the berries as well and discovered the effects of the caffeine, understanding why the goats were acting so funny.
Since that time coffee has become a large part of Ethiopia’s culture. It is a crucial part of everyday socialization, as it’s used as a reason to gather together. Many common sayings revolve around coffee as a measure of someone’s happiness or social life.
Many in Ethiopia still drink coffee in the traditional way: roasted, ground, then boiled in water.
The coffee ceremony plays a central role in Ethiopian hospitality. It is a long process used to show a guest that they are welcome. Guests invited to a coffee ceremony take the invitation as a sign of respect.
The practice of boiling coffee spread from Ethiopia and is still preferred that way in countries such as Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Coffee is often brewed with aromatic spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper in these countries.
Coffee Consumption Spreads
By the 16th century, coffee came to be known as a fairly exotic, Arabian drink to the rest of the world. It was with the Turkish occupation of Yemen that coffee started spreading to Europe.
By the end of the 17th century its popularity spread deeper into Europe, in particular, Italy, England, and later, France.
The French changed the way coffee was consumed compared to traditions stemming from the Middle East and Africa.
In the early 18th century, instead of boiling the coffee down, they poured hot water over coffee grounds and let it drip into a cup.
Shortly thereafter, the French started adding hot milk. This drink of equal parts steamed milk and equal parts coffee, called the “Cafe Au Lait”, is still the popular form of coffee consumed in France.
In 1683 the Turks besieged Vienna, Austria for two months. Although they were unsuccessful in their attack, they did leave behind their love for coffee.
A Viennese soldier who had spent some time in Turkey noticed the coffee left behind by the Turks when they fled. This soldier opened up Vienna’s first coffee house (or café) called Blue Bottle.
But instead of boiling coffee grounds with the water, the Viennese strained the grounds out. They also added a fair amount of sugar and some milk.
Today all of Austria very much enjoys coffee. One of their famous coffee drinks is the Wiener Melange, which is espresso with steamed milk and milk foam.
Occasionally, the Wiener Melange is topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder.
Although tea is king (or queen) in England, coffee too has made its presence known in a big way beginning in the 1600’s when the first coffee houses were opened.
By 1700, thousands of coffee houses could be found throughout London. These establishments became primary gathering places for people to talk of events of the day, philosophy, and politics.
Coffee did enter a dark period, however, due to social repercussions from coffee houses not allowing women. Many complained that husbands were spending all of their free time at the tavern and the coffeehouse, leaving little other time for responsibilities to family.
As a result, these establishments earned a reputation for being hangouts for bad behavior. Coffee houses were mostly banned by the end of the century, and replaced with more socially accepted tea.am.
Occasionally, the Wiener Melange is topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder.
At around the same time coffee hit Austria, it reached Germany with gusto.
And as it gained in popularity, it earned a bad reputation among the ruling class. By the late 1700’s Germany’s ruler outlawed the consumption of coffee, encouraging citizens to return to beer as the drink of choice.
Eventually coffee made a comeback.
Germans take their coffee in a similar style as the Austrians.
They also have an alcoholic version called the Pharisaer, in which a little rum is added to coffee and sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings.
Coffee continued to propagate throughout Europe during the 1700s, spreading to Scandinavia and deepening its hold in England.
Although the Scandinavian countries didn’t really respond to the introduction of coffee at first, today Nordic countries (to include Iceland) boast the highest average coffee consumption per capita in the world.
Finland comes in first place at 12 kg of coffee per capita, followed by Norway at 9.9, Iceland at 9, Denmark at 8.7, and Sweden at 8.2.
In Finland, Kaffeost is a favorite coffee infused food treat. Kaffeost, or “coffee cheese” is hot coffee poured over chunks of cheese curds.
In Sweden, the “fika” or afternoon coffee break served with a pastry or open face sandwich is as much a part of the culture as tea time is in Great Britain. The Swedes average 3.5 cups of very strong coffee per day.
Coffee In The Rest Of Europe
Coffee brewing methods may vary a little depending on what European country one may find themselves in. In Portugal, Mazagran is preferred. Mazagran is basically iced coffee with lemon.
Greece is known for their iced version of coffee, the frappe.
A frappe is iced instant coffee that is mixed with a healthy dose of milk foam.
It was invented, quite by accident, by a Nescafe employee named Dimitris Vakondios in the mid-1950’s, and to this day it is the outdoor drink of choice in Greece and Cyprus.
In Turkey, Turkish coffee is the drinking method of choice.
Like Middle Eastern brewing methods, very fine powdery coffee is boiled with water and sugar in a special pot called a cezve.
Before the liquid boils over it is served in incredibly small cups to be sipped slowly.
Although its exact origins are clouded, the Irish coffee is a popular cocktail twist on coffee. Served hot, this cocktail is part coffee, part Irish whiskey, and part cream.
The important part of this drink is that the cream should float on the top of the drink. Often whipped cream is used, but that’s not considered a true Irish Coffee.
Espresso is what Italy is all about. The first espresso machine was invented in Italy in the mid 1800’s, and the drink has been incredibly popular in that country ever since.
Up until that point, although coffee was the drink of choice in cafes all over Europe, it took an incredibly long time to brew.
In search of a faster method, Angelo Moriondo came up with a way to direct steam pressure through a small compartment which contained coffee ground to a fine powder (espresso).
The espresso machine took off all over Europe. Although it’s had a slower emergence in America, today it’s the cornerstone of every coffee house in every state.
In Spain, quite a unique coffee beverage has come about — originating in Valencia. Since then it has spread to many parts of Asia in slightly varying concoctions.
The Cafe Bombon is a dessert-like hot drink made with half espresso and half sweetened condensed milk. Stir and enjoy with dessert or in place of dessert.
While coffee consumption spread throughout Europe, so did coffee cultivation in parts of the world with environments most conducive for growing coffee.
The production of coffee was controlled by European companies who brought the bean to places like Java and Haiti. Enslaving those who harvested the bean, the French, the Dutch and others profited greatly.
As coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia and Yemen, its cultivation naturally spread throughout the continent of Africa along the equatorial belt in environments most conducive for its cultivation.
To this day coffee is a huge part of Caribbean, Central American, South American, Asian, and African agriculture. And as it has grown, so has its popularity as a drink.
Coffee Drinking In Asia
Malaysia and Hong Kong
The Yuanyang is a wildly popular drink in places like Hong Kong and Malaysia. This coffee concoction is three parts coffee and seven parts milk tea (milk and tea mixed), making for one very caffeinated beverage.
Coffee was initially brought to Vietnam by the French in the 19th century. But it wasn’t until after the Vietnam War that the country made it a priority crop.
Today Vietnam is the second largest producer of green coffee worldwide, behind Brazil.
The drink of choice in Vietnam is the Ca Phe Da, strong brew black coffee over sweetened condensed milk, very similar to the Cafe Bombon of Spain, but using brewed coffee instead of espresso. A small cup like filter called a Phin, sits on top of the glass and as coffee is brewed it trickles in.
Coffee Drinking In The Americas
Brazil and Cuba
Kind of a mix between Italian coffee and Middle Eastern coffee, the people of Brazil, Cuba, and other Latin countries prefer coffee brewed similarly to espresso, but it’s brewed with sugar.
In Mexico coffee has become an important crop. It also is a popular drink, most often found as a Cafe de Olla, which is coffee simmered with a cinnamon stick and unrefined sugar.
With the Industrial Revolution in America coffee became part of its foundation as millions of Americans drank coffee to keep empty bellies full and energy up for the endless work in factories and plants.
World War I and II also reinforced the American culture of coffee as it became a basic staple of the soldier’s diet, providing some comfort during incredibly trying times.
While coffee was quickly spreading through Europe in the 18th century, the American colonies were adopting coffee as a popular drink too.
But unlike England, coffee took off with a boom, thanks in part to the Boston Tea Party. While it has undergone some transformations in processing, America’s standard way to drink coffee is by brewing it through a filter and adding milk and sugar, if desired.
Coffee Drinking In Africa
Although coffee producing countries of Africa contribute significantly to the world’s green coffee production, coffee as a beverage has been slower to grow in popularity.
While Ethiopia is the exception, consuming over half the coffee it grows, other coffee growing countries on the continent export a vast majority of what it grows.
As the professional, working-class population continues to grow in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Cameroon, so is the prevalence of coffee houses.
Coffee has impacted the world greatly in the centuries since its discovery. It has served as an agent of social change, but also enslavement.
Today coffee is the second most traded commodity only behind oil. And, while the circumstances under which the coffee is grown are constantly changing, the reverence it’s given by countless coffee drinking cultures remains unchanged.