That we are crazy about food and travel, you probably already know… But what about our love for coffee?
One thing you can be sure of is that it’s as big as our love for Greek culture! Coffee is a subject that could generate countless blog posts – its culture, its connection to different traditions – the truth is, the world LOVES this ancient beverage called coffee!
In this blog post, we will explore the history and origins of Greek coffee, one of our favorites among all the varieties of coffee you can find around the world!
This distinctive brew, savored for centuries in the charming streets of Athens and beyond, definitely has a tale to tell. Revered as much for its unique taste as for the traditional brewing process… just to talk about it we can almost smell its essence in the air!
In this reading we invite you on a captivating journey to discover the intricacies of Greek coffee, one of the historical and delicious offerings featured on our Secret Food Tour Athens.
Tracing the Roots: Origin and Evolution of Greek Coffee
The journey of Greek coffee isn’t a short one. Its history forms a significant part of Greek social life, often seen as far more than merely a drink.
Introduced to Greece during the period of Ottoman rule around 1453, it’s made in small long-handled pots known as briki, a method that has been preserved unchanged through generations.
Greek coffee is ground to a fine powder with each bean turning almost flour-like. The brewing process is slow, allowing all the flavors from the bean to make their way into the cup…
…Unrushed and potent, each sip offers a warm embrace of Greek history.
Brewed and Savored: Greek Coffee’s Unique Flavor Profile
Greek coffee stands apart in the global coffee scene not only for its unique brewing process but the distinctive flavor that it yields. As such, to truly appreciate Greek coffee, one must savor it the way the locals do (and that’s always our favorite way!).
The style of brewing, which includes not removing the ground coffee, gives each cup a full-bodied, potent flavor and an impressive longevity.
Also, Greek coffee is traditionally sweetened according to taste, with ‘glykys’ meaning sweet, ‘metrios’ medium, and ‘sketos’ indicating no sugar.
The finish gives away the robust nature of these tiny yet rich cups of coffee. The ‘kaimaki’ or coffee froth that adds a creamy texture, the residual coffee grounds that settle at the bottom of the cup, and the delightfully slow pace at which it is traditionally enjoyed, all contribute to an apt representation of Greek culture and the concept of ‘siga siga’ (slowly slowly).
A Ritual in a Cup: The Art of Brewing Greek Coffee
The preparation of Greek Coffee is a ceremony, a daily ritual that Greeks religiously comply with. It begins with cold water and a heaped teaspoonful of coffee placed in a briki. Sugar is added at this point, and the mixture is stirred. Then, the briki is placed on a low flame, allowing the coffee to heat slowly.
As the coffee heats, foam starts to rise in the briki. Just before it spills over, the coffee is poured into demi-tasse cups, allowing the ‘kaimaki’ to be divided evenly. That’s when you know Greek coffee is ready to be served.
Remember, the cherished method of slow brewing is what gives Greek coffee its iconic intensity and deeply satisfying flavor. It’s a patient, attentive process that’s a stark, appealing contrast to today’s ‘instant’ culture.
Beyond the Sip: The Sociocultural Standing of Greek Coffee
In Greece, coffee does more than caffeinating its citizens. Greek coffee culture isn’t about consuming as much coffee as quickly as possible and then speeding off to work. It’s about enjoyability and leisure, mirroring the Greek adage of ‘siga siga’.
Greeks might spend hours in a ‘kafeneio’ or coffee shop, relishing their coffee and chatting away. Greek coffee is about slowing down (!!!) and savoring – both the coffee and the companionship.
And then there’s the fascinating ritual of fortune-telling through the coffee sediment left in the cup, known as ‘tasseography’. While not a daily event, this little slice of mysticism is a fun, unique aspect of Greek coffee culture that certainly warrants a mention.
Culinary Affection: Greek Coffee Paired with Local Delicacies
Greek coffee and culinary indulgence often go hand-in-hand. Enjoying a yiaourti (Greek yogurt) topped with golden Greek honey or biting into a flaky, syrup-rich piece of Baklava is often a part of the Greek coffee experience. Traditional coffeehouses or ‘kafeneio’ often double as a ‘zaharoplasteio’ (sweet shop), offering a range of pastries and sweets that make a delightful accompaniment to the rich Greek coffee.
Around the World in a Coffee Cup: Different Coffee Cultures
If you’ve made it this far, you must be a coffee enthusiast like us, and in the end, it’s worth delving into the coffees from other cultures and places around the world. This way, you can understand the difference between Greek coffee and the other types of coffee out there, which are also certainly worth tasting!
Italian Espresso Culture
Espresso is the Italians’ coffee of choice, consumed quickly and without sugar, usually at the counter of a bar. Beyond espresso, variations such as cappuccino and macchiato have further enriched the Italian coffee scene.
Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
Considered the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has a rich coffee culture. The traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony is an extensive process where coffee beans are roasted, ground, and brewed in a jebena (clay coffee pot). A vital social event, the ceremony is a significant part of Ethiopian social and cultural life.
Turkish Coffee Tradition
Turkish coffee is famed for its unique preparation, serving style, and delicious outcomes. Extremely fine coffee grounds and sugar are boiled in a special coffee pot known as a cezve. The slow-boiling process allows the thick, frothy coffee to maintain its remarkable flavor profile. Just like in Greece, coffee grounds left in the cup are often used for fortune-telling.
Japanese Siphon Brewing
Japan has embraced coffee as part of its culture, especially visible in the popularity of neat, minimalist coffee shops. One of the most intriguing brewing methods adopted in Japan is siphon (or vacuum pot) brewing. This method highlights the coffee’s sweet undertones and gives a lighter body to the brew.
Cuban Coffee Culture
In Cuba, coffee is a staple, consumed in small, sweet, and robust shots known as ‘Cafecito’. Coffee also plays a role in social interactions, typically enjoyed during social visits or as a quick pick-me-up during the day. Do you know where you can find some great Cuban coffee outside Cuba? On our Secret Food Tour Little Havana!
The legacy of Greek coffee is much more than the tale of a beverage. It’s a cultural narrative, a ritual wrapped in social significance, and a link to the country’s rich history. From its distinct brewing method to its cherished place in Greek daily life, Greek coffee is a testament to Greece’s reverence for tradition.
Whether it’s enjoyed in a cozy home setting, sipped by the sea, or savoured in the bustling ‘platias’ (squares) of Greek cities, the culture of Greek coffee illuminates the spirit of Greece – one that cherishes its past, celebrates the present, and welcomes the future with an open heart and a warm, frothy cup.
Remember, next time you’re enjoying Greek coffee, , you’re partaking in a chapter of Greek history, a daily tradition, and a unique cultural experience that’s quintessentially Greek.
Want to explore even more about coffee beyond Greek coffee? Check out these two captivating blog posts: “Ten Belles Artisan Coffee Knocks the Chains into Nothingness” and “Drinking Coffee Like a Real Italian.” They offer unique insights into exceptional coffee blends and the authentic Italian coffee culture, providing a delightful journey into the diverse world of coffee. Expand your coffee knowledge and savor the rich experiences these articles have to offer!