BY LAURA SOMERSET
The reason millennials keep buying $5 flat whites is because coffee is a key part of social and cultural life all around the world. From catching up with friends in pretty cafes, to pulling all-nighters on assignments thanks to caffeine boosts, coffee is crucial to the New Zealand lifestyle. So how does coffee culture vary between different countries?
My favourite word in a foreign language would have to be “fika”, which roughly translates from Swedish to mean “coffee break”. In Sweden, taking time out of your day for fika is considered an important ritual for maintaining wellbeing, especially in a country where winters are harsh and cosiness is necessary for survival. Instead of drinking coffee on the run, Swedes make time in their days to sit down and savour a hot drink so that they can get some perspective. Fika is a key part of social life in Sweden, and many companies write fika breaks into their employees’ contracts so that coworkers can foster stronger connections with each other and maintain good mental health.
What would an article about coffee be if we didn’t talk about Italy? The country’s unwritten rules for coffee are pretty strict: Italians typically order cappuccinos in the morning, because breakfasts in Italy are famously light and milky coffee is a good way to fill up. After midday though, they’ll be ordering espresso shots – ordering milky coffee in the afternoon is a surefire way to find yourself ostracised from Italian society . Also, Italians don’t tend to order their coffee to-go. Instead, they’ll stand next to the bar and down their espresso in a few sips, before paying the barista and heading out fully-caffeinated.
You can’t get two minutes into an American TV show without a character brandishing a coffee cup, so it’s unsurprising that the USA is into coffee in a big way. So how do their drinking habits compare to the rest of the world? Americans drink around 90% of their coffee during the morning and tend to have it to-go, making coffee more about caffeine and convenience than about being a social occasion. If you ask for coffee in a US cafe then you’ll be given a cup of drip coffee, which is why a large, black coffee in New Zealand is referred to as an “Americano”. If we’re talking barista-style coffee though, the latte is the most popular. Another Americanism to note: kettles aren’t that common – microwaves are often used to boil water for hot drinks.
Since tea is such an important part of Japanese tradition, coffee culture took a while to hit the country – but when it did, it hit weird. Coffee is sold like an energy drink in Japan, packaged for convenience. You can find canned coffee in vending machines and supermarkets all around the country, which is sold cheaply and comes either hot or cold. Let me say that again: canned, hot coffee. Iced coffee is similarly popular, generally served black and without sugar, which is refreshing during the muggy summer months.
Egypt’s coffee drinking habits stretch back over 500 years, and the country takes the drink so seriously that many of its traditional folk songs were written specifically to praise coffee. Some of the world’s very first coffeehouses can be traced back to Egypt, and these shops were important meeting points throughout history for Egyptian political figures and social revolutionaries. Coffee in Egypt is brewed by steeping coffee grinds, hot water, and sugar in a tiny pot with a long handle, as it sits on a stove-top. Since the grinds aren’t filtered out of the coffee at any stage, it has to be drunk slowly so that they can settle on the bottom. Because of this, it’s tradition to tell fortunes from the coffee grinds at the end of a cup.
Pretty cool how different coffee culture is around the world, isn’t it?
New to coffee culture? Check out A Confused Caffeine Lover’s Guide to Ordering Coffee
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On top of being our resident coffee expert, LAURA SOMERSET is an accidental environmentalist who’s always doing too many things at once. Aspires after Viv Albertine with dreams of punk rock, but would probably have been relegated to a hippy instead if these were the 70s. Will one day master bass guitar.
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