The Art and Culture of Greek Coffee

Wednesday, 19 July 2023

Coffee is deeply rooted in the everyday life of Greece. For Greeks coffee is not just a drink but a reason for socializing. After all, the most common question you will hear is ‘Shall we go grab a coffee?’ marking the proposal for an appointment either between friends or on a business level.

Although Greece hasn’t played any role in the creation or influence of coffee, it is one of the highest coffee-consuming countries and has developed its own coffee culture. 

The Origins

Coffee was first discovered in Arabia and came to Greece during the Ottoman Empire. The first ‘coffee shop’ opened in Constantinople in 1425 and soon after that arrived in the country through trade and cultural exchange. It didn’t take long for local coffee houses, known as ‘kafeneia’, to appear all over Greece, where men gathered to socialize, engage in discussions, or play cards with a cup of coffee. These coffee houses were a vital social hub in Greece until recent years. Nowadays, they are replaced with modern cafeterias yet there are still some left mainly in the countryside where the locals still gather to enjoy a cup of coffee.

ellinikos kafes

Greek Coffee

Of course, as coffee started to play such a big part in the local’s daily life, the traditional Greek coffee (Ellinikos Kafes in Greek) was created. First, the coffee beans are brewed and slowly boiled with water in a small, long-handled pot (briki in Greek) until it becomes a thick drink with a strong aroma. It’s served in a small cup, sometimes accompanied by a sweet or a biscuit. If you want to order a Greek coffee, then keep careful notes of the different variations:

  • Sketos (no sugar)
  • Metrios (medium sweetness / 1 spoon of sugar)
  • Glykos (sweet / 2 spoons of sugar)

Greek coffee also established the tradition of coffee reading (kafemanteia in Greek) to see someone’s fortune in the remnants of the coffee. This practice is based on the idea that a person’s emotional, mental, and physical condition affects the shapes formed in the coffee residue.

frapedia

Summer Coffee Variations

During summer, the intense heat makes it challenging to enjoy a piping-hot cup of Greek coffee. To address this, a delightful alternative known as the "frappe" emerged in the early 1960s, which is a mixture of instant coffee with cold water, ice cubes, sugar, and milk shaken together. Frappe became popular among youngsters, as it was easy to make, affordable, and kept them cool, contributing to the wider consumption of coffee and to its establishment in the Greek culture.

However, the Greeks' creativity didn’t stop there! When espresso and cappuccino arrived from Italy, 2 Greek variants were created, freddo espresso and freddo cappuccino. These versions match the flavor and aroma of their original counterparts with the need for a refreshing, frozen drink during summer and have become a beloved choice for locals and visitors seeking a chilled caffeine mix.

BlogPost Coffee Photos

Greek coffee is more than a beverage, is a way of fostering connections and embracing the spirit of hospitality. So, during your visit to Greece spare a moment to have a cup of coffee and embrace its rich tradition.

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