How Do You Take It

Coffee beans are enjoyed the world over with an estimated 40 billion cups consumed each year.  In Britain, almost £1bn is spent annually on coffee, and this country isn't even in the top 10 drinkers in the world.

 

We all know how we like to drink our own coffee our own way, but below is a look at how other coffee cultures around the world do it.

Winter 2017 - PSL

Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) first came out in the early 2000s - 2003 to be precise.

 

The PSL is Starbucks’s most popular seasonal beverage.  More than 200 million have been sold since its inception, and it has been estimated that the company earned around $100 million in revenue from the drink alone in 2015.

 

Pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger and sometimes actual pumpkin. It’s a polarising flavor, mainly because of the variety of pumpkin-spiced foods on the market each year gets a little more weird.

Still, the nostalgia surrounding the return pumpkin spice is hard to beat. Combine that with the ultimate marketing tool — the limited-time offer (LTO) — and you’ve just created a must-have product...especially in the US.

 

Most customers buy only one, though. Despite all the hype surrounding Starbucks’ PSL, 72 percent of people only buy one latte per season, according to the market research firm NPD Group.

 

Limited-time offers also make brands seem hip, which brings customers back in the door, and that’s great news for Starbucks whether they’re ordering the PSL or not. The study from NPD group also found that consumers spend more per visit when they buy a seasonal product.

 

All in all, it's a win-win!

Autumn 2017 - Greece

Drinking coffee in Greece is not just a habit. It is a daily ritual that you can enjoy alone while reading a newspaper or with friends in a busy cafe, in the summer outdoors next to the sea, during winter in a cozy saloon or on a roadtrip. Coffee breaks in Greece are serious affairs and last long.

 

Coffee is a vital part of the Greek culture and it is remarkable, yet not surprising, that Greek cafés are mushrooming instead of loosing ground from the big international coffee chains that have opened in Greece. The country is littered with local cafés, which in Greece can take two forms. The first form is a kafeteria. A kafeteria is as a quite trendy and popular hangout for Greeks, gathering especially people under 35 years old. During spring and summer most of the kafeterias provide outdoor tables and also serve as bars at night. A kafeteria usually offers many types of coffees, other beverages and snacks. The other type of Greek cafe is the "kafeneio", the old traditional café that existed decades before and used to be and still is the meeting point of the elderly men in every village or town, though everyone is welcome and treated courteously.

 

To begin with, the traditional Greek coffee, also known as "ellinikós kafés", is a brew similar in consistency to American instant coffee and is actually a version of the Turkish coffee, as it made its way to Greece during the Ottoman occupation. It is a thick, strong, black coffee prepared in a special small pot called a "briki" and served with a unique foam on top and the grounds in the bottom of a small cup. The small size of the cup does not imply that the coffee is meant to be drunk as a shot. Instead it is meant to be sipped slowly, fitting perfectly with the Greek coffee culture. The grounds settled at the bottom are not for consumption.

 

A cup of coffee is supposed predict the weather. If bubbles gather in the middle of the cup's surface, then the weather will be sunny and nice. If bubbles form around the outside of the cup, the weather will be changing to rain or snow. But it seems that some superstitions have a bit of physics involved in them. In this case the high atmospheric pressure, which usually comes with a sunny fair weather, forces the bubbles on the surface to go to the centre of the cup. At low pressure, which according to physics can lead to rain or snow and predicts a change in the weather, the bubbles burst to the outside of the cup.

Summer 2017 - Kenya

Though coffee is a staple of the West, we’re indebted to Africa for supplying us with our favourite perk-me-up bliss.  Kenya is an especially prominent name, and even Starbucks has been sporting a Kenya brew since 1971.  Kenyan beans are some of the world’s most treasured, as they have a very distinct flavour.

 

You’re finally on your way to Africa on your first big safari adventure and Kenya is on the list.  You don’t consider for a moment that a cup of sub-grade coffee might exist in Kenya.  Sadly, it’s very possible.  Until fairly recently (considering that Kenya has been producing coffee for more than a century), little of the coffee produced in Kenya was served in Kenya.  The beans were mostly saved for the export market.  The west was happily flooded with Kenyan coffee, but the Kenyans served instant coffee in airports and at restaurants.  Why? Because Kenyans have long preferred tea.  The British brought tea-drinking culture when they colonized Kenya in the late 1800s, and since then, black tea has been the obvious choice for locals.  Even the people who worked in the fields planted with some of the best coffee in the world would carry a flask of tea and sip it during the early morning.

 

The one exception was the ancient — albeit limited — coffee culture that exists along Kenya’s coast.  In and around Mombasa, men sit on low benches in the hot, humid day sipping on kahawa chungu, a bitter coffee drink said to be an effective aphrodisiac.  This concentrated black coffee is traditionally brewed over a charcoal stove in beautiful tall brass kettles.

 

A stunning tradition, still practiced by the older men in the evening before they go home to their wives, kahawa chungu isn’t popular among the younger generation.  They’re simply not interested in this potent, bitter drink.  As such, in the capital and a few tourist centres, you’ll be able to sit in a coffee shop and order your double latte or a cup of sweet black coffee – however you like it.  Yet the villages beyond Nairobi still prefer their tea.

Spring 2017 - South Africa

Not so long ago, if you ordered a cup of coffee in South Africa you needed to specify "filter" to avoid getting instant.  A decade ago, there was no cafe culture, nowhere to go for a flat white and certainly no expectation of locally roasted beans.  Those days are gone. Specialist coffee shops did nearly four times the business here in 2012 as in 2007.  The epicenter of the country's coffee revolution is Cape Town, whose population has a reputation for being trendy and aspirational.  These days, to-go cups from the right coffee shop are displayed like choice accessories.

 

Coffee expectations, till recently, have been very low. Instant coffee, often cut with chicory, was a vehicle for lots of milk and sugar to warm the body and provide a minor buzz.

Capetonians who used to drink instant coffee, tea or no hot beverage at all, have since discovered the cappuccino.

 

Coffee beans are one of Africa's premium export products.

"Coffee has a long life of about a year," says José Vilandy, who won the country's 2008 barista competition, and who now works for Truth, one of the city's new boutique roasters.  "But once it's been roasted, it only lasts four or five weeks."  In other words, buying coffee roasted in Europe means paying premium prices for stale coffee.  Customers have a keen interest in beans from Africa.  Just as chocolate is often associated with Switzerland rather than Ghana and Madagascar where cacao beans are actually grown, coffee has long been synonymous with European culture -- even though no coffee beans grow in Italy or France.  There's been a shift away from this Eurocentric perspective.  "People are starting to recognize that Africa is the mother of coffee," says Vilandy. "That's something that people appreciate a lot."

Winter 2016 - Olympics

Although caffeine is not currently 'banned' from the International Olympic (IOC) list of ergogenic compounds, it was placed on the list after a Mongolian athlete was found to have elevated levels during the 1972 Olympics.

 

Although caffeine is technically not on the list, it is still believed to function as a "performance enhancer" in athletes. But with caffeine found in practically ever beverage now, how does its 'performance enhancing' science work?  According to researchers, caffeine increases the migration of reserved fats into the bloodstream, thereby making them available during strenuous exercise and leaving a higher level of reserved glycogen in the muscles/liver.  As a result, the athletes 'burn' fat during a significant portion of their competition while providing them with a quick and readily available source of energy (in the form of a sugar: glycogen) that they can quickly make use of - say during the last 10 seconds of a race. Think of it as the 'nitrous oxide' commonly used in drag racing and the extra boost in horsepower during the last moments of a race.

So how many cups of coffee would one need to take to be over this limit?

 

The caffeine limit as imposed by WADA/IOC has varied over the years from 12-15 mcg caffeine per litre of urine or approximately 1,000 mg (or 6-8 cups of coffee, 8-12oz) consumed within a relatively short period of about 1 hour.

But because caffeine's metabolism varies significantly from person to person based on gender, weight, etc., caffeine concentrations in the urine can still remain elevated even if the coffee was consumed within a 2-3 hour period.

Autumn 2016 - Italy

When coffee was first shipped from the Middle East to Venice, it caused a furore and was almost banned from entering the port. Coffee houses were already established in Istanbul, but the fate of this stimulating drink was in the hands of Islamic preachers, who at first considered it on a par with alcohol. Eventually, it was accepted under Islamic law and trade began briskly in the 16th century. Coffee houses in Venice sprung up and very quickly the black liquid, which was until now solely consumed as a medicinal drink, achieved cult status, making it a luxury item, out of reach for most of Venetian society.  However, as coffee plantations became established within the European colonies in South America and Asia, availability increased, the price decreased and as it became more accessible to the poorer population, it ceased to be seen as purely medicinal.

 

The day is defined by coffee rituals: a cappuccino with breakfast, a caffè macchiato – or two – as an afternoon pick-me-up, and espresso after dinner. And like any culture, that of Italian coffee comes with seemingly mysterious laws. Order a latte, and you’ll receive a glass of milk (which is exactly what you ordered). Ask for a to-go cup or order a cappuccino after 11 a.m., and risk an instant tourist label.

 

Each of Italy’s 20 regions boasts its own unique coffee culture. Espresso may be ubiquitous, but there are many regional twists to the caffè. In Trentino ask for a ‘cappuccino Viennese’ and you’ll be served a delicious frothy coffee with chocolate and cinnamon. In the Marche region, stop for a ‘caffè anisette’ for an aniseed-flavoured espresso, in Naples enjoy coffee flavoured with hazelnut cream and, while in Sicily, why not indulge in a ‘caffè d’u parrinu’, an Arabic-inspired coffee flavoured with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder .

 

Finally, a Neapolitan tradition that is slowly dying out is the practice of ‘caffè sospeso’, meaning suspended coffee: it’s the practice of paying for two coffees but only consuming one, leaving the other for a stranger to enjoy for free. Because every Italian loves good coffee, and there is no better feeling than that of sharing a cup with a stranger.

Summer 2016 - Turkey

There's a reason Turkish coffee is famed throughout the world – the Turks were enjoying a vibrant coffee house culture as far back as the 1500s, long before the first specialty coffee shops gained popularity in Europe or North America.  The Turks like their coffee strong, dark and sweet, with the grounds settling at the bottom of the cup.

 

The term “coffee” is derived from the Arabic word “qahwa” by way of the Turkish word “kahve.”  The word for breakfast in Turkish is kahvaltı, meaning “under or before coffee”.  It is so much part of Turkish culture that at one time men would judge whether a woman would make a good wife based upon her ability to brew it.  A few hundred years ago a Turkish law made it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he did not bring home a daily quota of coffee.

 

Turkish coffee is made in a cezve, a metal pot that tapers toward the top.  The foam is precious, and much like the foamed milk atop a cappuccino, it is an integral part of the experience.  For this reason, coffee is prepared with a cezve that accommodates exactly the number of servings that are being prepared.  If there is too much room in the cezve, the foam climbs the sides of the pot and sticks there when removed from the heat.

 

When you polish off your coffee, don't toss the grounds - they can be used to tell your fortune.  Tasseography, or fal in Turkish, is the fine art of telling one’s fortune from a cup—in this case, a coffee cup.  With Turkish coffee, the grounds are what tell the story.  To find your fortune you must put the saucer over the cup, give it a few gentle whirls, and then deftly flip it over and let it cool.  Your host will then lift the cup to read the patterns left behind.

Spring 2016 - Cuba

The morning cup of java is practically a religion for Cubans, so visitors here must make sure to enjoy one of the local brews.  Don't be in a hurry about it either - morning coffee is meant to be a leisurely event spent socializing with friends and family.

 

Like your coffee sweet?  Order a Café Cubano (also called a Cafecito), which is an espresso brewed with demerara sugar.  Traditionally, it is made using the darker roasts, typically either Italian or Spanish Roasts.  It is identical to Italian pulls, except for the addition of sugar directly to the espresso pitcher.  The heat from the coffee-making process will hydrolyze some of the sucrose, thereby creating a sweeter and slightly more viscous result than a normal pull or adding sugar at the table.

 

If you don't have a sweet tooth, try a Coradito, which is espresso topped with steamed milk.  Cortadito, is a standard espresso shot topped off with steamed milk.  It can be between 50/50 to 75/25 espresso and milk.  It is similar to a cortado served in other Latin countries, but pre-sweetened

 

The best place to enjoy a cuppa is in the home of a local family, but if that's not an option, one of the many elegant cafés in the classically romantic capital city of Havana will do.

Winter 2015 - Portugal

Few people bother to have full espresso machines at home in Portugal, preferring the social atmosphere and superior espresso of a local café.  Portuguese coffee culture brings people together. “Let’s go for a coffee” is a Portuguese tradition, similar to Sweden’s “Let’s fika!”  Mid-morning and after lunch are the traditional times for taking a coffee break.

 

The Portuguese like their coffee strong, so if you're up to the challenge be sure to order a Bica - a shot of tart espresso served in a demitasse cup.  The drink was named from the acronym of “Beba Isso Com Açúcar” (literally, "drink this with sugar") and it you're not accustomed to strong brews, you may want to take the advice.  In Portugal, even McDonald’s serves the “bica” in a porcelain cup!

 

Favourites to go with the coffee are ‘torradas’, delicious toast buttered on both sides, Tosta mista (cheese and ham grilled sandwich), bifana ( fried pork sandwich) and prego (fried beef sandwich).

 

Even if you go into the supermarket and buy the instant Nescafe (as all instant coffee is called generically in Portugal) you will find the Portuguese jar vastly superior in taste, aroma and flavour to the Nescafe you buy at home.  This is a country that knows its coffee, and won’t settle for anything but the best.

Autumn 2015 - New Zealand

Over the last few decades, New Zealand has been refining its coffee culture and these days, the Kiwis have it down to an art. If you want to seem like a local in this down under country, be sure to order a flat white - their signature brew is composed of one third espresso, two thirds steamed milk and a touch of textured rather than frothy milk. If you prefer your coffee without milk, you can try a short black (a shot of espresso) or a long black (similar to an Americano.)

 

New Zealand coffee connoisseurs will go a long way to get their daily caffeine fix and favoured cafés can be anything from a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ or mobile outlet just big enough to accommodate a good coffee machine and its skilled operator, to stylish venues with lounge-style seating serving gourmet treats and meals.

Children are generally welcome in New Zealand cafés with many offering toys, high chairs and a kids menu. Many young mothers partake in a daily ritual of meeting up with friends at their local café to chat over coffee while the children play or indulge in their own special Kiwi brew - a ‘fluffy’ (a demi-tasse filled with foamed milk, sprinkled with chocolate and served with marshmallow on the side and a small chocolate fish).

 

As well as social venues and places to catch up with friends, New Zealand cafés are used as corporate meeting rooms and offices with wireless connections turning downtime into uptime for business people and their laptop computers.

 

New Zealand has more roasters per capita than anywhere in the world - and some even argue that New Zealand also has the best coffee in the world.

Summer 2015 - Ethiopia

Historically speaking, Ethiopia is where coffee was first discovered, and these days it's still an important part of the culture. But drinking coffee in Ethiopia isn't just a matter of ordering at a counter - it's a full-on cultural experience. The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a spiritual practice that encompasses every step in the process from the roasting of the beans to the eventual serving of the drinks, and not surprisingly, it takes several hours.

The way of preparing and serving coffee varies according the occasion and also the region of the country:

  • In Kaficho and Shakicho zones where coffee was first domesticated, coffee leaves collected from wild coffee plants are brewed and spiced with pepper and ginger. The drink is a favourite one and is used as a medicine.  Kuti is another special infusion prepared with roasted coffee leaves and spices like ginger and cinnamon.
  • Bunakela is a mix of coffee husks, and oils or animal fats together with wheat or barley. Used mainly by the hunters and travellers of Borena and Gedio zone, it provides a highly nutritious food preferred even from bread. Bunakela is aslo served as a holy food during the birth of the first child in Harar.
  • Mostly drunk in the areas of Hararghe, Hoja is prepared from coffee husks which are dried and fried over an iron pan. Then they are boiled with milk and honey.

Coffee plays such a heavily ingrained role in Ethiopian culture that it appears in many expressions dealing with life, food and interpersonal relationships.

  • One common Ethiopian coffee saying is "Buna dabo naw." This literally translates to "Coffee is our bread." It demonstrates the central role that coffee plays in terms of diet and illustrates the level of importance placed on it as a source of sustenance.
  • Another common saying is "Buna tetu." This is an Amharic phrase that literally means "Drink coffee." It applies not only to the act of drinking coffee, but also to socializing (much like the way people use the phrase "meet for coffee" here).
  • If someone says, "I don’t have anyone to have coffee with," it is not taken literally, but assumed to mean that the person does not have good friends in whom they can confide. This relates closely to the enormous social role that coffee consumption plays in Ethiopia, and the fact that people often gather over coffee for conversations that cover daily life, gossip and deeper issues alike.
  • Similarly, if someone says, "Don’t let your name get noticed at coffee time," they mean that you should watch out for your reputation and avoid becoming the topic of negative gossip.

Spring 2015 - Brazil

Brazil produces roughly one third of the world's coffee so it's no surprise that Brazilians love their brews.

 

Here, the café com leite - double strength coffee served with plenty of hot milk - is the drink of choice in the morning.  The coffee to milk ratio significantly diminishes the strength and the bitterness of the coffee, so sometimes it feels that a café com leite is more like a desert than a standard energy jolt to throw back in a sip or two.  In Brazil, there is a strong marriage with food - much of the best brews are served by padarias (bakeries).

 

Another Brazilian favourite is cafezhino, a strong and dark coffee that's served with lots of sugar.  At petrol stations and in offices, there is always a thermos with coffee available, which sometimes stands next to the cashier. You can also walk inside restaurants and just ask at the counter for a cafezinho, which is most likely free of charge.  This hospitable culture where coffee is offered free is not about not being able to afford a cup of coffee; it’s the gesture, the culture, the tradition.

 

Brazilians never walk and drink a coffee at the same time: there is no coffee-on-the-go lifestyle here.  Although brief, Brazilians seem to enjoy their small window of time while they down a cafezinho.  And of course, they enjoy their cup for breakfast every day.  Brazilians love their way of making coffee: boiling water and mixing the coffee in and slowly cooking it in order to extract as much flavor as possible.  Afterwards the coffee is strained into a thermos that everybody will drink from.  Or sometimes they’ll just boil water and pour it on coffee grounds in a filter directly into the thermos.

 

Coffee drinking is so prevalent here that it's even served to school kids ages five and up.

Recommendations

The Réveillez Blend is a dark roast that is smooth with a full body and excellent aroma.  It makes a sensational espresso but is also sufficiently versatile to stand out very boldly under French press preparation.

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