Coffee has been popular around the world for centuries, but how much do we really know about the traditions different countries follow when making it?
So many of us love a cup of coffee – but in how many different ways. From Mexico to Mauritius, the Vatican to Vanuatu, coffee brings people together but also differentiates us as a planet of .
In traditional American diners, they drink a light brew of filter coffee alongside breakfast blueberry pancakes or a full dinner – and with endless top-ups for the “bottomless cups” it goes with apple pie and ice cream, too.
In the Australian city of Melbourne, coffee is regarded with practically religious fervour, and a perfect flat white (small, strong, coffee with velvety steamed milk) might be drunk alongside a brunch of avocado smashed onto a slice of artisan sourdough toast.
The birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia, has a solemn coffee ceremony that may be performed three times a day, and whenever a visitor arrives
Across the water in New Zealand (where they say they invented that flat white), it will come with a square slab of delectable cake. Whether caramel crisp or chocolate banana crunch, no one does a traybake like the Kiwis.
But 5,000 miles away in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, you are likely to be served your sweet milky brew in a plastic sandwich bag that hangs from your wrist by a string, easy to sip from with a straw as you negotiate a crowded market or the hectic public transport system.
The birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia, has a solemn coffee ceremony that may be performed three times a day, and whenever a visitor arrives. Fresh arabica coffee beans are roasted over a charcoal stove, then pounded with a pestle and mortar, before brewing in the elegant jebena, a long-necked, pot-bellied coffee pot. The coffee is sieved several times and then served, by the youngest child to the oldest guest first, in tiny china cups.
Hurtle over the Indian Ocean to Vietnam, and ca phe sua da is the order of the day – iced coffee
If you are invited to attend – lucky you – allow plenty of time. There are three brewings of the grounds, called abol, tona and baraka, and it is important to partake of every round to receive the full blessing and “transformation of the spirit”. There is no milk, but the coffee is sweetened with sugar, or sometimes salted in country areas. Popcorn, peanuts or barley may be served to nibble on, while the group socialise, brought together by the coffee.
Hurtle over the Indian Ocean to Vietnam, and ca phe sua da is the order of the day – iced coffee. It is made with coffee beans that have been roasted dark with sugar and butter to a toasty caramelised flavour, with as often as not a hefty dose of chicory.
In a café it will arrive in a phin, a little metal filter that sits like a hat on top of a scuffed heavy glass.
Turkish coffee is literally another can of beans. The coffee is stirred in, and as it heats a foam rises to the surface ready to be scooped into the tiny cups
It drips through slowly, so slowly – why rush? All the more time to chat, perched on the low plastic stools by a roadside. But once the bitter brew has finally emerged, it is topped up with an equal quantity of sweet, thick condensed milk and, generally, lots of ice. Sounds sweet and sickly – but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It is actually delicious, malty and moreish. Really. Drink it as the Vietnamese do, as a cooling daytime drink, with a crisp airy banh mi – baguette sandwich – stuffed with pork pâté and handfuls of fresh herbs.
Turkish coffee is literally another can of beans. They are ground almost flour-fine. Water and sugar are heated on the hob in a cezve, a little metal jug-cum-ladle, traditionally copper and with a long handle. The coffee is stirred in, and as it heats a foam rises to the surface ready to be scooped into the tiny cups. Finally the coffee approaches boiling, and it is poured into the cups to fill them up. It is served with a glass of water at the side, drunk first to slake thirst and cleanse the palate, and often a little square of Turkish delight.
As for us Brits, the coffee ritual has changed from a snatched mug of instant to a realm of cappuccinos and frappés, filter and cold brew
But the ritual does not end when the thick liquid is drunk. Turn the coffee cup, still with a sludge of coffee grounds at the bottom, upside down on to the saucer. Leave it to cool, then lift up the cup – it should be sticking lightly to the saucer – and examine the sides and base of the cup for images. The gifted fortune teller can forsee much from the residue of coffee there. Beware a round blob on the bottom, which represents an eye – people are watching you.
Swedish coffee, like all Scandinavian coffee, is a lighter roast. But the traditional method of making it has coffee aficionados shuddering: the grounds are boiled with water, which can make an acrid brew.
Sounds like it might be a bit murky? Don’t worry: Scandinavian egg coffee has, yes, a raw egg mixed into the ground coffee before brewing. The idea is that the solids “stick” to the egg, making for a clear brew. It works – it is a similar technique to that used to clarify consommé – but while when properly done the result is silky smooth, it is often boiled to a metallic bitterness.
Thankfully it is usually part of a fika – a name for a coffee break with a delicious Swedish cake or biscuit known as fikabröd. It is a sort of Scandi take on elevenses, but with cinnamon buns – the perfect partners.
As for us Brits, the coffee ritual has changed from a snatched mug of instant to a realm of cappuccinos and frappés, filter and cold brew. It is about shared conversation or private pleasure, with a homemade flapjack or a buttery croissant. It is not quite the same way as any other nation, and so much the better. Vive la différence!
Originally posted in The Telegraph