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How The World Drinks Coffee: An International Sipping Guide
Can’t start your day without a cup of java? You’re not alone! Billions of people crave and drink the addictive brew—but how they prepare it usually depends upon where in the world they’re standing.
It’s one of the world’s most widely sipped and savored beverages—a fortunate fact for travelers who couldn’t start their days (or get through a long night) without a steaming hot cup of coffee. But whether you’ve acquired a taste for double shot skinny lattes from Starbucks—or basic black java cooked up in your own kitchen—chances are, you’re probably not going to sip your coffee overseas in the same way you do at home. Around the world countries like Turkey, Cuba and Vietnam have put their own spin on the bean-based brew. One of the coolest (and least expensive!) ways to experience a new culture is to find a local coffee shop (you’re sure to find one just about anywhere!) and order up a cup like a local.
Here’s a little background to get you started.
Sipped in: The Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans and Caucasus
This method of brewing coffee is one of the oldest of those currently used, dating back to the 16th century. The coffee beans are finely ground—even finer than espresso—before being stirred with sugar and/or spices like cardamom and anise in warm water so the sugar can dissolve (note: the sugar is optional, but is typical as the coffee is strong). The mixture is then brewed on a low heat—never boiled, but instead foamed—in a copper pot called a cezve and served in a cup where it’s acceptable for the grounds to settle. Note: If you’re making this type of coffee at home, you’ll need to invest in a high-quality coffee grinder to achieve the fineness necessary to brew Turkish coffee. Additionally, it’s worth noting the process involves the foaming up of liquids in stages, so you need a pot that’s not too big but leaves enough airspace to not make a mess.
Sipped in: Cuba and parts of Florida
Cuban coffee refers to a type of espresso that originated in Cuba after Italy began importing espresso machines there. The espresso shot is sweetened with demerara sugar while it is brewing. A sweet and creamy caramel foam called espumita sits at the top of the cup, the result of vigorously mixing the first few drops of espresso with the sugar to create a paste. Because straight-up Cuban coffee can be very strong, it’s helpful to know a few important variants that can tame the potency. A cortadito is when the espresso is topped with steamed milk, while cafe con leche is when the espresso is served with steamed or hot milk on the side. If you don’t want sugar, simply say sin azucar. A colada is meant to be shared and typically consists of four to six shots of Cuban espresso served in a large cup with smaller cups situated on the side.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Sipped in: Northern Vietnam
Also known as Ca phe da or cafe da, Vietnamese iced coffee consists of pure, finely-ground 100% Vietnamese-grown robusta coffee, which is dark roasted to neutralize the bitter, Earthy flavor. Because it is so potent, the coffee is brewed with a still-brewing phin filter and poured over about a quarter to a half-cup of sweetened condensed milk. The concoction is stirred and poured over ice. One misconception many Americans have is that traditional Vietnamese coffee is made with chicory; however, that is something Americans introduced to this style of coffee brewing.
Sipped in: Ireland and Irish pubs worldwide
The most relaxing cup of coffee you’ll ever find is undoubtedly Irish coffee. The java-inspired libation was invented by a man named Joe Sheridan in Ireland in the 1940s to warm up a group of freezing American tourists. When the group asked him if they were drinking Brazilian coffee, he quickly told them they were drinking “Irish coffee.” The drink consists of hot coffee, Irish whiskey and at least one teaspoon of sugar and is topped with thick whipped cream. Traditionally, you are supposed to drink the coffee through the cream.
Mexican Cafe de Olla
Sipped in: Mexico and the American Southwest
If the idea of adding a bit of spice to your cup of java appeals to you, you’ll love the traditional Mexican coffee, Cafe de Olla. Olla refers to the round, bulbous earthenware pot used to make the coffee, which locals believe brings out the coffee’s flavor. The recipe is simple, as you simply add ground coffee and cinnamon sticks to boiling water and allow the drink to continue to boil. The grounds are strained from the liquid, which is traditionally served with piloncillo, a traditional dark, unrefined sugar.
Sipped in: Greece and parts of Europe
In Greece, the typical coffee of choice is the frappe. The drink consists of an iced coffee made from instant spray-dried coffee—typically Nescafe—that is covered in foam. To make it, one inch of cold water, coffee, two or three ice cubes and sugar are vigorously shaken in a cocktail shaker to create a frothy drink. From there you can pour in more cold water and milk as desired. Drink with a straw and enjoy.
Tell us about your favorite international coffee?
Jessica Festa, a New York native, is a world traveler who is always looking for a new adventure. She stays active through hiking, cycling, and dance and loves nothing more than her backpack. Follow her travels around the world at Jessie on a Journey and at Epicure & Culture.