Coffee culture, at home and abroad

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Coffee in Crete

We’re big into coffee around here. I know, it’s cliché – look at any bio floating around and it’s in there. But we were taken with the stuff enough to devote a sizable chunk of our dining area (and dare I say, budget) to our coffee experience.

We started in earnest when we lived in Alaska – with the bitter cold and daylight not appearing til closer to 11 AM during the winter, there needed to be something to motivate us to get out of bed.

 

 

The weather and latte art in 2012

This propelled us through our time there quite nicely, but when we moved to Germany we sold our machine because it wouldn’t work on the voltage over there. Sad day, but we promised ourselves we’d get another one when we returned to the States, and we might even upgrade our setup.

But being without an espresso machine wasn’t even close to all bad, because we had the world of European coffee to explore! We did a lot of coffee tourism as we went around the continent and had a ton of fun discovering how different countries approach coffee and the culture around it.

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In Germany, Kaffe und Küchen (coffee and cake) is a tradition that is kinda self explanatory.  We had an awesome roaster and cafe about 15 minutes from our house with a courtyard and a play area for the kids. As Kaffe und Küchen is more of a leisurely affair, it was great to send the kids to the sandbox and then enjoy most of our cake before they’d noticed we’d gotten more than just coffee!

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View of the courtyard from the sandbox

Given our coffee fixation, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Italy a few times – ground zero for coffee in Europe.

 

 

La Casa del Caffe Tazza D’Oro in Rome

In Italy it is far more common to take your coffee standing at the bar, so while coffee is cherished, it isn’t usually lingered over. You can get it at a table, but the price usually spikes up about 50% for table service, so I usually just got it at the bar like everyone else. On the plus side, the average Italian takes several coffee breaks a day, so while they don’t spend as much time per break, they take more of them, so it all evens out in the end.

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Barista in Naples

Something to note in Italy is that the coffee gradually changes with the latitude. In Northern Italy, they go for a lighter roast, something most Americans would refer to as a medium roast. As you travel south, it gradually darkens, until you reach Naples, where the coffee is darkly roasted and extra syrupy. I’m a little more partial to the medium stuff, but hey, to each his own!

France has lovely cafes, but the coffee was pretty consistently lackluster. The pastries, on the other hand….

 

 

Clockwise: Prague, Istanbul, and Athens

Czech Republic’s cafe culture was much the same as Germany’s, though “third wave” type of roasters were more common than most places (with the exception of Berlin, which has a thriving 3rd wave coffee scene). We seemed to mostly visit Czech in winter and early spring months, so we’d plot our sightseeing around cafes and warm up 2-3 times a day with coffee and shelter.

We found Istanbul and the Greek areas we visited to present the slowest coffee experience of all. Something about the sun warming you lends itself to longer stays at the coffee shop. Though we did get Ibrik coffee in both areas, I seem to have neglected to take any pictures – shame on me!

I could go on, but most would say I already have 😛 So, suffice to say, we were all the more excited about coffee when we were gearing up to leave, so after much careful research we kept our promise to ourselves for another espresso setup, and did indeed upgrade it upon our return.

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We were out of town when it arrived, and our landlady called us and asked, “are you sure this is all supposed to be here?!?”  Yes. Please don’t send it back – I’ll cry.

We got the machine and have been enjoying it for a few years now, but wanted to take the best from across the spectrum of the coffee scenes we had experienced. So, as recently seen on this blog, we just recently finished building our cafe table to round out our home coffee shop. It’s a blend of everything – the machine and coffee from Italy, the Parisian style, and and the laid back approach found in the Med – and we couldn’t be happier with it!

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