Coffee traditions in different countries have been sculpted and refined by social, geographical and historical influences and it makes (we think) for a fascinating subject. However, it does mean if you’re not informed of a nation’s coffee of choice or the customs which accompany it, you could make a faux pas when ordering abroad. So, we hope we will help you feel cultured and confident when you’re travelling by giving you this useful insight into the coffee culture of five countries. Conversely, if you’re a seasoned traveller we may inform you of lesser known coffee customs in popular destinations.
Have you ever been to Italy and ordered a Cappuccino or Latte after 11am? If you have, we’re sure you won’t make that mistake again! The people of Italy take their coffee very seriously, after all it is the birth place of the Espresso or “Caffe”. A quality espresso should have a thin frothy crema layer on top and it is acceptable to drink it with sugar. The Italians and French only drink milky coffee at breakfast time as it is believed the milk will upset their digestion if drunk after a meal.
Vietnam is home to an unusual yet extremely delicious coffee. Coffee with milk seems rather boring compared to the concoctions they have devised using strong and flavourful grinds. Coffee or “ca phe” was introduced by French Colonists and due to a milk shortage, made use of yogurt, eggs and fruit. These drinks are still the norm today, but the most popular addition is condensed milk (yum!). Cafés are frequented after a meal as it is very rare for one to serve food and are used as a spot to socialise or relax.
It is said Finnish people drink more coffee per capita than any other nation in the world. It is often used as a centre point around which social gatherings are formed or as an addition to an outdoor activity (such as ice fishing!) to keep warm. It often accompanied with a sweet pastry or cake. In fact, the whole coffee and cake situation has been given the name kakkukahvi.
The most unusual thing about how the Finnish drink their coffee is it is often drunk with a cube of cheese in it cheese. Yes, that’s right. They use a relatively firm mild cheese for a sweeter flavour and creamier consistency. It also acts as a little snack once the coffee has been consumed…
The Spanish created the cortado (yes, this one is new to us too!). This is an espresso served in a slightly bigger cup with an equal amount of milk. Unlike a flat white the milk isn’t texturised, just lightly steamed. Cortado means ‘cut’ in Spanish as the addition of milk to an espresso ‘cuts’ or dilutes the acidity. Coffee in Spain is drunk at breakfast and then mid-morning as a pick-me-up.
There is some dispute as to whether the flat white was created in New Zealand or Australia by Italian settlers. But still, we thought it worth mentioning as New Zealand has reputedly more roasters per capita than any other country in the world. Once a nation with a preference for tea, coffee culture has taken over and it is usually drunk in the morning to kick start the day.