Many important things can start very simple. In this case only one sentence is enough: Πάμε για καφέ; (Shall we go for coffee? ).
Because coffee in Greece is a very strong part of the country’s cultural identity. Drinking coffee in Greece is not just a break of the day. A whole ritual goes with it. And that’s why it lasts long. Because next to a cup of coffee everything fits: gossip, business talks, personal confrontations, simple acquaintance and socialization, exchange of political opinions, disagreements …
In 2011, Greece was ranked 15th on the list of coffee consumption in the world, with 5.5 kilograms of coffee consumed per capita each year.
” Καφενείον” το ελληνικόν (“Kafeneion” the Greek)
Traditionally cafés were a recreational place. There only men used to go, after a heavy day at work. They exchanged their news or learned what happened in the world at a time when there were no radios or televisions in each house. That’s why a café was the center of a small society.
Today things have changed. Also the societies. News travels fast and has no need of a café. Customers can belong to all ages. However, the idea behind a cup of coffee remains the same. That’s why you will often hear: «Τα λέμε με τον καφέ» “Let’s talk during the coffee”!
In addition, nowadays next to traditional kafeneia there are many cafés as well. These are the “response” of the modern times to the traditional idea of Kafeneio as a male-only hangout, with the tavli on the table and its political discussions. Some cafés may choose the name Kafeneio, because it is easily recognisable by the tourists. But if you find yourself in the Greek countryside, then you will understand that the difference between cafés and kafeneio still exists.
How do you prefer your coffee?
Remember that even if you don’t feel like to engage in philosophical discussions or to think about insoluble problems, coffee remains the best opportunity for socializing. But if you have not had it before, Greek coffee may be a matter of mystery.
You can make an easy start ordering: έναν καφέ παρακαλώ! a coffee, please! But what kind of coffee and how you prefer it?
OK,…. If your first choice is a traditional Greek coffee, start saying: “Έναν ελληνικό καφέ παρακαλώ!” (A Greek coffee please!).
Here’s a quick guide to learn how to enjoy your coffee or order it.
Sketos (Plain): This is a strong coffee without sugar. Οf course it is bitter! And strong! This is how it must be especially in the morning when you need an intense kick-start.
Metrios (Medium): One teaspoon of sugar can make a big difference! This is probably the most popular way of drinking Greek coffee. Not too bitter, not too sweet. Ιf the middle way seems to be your path, this is maybe the best choice for you.
Glikos (Sweet): Two teaspoons of sugar are enough to disappear the bitterness. The only thing which remains is the characteristic smell and taste of your Greek coffee.
Variglikos (Very Sweet): The right choice for lovers of sugar who would like to combine it with the idea of coffee. (It usually includes one or two teaspoons of coffee with three tablespoons of sugar).
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About Frappé and cold coffees
Frappé “the original” !
But summer has already arrived; the sun shines, the beaches are full. Also café’s ; which as usual have the best suggestions against a heatwave. And the cold variations of coffee seem to remain steadily at the first places! Enjoy a frappe, try a cappuccino freddo or taste a strong espresso freddo and give your day a boost.
Frappe is almost a Greek synonym of the summer! It is very popular and of course it is the “national” cold coffee. Its flavor is unique, and it symbolizes the summer, light spirit, good company and easy-going life. Greek frappé is made from instant coffee, sugar, ice cubes, and water (and sometimes milk is added).
Order it: σκέτο (black ) – μέτριο (half sweet) or γλυκό (sweet )
με γάλα (with milk) or χωρίς γάλα (without milk).
“Freddo”: the Greek touch to Italian coffee-culture
On the other hand, espresso and cappuccino are particularly popular in all European countries. They also seem to be of the favourite coffee options in the winter. How could they not be part of our summer choices? So they came out of the cup, they went into a glass, with lots of ice cubes and along with the characteristic Freddo next to their name, they came to enrich the collection of cold coffees. These cold versions are a pure Greek touch to the idea of cold coffee beverages.
Cappuccino Freddo is especially favoured by Greeks. Milk foam called “afrogala” in Greek, lots of ice and some syrup depending on how sweet you prefer your coffee and that’s it! Your coffee is ready.
Espresso freddo is served in a medium glass with lots of ice and of course as much sugar as you like. Its strong flavour is especially helpful in the mornings and for sure it will give you the extra energy you need for the rest of your day.
But we haven’t finished yet. For those who have already had too many coffees during the day or some others who seem to flirt with the idea of a cold coffee but for various reasons try to avoid, there is Fredochino. Fradochino is a coffee, chocolate, milk and sugar beverage that reminds a bit of a milkshake.
Do not forget:
Sugar is added while preparing the coffee. That is why you need to give your order the right way, making clear how much sugar do you like. Your choices are: σκέτο (black ) – μέτριο (half sweet) or γλυκό (sweet ).
The unwritten rules of Greek coffee-culture
- Cold coffees are not like the classical Greek coffee. They are served in a glass and with a straw(καλαμάκι). In self-service situations you need to take it. Υou can’t find one? Then just ask: ” Ένα καλαμάκι παρακαλώ!” ( A straw please)
More than that, the straw is a part of the Greek coffee ritual. Stirring slowly your coffee with the straw is a kind of national sport and a classical movement that accompanies all types of coffee-mood and conversations!
- Drink your coffee slowly! Follow the Greek motto: Σιγά-σιγά(siga-siga) and the coffee ritual. If you have been invited for a coffee by a local, make sure that you have no plans for the next hours.
- Filter coffee is not so popular but if you want to order one, ask for ” Ένα καφέ φίλτρου παρακαλώ” (A filter coffee, please) or “Ένα γαλλικό καφέ παρακαλώ” ( A French coffee, please).
- The social rules: If you’ve been invited, remember that to “invite” in Greek is almost synonym to “offer”. So, you will likely not be expected to pay. Splitting is not customary if you’ve just been acquainted. And if the other party insists on treating, do not refuse – it could be considered rude.
- The hours: Any time is Coffee time. But if you want to “grab a table in that cosy, small cafe you have seen yesterday”, remember that cafes seem to fill up twice a day: once around eleven in the morning, especially on the weekends, and again at seven in the afternoon. It’s a social time!
- And a last detail: a real Greek would never toast with coffee. So, … keep your favourite Στην υγειά μας or Γεια μας (Cheers) for your evening drink.
Het Griekse Taal– & CultuurCentrum van Amsterdam