How to drink your coffee around the world

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If you travel a lot, you’ll meet people of every race, culture and creed. But despite our differences, there’s one thing that binds us all together: we pretty much all love coffee. We drink coffee at home, we drink coffee in restaurants and cafés, we take a coffee for the ride to work. But that doesn’t mean we drink it the same way: there are many ways to drink your coffee around the world.

In fact, there are more ways to order coffee and coffee drinks than there are countries — lots more. Here in North America, we chug down super-sized cups of skinny latte and Macchiato from Starbucks, and double-doubles from Tim Hortons if we’re Canadian. But order coffee in Argentina and you’ll get a cup of strong, European-style brew with some frothy crema on top. And they make a great little presentation of it, with a glass of water, some orange juice and a couple of cookies (couldn’t resist taking a bite — sorry).

A cup of coffee with orange juice, wter and cookies in a café in Argentina

In Turkey, another little set-piece, only this time the coffee is thick and strong, straight from a little iron pot with no filter, so sip with care — there’s grounds in there. But don’t worry, you get some water and some Turkish delight to cut the bitterness, and even a tiny evil eye protector for good luck.

A cup of Turkish coffee with some water and Turkish delight in Izmir, Turkey

But that just scratches the surface. For a real look at how they drink their coffee around the world, from Italy to Hong Kong, the U.K.’s cheapflights travel agency created this little chart, filled with strange and wonderful coffee drinks. I particularly liked the café con miel from Spain, with a bit of honey on the bottom, and the pharisaer from Germany, with a couple of shots of rum. But I’m still thinking about the Wiener melange in Austria, with an egg yolk (!!) in the middle.

Here’s the chart. See which country you’d like to fly off to the next time you want a really good cup of coffee.

A graphic showing local coffee drinks around the world

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

20 Comments

  1. I love that there are so many ways to enjoy coffee around the world. I have a half drank cup of decaf with milk getting cold on my desk right now. Thanks for sharing – I learned a lot of new ways to enjoy coffee and can’t wait to try a few out as I travel.

    One of my most unique coffeeing order experience happened right here in the good ol’ USA.

    I was in Connecticut working on a photo assignment with a fellow photographer some years back. We had left the hotel horrendously early to arrive at our destination on time. We both allowed as how we could use a coffee and a pastry to enjoy enroute.

    We spied a little coffee shop as we passed through a town, I was sent in to get the coffee. I perused the bake goods as I waited for my opportunity to order. My friend Roger is a decaf drinker even at five in the morning.

    I ordered two coffees, “one decaf and one regular.”

    I gathered napkins and a creamer then collected the coffees and pastries and returned to the car.

    To my surprise one of the coffees was black and decaf just as Roger had requested. The other however was very sweet and white with cream, which I came to find out is “regular” in this part of Connecticut.
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    • Ha ha — sounds like a Canadian double-double. I’ve had some coffee surprises around the world as well. In some Latin countries they ask if you want your coffee with water or milk (con leche). If you say “con leche” you get a pot of hot milk (!!) with a little strong black coffee to mix in.

      I also remember my first experience with coffee in Malaysia. I asked for a regular and got a cup of dark-looking coffee that seemed to have hardly any cream or sugar in it. When I asked for more cream, the waiter gave me a funny look, but went away and came back with a whiter-looking coffee. A few minutes later I discovered the problem: there was a quarter-inch of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of the cup. If you didn’t stir, it just stayed where it was. That was the popular way to serve coffee in Malaysia, and if you look at the illustration on the chart, I think it still is.

    • Ha ha — that’s a great one, Shaun, better than my Malaysian faux pas. Actually, the Turkish delight was probably good half-melted …

  2. Awesome post! I’m a huge coffee fan after spending 10 years in the Pacific Northwest learning how to enjoy it in all its glory. I’ve had espresso in Italy and France, and coffee in Mexico and Canada, but I’m now pumped to check out coffee in other places around the world. Thank you! (Glad I found your blog – what fun! I’m sharing it, too!)
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    • I have the same problem, Helen. So years ago I just decided to stop taking milk in my coffee, and surprisingly, I didn’t notice much difference as long as I put in a little sugar. Now if I do add milk it tastes as if it’s masking the coffee flavour. Try it — maybe you’ll like it.

  3. It is such a delight to read your posts about coffee. I am in the middle of an exhausting day and craving some good strong coffee (which the office all-in-one machine cannot provide). Indians are largely tea drinkers, however, we have our own filter coffee from down South that has a heady aroma and taste that seeps into every pore of your body. I absolutely love coffee and want to develop a taste for black coffee but unable to get over the bitterness. I must thank my friend for sharing your blog with me.

    • Thanks for commenting, Aanchal, and welcome to The Travelling Boomer. My sympathies for bring stuck with the office coffee dispenser: mostly they dispense what is best described as warm brown water. I can’t remember drinking coffee in India. My biggest memory is that the tea was served so strong I had to order it by the pot and pour it as soon as it hit the table. Of course, chai was always a good alternative.

      I’d like to try the Indian coffee — let me know what it’s called if you read this. As for drinking it black, I find just a little sugar offsets the bitterness and leaves you with all the great flavour of the coffee.

      One note: soon I’ll be sharing a video made by Maarten Heilbron and myself on Toronto’s most interesting coffee shops. With Maarten’s filmmaking talents, you should be able to smell the coffee all the way from India.

  4. Well, guess what. I am currently sipping on an espresso with some sugar in it (courtesy coffee machine). I had read this solution yesterday and thought I should give it a shot.

    With regard to filter coffee, it is called by the same name across India. It is more popular among South Indians than the rest of India. You can get some information from the below links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_filter_coffee

    http://www.sharmispassions.com/2012/01/filter-kaapi-south-indian-filter-coffee.html

    Will look forward to the video by Maarten Heilbron and you. I am sure it will help me to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’.
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    • Hey, hope you like the espresso with sugar. I find you only need a little, but it makes all the difference. And thanks for the links. I think I did have some Indian filter coffee at a street stand in Agra, but in my recollection, the man poured the coffee through a cloth bag or filter several times. The second link reminds me of what they call café con leche in Spanish countries — basically, a little strong coffee mixed with a lot of hot milk, though they don’t froth it like that.

  5. So much more than just variations on cappuccino! Used to drink Tim Hortons coffee until we started travelling and learned that good coffee is so much better. We are now a bit of coffee snobs. Bought a great espresso machine and we are regularly trying new beans and bringing them home from travels. Still like my warm or frothed milk added though! Thanks for sharing this broader set of ways to take my caffeine injection!
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    • Thanks for commenting, Linda. There’s a whole world of coffee beyond Timmy’s, for sure, and the great thing is that every country seems to have its own take on it — even in places like Asia where tea is the everyday drink. I’m still happy with my filter coffee at home, but the thought of an espresso maker does cross my mind now and then — mmm, Americanos every day …

  6. I love coffee very black and very strong no milk no sugar. In my world it is a necessary companion to morning paper. Towards mid afternoon I am ready for another. I love your chart especially the one about Argentina and Germany. My biggest frustration in EU is getting a decent size coffee. Those tiny espressos drive me crazy as they leave me pining for way more. I finally discovered double and triple espresso in Portugal. Even in France where I speak the language very well I rarely get the coffee I really want..heaven was staying at a friend’s place in Nice who had a $1200 coffee machine and serving large bowls of it till I begged him to stop 2-3 bowls later.

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