Exploring Coffee Culture Around the World

Words: Crush

Coffee, it’s what gives us the willpower to get up in the morning and grind through the day. We simply don’t know what we’d do without it, and the rest of the world agrees. The one thing we may not be united on though, is how we like our coffee. From Vietnamese egg coffee to Italian espressos and South African moerkoffie, the options are bottomless. If you’re curious as to how other countries consume it, here’s what coffee culture looks like in these 12 countries…

Italy

We kick off our coffee tour with Italy, the birthplace of the espresso. The art of enjoying a shot of espresso at a local café, standing at the bar, is deeply embedded in their culture. Italians usually drink espressos without milk or sugar, allowing those rich and intense flavours to come through. Although, steamed milk is sometimes used to create the popular Italian coffee, macchiato; affogatos are also pretty popular.


France

While you will find more espresso-based drinks like café noir (black coffee) and café allongé (‘elongated coffee’ or ‘drip coffee’) in traditional French cafés, French press coffee is enjoyed at home or in specialty coffee shops that cater to enthusiasts seeking flavourful variants.


The United States of America

The U.S. has a thriving coffee culture scene. Americans generally prefer a wide range of coffee drinks, from classic black coffee to sweet and indulgent Starbucks concoctions like Pumpkin Spice lattes, mochas and frappuccinos. Coffee preparation depends on each person’s preference, dictating the choice of coffee blend, milk, sweeteners and additions. Drive-thru coffee shops are also common throughout the country.


Turkey

In Turkey, coffee culture holds a special place, and the preparation of Turkish coffee is an art form in itself. Finely ground coffee beans are combined with water and sugar (optional) in a small pot called a ‘cezve’ and brewed over low heat. The key to a perfect cup lies in the foam called ‘köpük’, which forms at the top. Served in small cups, Turkish coffee is sipped slowly, allowing the grounds to settle at the bottom. Fortune-telling from the leftover coffee grounds, known as ‘tasseography’, is an exciting part of this experience.


Vietnam

While most take sugar and milk with their coffee, the Vietnamese version includes the addition of egg, also known as ‘egg coffee’ or ‘cà phê trứng’. This velvety drink combines dark Vietnamese coffee whipped with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, forming a creamy consistency – similar to dalgona coffee but more airy. Interestingly, egg coffee arose during a milk scarcity period, and soon became a taste sensation that is still enjoyed today.


Sweden

Swedish coffee culture is not just about the drink, but the experience. Fika, a cherished tradition, involves taking a coffee break with friends, family or colleagues, often accompanied by pastries and snacks. This social ritual fosters a sense of community, proving that coffee is more than just a pick-me-up or instant beverage.

Swedes usually enjoy ‘svart kaffe’, which translates to ‘black coffee’ during fika. This is a simple filtered coffee without any milk or sugar. Another popular Swedish coffee variation is ‘kaffeost’, where small cubes of cheese are added instead of milk. The cheese softens and soaks up the coffee, creating a unique, savoury taste – cheese coffee, anyone?


Brazil

Brazil, the world’s largest producer of coffee, has an unbreakable bond with beans. The vast landscapes of the Brazilian coffee plantations, especially in the Minas Gerais and São Paulo regions, showcase the scale of coffee production.

Coffee is not just an export commodity, but a cultural emblem for Brazilians. In Brazil, coffee is enjoyed in various forms, from the beloved cafézinho (small, strong black coffee) to the sweet and creamy café com leite (coffee with milk). Cafézinho is often served after meals at restaurants, free of charge, as a gesture of hospitality.


Colombia

Colombia, another global coffee giant, has long been synonymous with high-quality Arabica beans. The country’s diverse geography and microclimates contribute to the unique flavour profiles of its coffee. The Colombian Coffee Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, pays tribute to the country’s deep-rooted coffee heritage. Colombian cafés serve as social hubs where people bond over a cuppa tinto (black coffee).


Ethiopia

Today, many simply order a coffee to-go, but Ethiopians have a different appreciation for it. Here, coffee ceremonies are a cultural cornerstone, symbolising friendship and community. Traditionally performed by women, the ceremony involves roasting coffee beans over an open flame, then grinding them by hand and brewing the coffee in a traditional clay pot.

The coffee is consumed in three rounds – offered from the weakest to the strongest roast. Incense candles are also burned during this process, while guests socialise and enjoy snacks like popcorn or peanuts alongside the coffee.


Kenya

Although Kenya produces some of the world’s finest coffee beans, it’s not as widely consumed compared to other coffee-producing countries. Most of their high-quality coffee beans are exported, forming a significant part of the country’s economy. However, there are still some ways Kenyans enjoy their coffee locally; strong coffee is enjoyed with milk, similar to the café au lait. Some regions in Kenya add spices such as cardamom or cinnamon to coffee grounds before brewing, which adds depth of flavour.


Portugal

In Portugal, coffee culture is an integral part of daily life and cafés serve as gathering places for locals and visitors alike. The Portuguese take their coffee seriously, and traditional coffee preparations such as the ‘bica’ or ‘pingo’ are favoured for their strong and robust flavour. Unlike the hurried coffee-to-go culture in some other countries, in Portugal, coffee is savoured slowly, often accompanied by pastries like pastéis de nata.

Whether it’s a quick espresso in the morning or an afternoon coffee break, the warm and inviting coffee culture of Portugal plays a significant role in the nation’s social fabric.


South Africa

Ending the tour on homeground, South African coffee culture has grown rapidly in recent years, with cafés on every block in major cities like Cape Town and Joburg. Local coffee shops offer unique blends and single-origin beans, catering to connoisseurs. South Africans commonly enjoy their coffee with milk, favouring cappuccinos and filter coffee; rusks and biscuits are normally consumed with their coffee.

We also have a specialty drink called ‘moerkoffie’ – think cowboy coffee with grounds brewed over the stove or the fire, but with a dash of condensed milk. Instant coffee/freeze-dried coffee is commonly consumed in homes; moka pots and French presses are also used to make homebrewed coffee.

Trying to cut back on caffeine? Boost your cuppa joe with these coffee alternatives

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