A brief History about Europe’s Coffee Culture


Freddo, shakerato, decaf or venti – how do you like your coffee? Or rather: what is the “proper” way to drink said beverage and who decides that? A blog post aimed at discovering the unwritten rules, stereotypes and secret coffee addicts in Europe’s rich coffee culture.

Where it all began

One could say that the development of European coffee was a team effort. The first introduction dates back to the 16th century and the Ottoman Empire, when Turks fought Hungarians and, one year later, the Habsburg Empire. Italy made it famous by properly introducing it to society and opening the first coffee shops – after Pope Clement VIII blessed the “demonic potion” and Christians felt empowered to drink it, of course. Through the blossoming of Viennese coffee culture all over Europe, the added sugar and milk made coffee even more attractive in the eyes of skeptics. There’s been no coming back ever since and every European country is proud of their “oh-so-different” coffee culture.

Unwritten Rules

The Greeks have definitely strayed from the rest of Europe through the invention of freddo espresso or frappe. Whilst it is strongly discouraged to drink a cappuccino after breakfast in Italy or even think about Instant coffee, the Greeks don’t take coffee tradition all too seriously – the motto seems to be “all day, everyday”. Compared to that the Viennese appear to be stuck in a century of horse carriages, emperors and Sundays at church. A culture where people are still waiting for the next Klimt or Schiele to enter at any given moment.

Generally speaking, there are a few rules every European Coffee Lover will agree to: coffee doesn’t only serve the purpose of staying awake. It is viewed as an experience and if you have any respect for local culture you avoid take away at Starbucks.

Final Ranking

Now, how do we determine the best and most interesting coffee culture in Europe? Let’s look at the stats. Surprisingly enough the country consuming the most coffee on a daily basis is Finland closely followed by Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Why is that? What most Scandinavian countries have in common is that they value taking their time for a coffee break. There is a word in the Swedish language, describing this phenomenon: faki. Finnish work laws even require two dedicated coffee breaks per day.

Greek coffee culture: taking at least one long coffee break at work

But can you deduce the best European coffee just by looking at the amount of consumption? Maybe the price can indicate a favorable culture. You’d definitely find the cheapest Espresso in southeast Europe – Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo – but Rome isn’t too bad either, only 1.12€ per cup.

So, if you really want to find out who has the best coffee, you’d probably have to travel around Europe yourself. Though, one thing that’s for sure is that there is not ONE European coffee culture. The only common ground is that every coffee break is savored, a way to relax and socialize. Or as the Swedes call it: a culture of faki.

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