Coffee Cultures From Around The World

offee Cultures From Around The World

Here in the UK, we’ve developed a taste in recent years for cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and mochas that just a few decades ago, were completely absent from the High Street. As a result, many people assume this is how the rest of the world drink their coffee and some get a real shock when they travel abroad to find that their request for their favourite skinny caramel latte is met with a blank expression!

So how is coffee consumed in other countries around the world? We’ve taken some countries at random where coffee is taken seriously, and compared them to ourselves. Take a look and see how varied some of these coffee cultures are, and feel free to let us know about your own experiences when travelling overseas.

1. France Caf� au Lait

This famous drink (simply coffee served with hot milk in a mug or large cup) made it to the shores of the UK some time ago. This is consumed at breakfast time, and is traditionally served in a cup wide enough to allow a croissant to be dunked in. Available pretty much anywhere and about as basic as a coffee recipe can be (except for the croissant of course). They have joined the rest of the world in recent years, with the familiar Starbucks outlets in every major town.

2. Italy Cappuccino, Latte, Mocha, Ristretto, Macchiato

It’s fair to say that the Italians know a bit about coffee, and are responsible for many of the Italian-sounding concoctions you’ll see in any branch of Costa. Not that you’ll find a branch of Costa in Italy though, they don’t do chains of coffee shops, preferring family run bars and cafes instead. They don’t actually drink latte (which literally just means ‘milk’) and rarely add syrups, whipped cream and other such flavourings, preferring instead to drink mostly espressos.

Most of the best known brands of coffee beans are Italian, such as Lavazza, Segafredo and Illy.

And don’t order a cappuccino after midday unless you want the barista to roll his eyes or just point-blank refuse – it’s considered to be something only drunk at breakfast time, usually with a sweet croissant or pastry. After midday, it’s espresso or macchiato unless you’re a tourist.

3. Turkey

Turkish coffee is rarely seen in the UK, mainly because it’s so far removed from what we here would call a cup of coffee. It’s usually served from a long-handled copperpot in small cups about the size of an espresso, and is thick, black and extremely sweet. Turkish citizens who come here to live or work in the UK won’t find any coffee widely available that will remind them of home, and so they often drink espresso or ristretto with lots of sugar, or simply make traditional Turkish coffee themselves at home.

4. Cuba

Another nation that prefers its coffee thick and strong is Cuba. Here though, it’s very much a social event consumed in a similar way to alcoholic shots, but in no way limited to the evenings. Many Cubans enjoy their coffee first thing in the morning, throughout the day and particularly after meals. It’s not quite as strong as the Turkish brew however, and is quite acceptable to Europeans palates.

5. Ethiopia

The Ethiopians should know a bit about coffee – their country is the birthplace of the stuff. They do take it pretty seriously too, with the traditional brewing process of ‘Buna’ as it’s known, taking anything up to 2 hours. It’s a social thing here, drunk with guests and friends and served with salt or butter instead of milk (which isn’t always available).

Many other countries drink their coffee in forms that would seem strange to us here in the UK. In Japan for instance, coffee in cans is extremely popular and has been for decades. It’s available from vending machines in both hot and cold forms, allowing busy commuters the chance to grab one on the go.

In Saudi Arabia and other Arabic cultures, coffee ceremonies follow many rules of etiquette, including always serving the elders first. It is also a common custom to serve this a cardamom-spiced coffee with dried fruit such as dates, partly to compensate for the bitterness of the coffee.

In Mexico, Caf� de olla is a spiced coffee brewed with cinnamon sticks in earthenware pots. Not to everyone’s taste, the Mexicans say it brings out the taste of the coffee. Each to their own of course!

In Vietnam, they have been drinking iced coffee for years. Unlike us, however, they like theirs made with very dark roasted beans and sweetened using condensed milk.

Australia. Ever since an influx of Italian immigrants after World War 2, Australians have been drinking coffee like the Italians and enjoying a real caf� culture of their own. The now world famous flat white originated here (see our article on how to make one), though don’t mention this if you are visiting New Zealand – they also claim to have invented it!

Last but not least, our cousins in the US are prolific coffee drinkers thanks to chains such as Starbucks. While the menu in a US branch of Starbucks is little different to one here, they do like filter coffee more than we do, and take their frappes and iced drinks with far more cream, sugar and chocolate sauce than many European countries.

It seems that no two countries have exactly the same taste when it comes to coffee, and this should be considered a good thing. We have absorbed a wide variety coffee drinks from Italy, France, Australia and the USA, and if we hadn’t, we might still all be drinking instant!

How To Make A Flat White Coffee

Flat White has been appearing in our coffee shops over the last couple of years and seems to be growing in popularity. So what is it exactly?

It’s an espresso-based drink from Australia (but perfected in New Zealand), currently spreading around the world and becoming particularly popular in the US. This is surprising as many Americans are used to Starbucks-style coffee which can taste harsh to the European and Australian palate, but it seems the Americans are coming round!

Flat White

There are several things about the flat white that are in sharp contrast to Starbucks coffee. First is the rich and velvety texture of the flat white, and the second being the size of the serving, typically a 5.5fl.oz cup rather than the 20oz monsters served in some outlets. However, they say sometimes it’s quality that is more important that quantity, and this is a perfect example. The massive ‘venti’ drinks can be like drinking a pint of hot coffee-flavoured milk (this is exactly what it is after all), whereas the flat white is a far more subtle balance of smooth milk and coffee blended together.

So how do I make a flat white?

You’ll need the following ingredients. Please beware of substituting any of these or skipping parts that you don’t think are important – the flat white is a subtle drink and needs to be made properly to avoid it tasting just like any other coffee.

Use good quality fresh coffee beans, not roasted too dark (unless you have a strong preference otherwise). Something like a Lavazza Super Crema or an equivalent Illy / Segafredo will be just right. Avoid using cheap beans or anything that has been sitting around for a while, it will ruin the finished drink.

Grind the coffee beans to espresso grind just before making your flat white.

Heat a 165ml ceramic coffee cup – this doesn’t have to be exact but refrain from using anything that’s very much bigger or smaller if at all possible.

Make a double shot of espresso, avoiding over extraction which wil result in a more bitter flavour. If you’re using a traditional espresso machine, make your espresso on the strong side. If you’re using a capsule or pod machine such as a Lavazza Modo Mio, then limit the amount of water dispensed slightly more than you normally would.

Whole milk. Please don’t use semi skimmed or skimmed milk, it simply won’t work! If you’re on a diet, then avoid flat whites and stick with a skinny cappuccino.

Milk. This part is arguably the most important and is what differentiates a flat white from other milky coffees. The perfect milk for a flat white should not have any of the dry foam on top of it that is typical for making a caffe latte or cappuccino. The term used for what you do to the milk is “stretching”. This is achieved by keeping the tip of the steaming wand slightly lower into the milk than usual so as not to break the surface of the milk at all. Your aim is not to introduce air into the milk. The heating of the milk and circulation of the milk in the frothing jug will result in the milk becoming stretched. The volume should more than double in size and the milk should appear somewhat glassy and shiny when done. The milk should be heated to approximately 60� C / 140� F.

If you are using a coffee machine at home that doesn’t foam milk, don’t worry. An alternative is to use a hand-held electric milk frother, though the same principle still applies – make sure you don’t break the surface of the milk, and if necessary fold the milk at the end.

If you’ve got it right first time, your milk will have no dry foam on the top. Once you’ve got your milk ready, pull your espresso. Just before pouring the milk, bang the bottom of the milk jug onto a towel or cloth on your work surface to break any large air bubbles in the milk, and swirl the jug round a couple of times. Gently and carefully pour the milk into the espresso so that the crema from the coffee sits on top of the milk.

If you’ve done this and ended up with silky milk in your cup with a crema on top, then congratulations, you’ve just made a flat white! Like most things, practice makes perfect so the more you make this, the more you will refine your technique. It won’t be long before you’re making them without thinking about it, and then you can start getting clever with latte art if you want to really show off!

If you’ve never seen latte art stencils before, ours look at our range – they’re a great investment and last pretty much forever.