Greek coffee

Café grec

Coffee… (almost) everyone likes it.

And Greece has a certain penchant for that beverage.

Indeed, if you have visited Greece, you may have noticed how Greeks seldom walk around without a coffee in hand. But I’m not talking about Starbucks-style coffee here (although the chain does have stores in Greece, it has a rather mild success, mostly among teenagers). No! I’m talking about the “frappé”, an iced coffee, started with an emulsifier and to which water and/or milk, and/or sugar are added.

Greeks like their coffee strong, which is why, in Greece, you’ll see people sitting for hours sipping the same glass/cup of coffee.

In Greece, coffee is a “friendly” beverage that requires you to take your time.

I believe there are two reasons to this “tradition” of taking one’s time: the first one being historical, as it dates back to ottoman occupation, which introduced coffee in Greece. The Ottomans’ passion for coffee quickly spread to Greeks. The second reason is purely practical: Greek coffee, unlike others, is a decoction. Therefore, you need to let the grounds settle at the bottom of the cup before drinking it, otherwise you risk that nasty feeling of “eating sand.”

Even today, it’s not uncommon to see waiters deliver coffees and water to offices. Because, yes, in Greece, coffee is always served with a glass of cool water. It’s actually the first thing a waiter will bring you when sitting at a café, even before they take your order.

Greek coffee (or Turkish, Egyptian, Armenian, Lebanese, Syrian, Algerian, Tunisian … you guessed it, this coffee of served all around the Mediterranean) is prepared in a small pan, especially designed for it: the briki (or czeve (djezvé) in Turkish), the neck of which is slightly narrowed.

Most Greek families make their Greek coffee on a gas burner – even though most houses are now equipped with electrical stoves, almost every family owns a gas burner with they use almost exclusively to make Greek coffee.

In the briki, pour one cup cold water (such as an espresso cup), one teaspoon ground Greek coffee (you’ll find some in any good Greek or Turkish shop) and sugar (optional). Mix, put the pan on the burner and bring to a boil. The coffee is ready when it starts foaming.

There are two ways of drinking your Greek coffee: either by sucking it up so as not to swallow the grounds, or by letting it cool so the grounds settle at the bottom of the cup.

There are several ways of having Greek coffee, depending on the amount of sugar:

  • Sketos : without sugar
  • Metrios : literally “medium”, i.e. with 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Glykos : “sweet,” with 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Vary-glykos : “heavy-sweet,” is both strong and very sweet

Also note that Greek coffee is drank without milk (I tried and, trust me, you don’t want to!!).


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