In the U.S., coffee invokes the call to rise and meet the new day. It places in our minds the image of an industrious worker putting in extra hours and pounding back a cup of the black stuff. For others around the world, the caffeinated beverage has different meanings. Prepare for maximum caffeine ingestion as we check out popular coffee drinks from around the world.
The Ottoman Empire gets credit as the originators of coffee in a form we’d recognize. Until the late 1500s, the leaves of the coffee plant were boiled into a drink that would have been more herbal tea than coffee. However, in what is now modern-day Yemen, the Ottomans discovered that roasting the beans, grinding them, and boiling the grounds in water created a completely new drink. Thus, the aroma millions of people worldwide have come to associate with “rise and shine” was born.
From the Ottoman Empire, coffee made its way to Venice, and later to Marseilles. The drink spread across Europe and came to America as Europeans crossed over. The rest, as they say, is history.
The invention of the espresso machine irrevocably altered coffee as we know it and became the base for countless beverages. People then began looking for something to put in coffee. Often, those additives were sugar and milk. Beyond aesthetics, dairy made coffee drinks into something completely new.
It’s important to note that steamed milk and frothed milk are not equals. Steamed milk is made by heating the milk with a steam wand just below the surface, causing a vortex which evenly heats the milk. Meanwhile, frothed milk is achieved by using the same steam wand to force air bubbles into the milk by continually lowering the wand as the milk expands. It’s the nuances that make the difference, in this case. Overheating milk beyond 160°F will cause the proteins to break down and stop the frothing process, which, for drinks like a latte, is undesirable. Scalded milk, as it is has come to be called, is used in some coffee drinks where the foam isn’t wanted.
Here are some of the many offerings of coffee from all different nations.
This is the base from which all other coffee drinks are made. It is made by forcing nearly boiling water under pressure through ground coffee. American coffee is made through steeping or a percolator, which are different than espresso’s method of brewing. In any case, Italians are more likely to enjoy espresso quickly, standing up. Keep that in mind before visiting a sit-down café in Italy.
A doppio is a double shot of espresso.
This drink which some Europeans would call “dirty water,” is espresso with extra water added after brewing finishes. The brewing method for coffee is, of course, different than espresso, but taking an espresso and adding hot water will generally get the same effect.
From the Italian caffe latte, literally “milk coffee,” a latte is espresso and steamed milk.
This Australian and New Zealander favorite is comparable to a latte with less milk and more espresso. Steamed milk is poured over a shot of espresso, traditionally served in a smaller cup than a latte, and at a lower temperature due to less heating of the milk. Just don’t open a debate with citizens from either nation about who created the drink and named it; it’s a losing battle for you.
Turkish coffee is made when extra fine grounds and sugar, if desired, are mixed into water and then simmered. This cup has a signature dark foam, and is denser than Americano. It is also unfiltered, as it is intended to be enjoyed with the grounds. Greeks may refer to this as Greek coffee, as the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus strained relations between the two nations.
Invented in 1957 by a Nescafé representative, this version of iced coffee is made with instant coffee, sugar, and a small amount of water which is blended or shaken into a foam. Then, ice and cold water are added with milk as an option. This drink is meant to be savored.
This form of espresso may have a teaspoon of sugar and is served with a lemon slice. Its origin is disputed, and legends vary from American soldiers combating bitterness in espresso while serving in Italy post-WWII to someone discovering that lemon cleans teeth after drinking espresso. Either way, the name stuck.
This sweet drink from Spain has equal amounts of espresso and sweetened condensed milk which makes a thick, sugary concoction.
Café au Lait
Comparable to a latte but with coffee instead of espresso, the French café au lait, literally, “coffee and milk,” is brewed coffee with frothed or scalded milk which is sometimes served directly in the cup, other times on the side.
In Vienna (known as Wein to Austrians and Germans), Austrians enjoy their own take on cappuccino, a Vienna Coffee, with this mix of espresso and steamed milk, topped with either frothed milk or whipped cream.
Café de Olla
This traditional Mexican coffee is simmered with a cinnamon stick and served with piloncillo (a solid cone or block of unrefined cane sugar). It is served in a clay mug which is believed to bring out the coffee’s flavor.
Cà Phê Trứng
This Vietnamese drip coffee is partially a product of French colonialism. Using a pour-over style filter called a phin, hot water is poured over the filter and drips directly into a cup. It may be enjoyed hot or cold. Many people drink the strong brew with sweetened condensed milk because fresh milk wasn’t widely available.
Indian Filter Coffee
Madras kaapi is brewed using a stainless steel coffee filter similar to a phin into a matching lower tumbler. Another unique aspect of Indian filter coffee is the mix of coffee beans and chicory root. The extra fine grounds result in a very strong brew, one that is even stronger than espresso.
This Hong Kong favorite is three parts coffee and seven parts Hong Kong milk tea (a mixture of black tea and evaporated or condensed milk). In Malaysia, it is called Kopi Cham. It may be enjoyed hot or iced.
It would be unreasonable to include a list of coffee drinks and exclude the place where coffee first grew and was discovered. More than just a process to make a beverage, Ethiopians make a ceremony out of coffee. Green coffee beans are roasted in a pan over an open flame, and ground using a mortar and pestle before brewing in a clay pot. The grounds are typically brewed two or three times.