Coffee culture; Greek coffee on the Saronic Island of Hydra on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography iain-mallory-300-3 hydra

The Culture of Coffee

It may come as a surprise to most of you to discover that I occasionally enjoy a cup of java and that one of my favourite aromas is that of freshly ground and brewed coffee. It seems appropriate that a post dedicated to the object of my desire should make an appearance.

Coffee culture; Greek coffee on the Saronic Island of Hydra on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography iain-mallory-300-3 hydra

Relaxing with a Greek coffee on Hydra

Coffee; Good enough for goats

Allegedly discovered by a young goat herder that noticed his goats were acting a little weird after eating the berries off a small bush, our intrepid hero gave them a try himself. The rest as they say is history; well not really as it cannot be confirmed, I just wonder if he preferred it with one lump or two.

Coffee loving goats running free in Greece on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

The original coffee aficionados, goats just wanna have fun!

Obsession or addiction

A steaming cup of frothy caffeine is often the start of many people’s day without it they can be grumpy and down-right unsociable. What makes this tiny little bean so special? Many would say it has a bitter taste, most children in my experience do not like it, and it is something we seem to ‘grow’ into.

My personal preference is for an especially strong brew, enjoying the whole process. The grinding of the beans, the lovely aroma it produces, making the perfect blend, watching a true barista display their true skill and artistic ability then sitting outside on a sunlit day with good company.

A coffee story: Cuban Storm in the Coffee Pots

That is actually quite important as ‘coffee art‘ not only looks pretty but it means the coffee has actually been made correctly, the temperature is perfect. Producing those intricate patterns or pretty pictures in the froth of the coffee means it is actually at the correct consistency or else this would not be impossible.

Coffee the film star

Java has made many appearances in films and television programmes; some are merely ‘cameo’ roles but others it has had a major role. Two which stick in my mind are:

Making traditional Greek coffee on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Traditional methods in Greece

“Jaws” was not especially memorable for coffee, but even as a small child when I first saw the film there was something that struck me as odd. There is a scene in the hospital where the eldest son of Chief Brody has survived a close encounter with the deadly ‘squallus’ and his Mum asks him if she can get him anything. Now thinking back to when I was a kid such an offer would have brought requests for ice cream or chocolate maybe, but no this caffeine loving child has only one thing on his mind; coffee! Even now whenever that film is on that particular scene always stands out for me.  Let’s not analyse that too much, maybe Steven is just a big coffee fan?

“actually quite important as ‘coffee art’ not only looks pretty but it means the coffee has actually been made correctly”

Coffee makes a much more prominent and amusing appearance in the latest incarnation of the “Godzilla” films, a film which never takes itself too seriously. This revolves around our favourite French secret agent of all time played by Jean Reno struggling to find a decent cup of java in New York. It involves some of the funniest moments in the film for me and probably results in Jean becoming addicted to ‘creamer’.

There are of course many other films in which the worship of the coffee bean is portrayed and probably much more significantly but these stand out for me and merely demonstrates the importance of the role it plays in our society.

Fast coffee

Big chains tend to be pretty impersonal but if may suffice if you need a quick fix, do not mind drinking from a cardboard cup or just have to flavour it with the myriad of possible options; caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, almond, tabasco. Okay so I made up the last one….. though it may turn up in a Starbucks near you sometime soon.

It is probably quite clear that this is not the way I prefer to enjoy my coffee, really do not get; “one skinny, organic, vanilla-caramel mochalotta with chocolate flakes and a cardboard Danish to go!”

I prefer to savour my obsession in its pure form, even better if it can be shared with friends on a pleasant day outside watching the world scurry by.

Corsican cafe culture the French way in Bastia on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

French cafe culture, in Corsica

Cafe culture

This of course is the whole concept of ‘cafe culture’ exemplified by the continental mainland of Europe where they have taken coffee drinking to an art form.

Wander along any boulevard in France, Italy, Spain or even Germany and it is likely that numerous pleasant little coffee houses will be encountered. Making use of every spare inch of pavement, covering it with tables, chairs and tempting menus. Perfect for wiling away an hour or two, taking a break from the strenuous and often stressful task of sight-seeing.

Discover the habit: Café Culture; Coffee the Social Habit

Most often have delicious looking cakes, pastries and hand-made chocolates, a far cry from the mass produced ones available from the ‘chains’. So successful is cafe culture that it is being exported throughout the World with almost every major town and city now making the most of every moment of good weather to stick out a few tables.

Getting serious

Egyptian gentleman enjoying a shisha with his coffee on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Coffee Egyptian style with a sheesha

Coffee is taken very seriously in many parts of the globe, though possibly Italy is the true home of the coffee drinker. Most Italians only drink coffee with milk in the morning; cappuccino and latte are ‘breakfast’ coffees. Once the hour hand reaches twelve noon espresso or Americano become the order of the day, this is ‘correct’ coffee etiquette. They even have a term for searching for the prefect cup; tifosi, this perfect cup is much debated and is dependent on many factors, type of bean, humidity, water temperature are just a few to be considered.

“probably results in Jean becoming addicted to creamer”

French press coffee is popular around the World and as Jean Reno ably displayed the French are serious about their coffee. It was therefore a little shocking to me when CouchSurfing in Corsica to find they often reheated the coffee in a microwave! This usually entailed making a huge pan of coffee over the stove one day and then for the next couple of days just reheating what they needed. I often took a trip into the nearby city of Corte for my ‘fix’, hoping that this was not typical of the French coffee drinking population.

Oasis for Coffee

Mint tea rather than coffee is the Moroccan Berber's favourite beverage on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Berber enjoying his brew

Turkey in particular is famous for its coffee culture and its extremely strong blend is well known throughout the World, often being served in special little coffee houses in most major cities. Served in small cups often with a pot to allow it to be poured by the guest, there is not any filtering process so it is necessary to allow it to settle for a few moments before taking a sip.

There is even has a ritual in which a young woman that is being visited by a potential husband has the opportunity to accept or decline him. The sweeter the coffee the luckier he is; very sweet an emphatic yes, no sugar at all and he better look elsewhere. If the coffee is salted he is lucky that she even bothered to reply!

Egypt has shisha coffee houses where not only can the men that frequent them, (I did not see any women other than tourists during my stay) enjoy a coffee or minted tea but a large ornate ‘pipe’ of flavoured tobacco can be ‘hired’ to smoke.

A culture of beans in Jordan: Postcards from Coffee Club in Jordan

The Berbers are Muslims so alcohol is prohibited, therefore it is particularly important to them to have a good alternative. Coffee fits the bill in many ways and is certainly enjoyed throughout Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Not surprisingly they have their own special version; Berber coffee is made with cinnamon, very strong and unfiltered so it is also advisable to allow this time to settle too. I found it quite pleasant despite the addition of the cinnamon and enjoyed a few whilst in Morocco.

Parting shots

There are a great many other factors in coffee culture but to avoid appearing totally obsessed it might be worth me quitting whilst ahead.

Just be glad that it is not illegal as it has been a number of times in the histories of some cultures; including Islam and the European countries of England and Germany.

I am quite parched now, time for another coffee. The economy needs my help after all, as coffee is the second most traded commodity behind oil. Therefore there is a need to ensure the average daily consumption of cups of coffee each day remains above five hundred billion! Globally of course, though that might become my lifetime target!

A colourful sheesha and coffee cafe in Sharm el Sheik in Egypt on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography hillside-sheesha-tif-1-960x639

Colourful sheesha cafe, Egypt

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Comments 54

  1. Cathy Sweeney

    Ah, the aroma of fresh ground or brewed coffee — I love it. This is such an interesting read — learned some cool things about coffee in different cultures. Great photos to go along with the story!

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  2. Shannon O'Donnell

    Fascinating read…I have a coffee obsession, and it’s not so much addiction, because I can take it or leave it in that regard..but the aroma of a freshly brewed cup? Well, it’s the only way to say good morning to the day 🙂 I had never read up much on the history shaping coffee throughout different regions and cultures, so thanks for the coffee journey!

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      Iain

      Really pleased you liked it Shannon, it is actually not as much of an addiction as I make out but really do enjoy my coffee, either when I make it myself or when travelling and experiencing how other it fits into other cultures. Totally agree it is the only civilised way to say good morning, incidentally more than half of those 500 billion cups of coffee are drunk at breakfast.

  3. TravelDesigned

    Seeing the first picture with the Costa coffee cup brought a smile to my face. I bought one last year as a souvenir of our time in England. I really wanted the 2 handled one but they didn’t have one in stock for sale :(. I also bought a tin of coffee.

    At any rate you are right, coffee is something I definitely had to grow into. I remember my first cup of coffee, it was in Jamaica. I think I was in my late 20s. It was served with sweetened condensed milk, today the thought of sweet coffee makes me gag! I’m glad to see I am not the only one that doesn’t get the whole “one skinny, organic, vanilla-caramel mochalotta with chocolate flakes” movement either. Cheers to a good, strong cup of coffee with an occasional splash of cream! .

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      Iain

      Costa Coffee is local to me, ten minute walk and its only local competitor is a Jewish bakery, great cakes not such good coffee.

      Wow you did not try coffee until you were twenty? That is pretty late in life. That condensed milk sounds disgusting would put me off for life.

      Remember a French guy when I ran a pub ordering a double espresso with sugar, when I asked him if he was going to use the sugar he replied “depends on how good the coffee is” … fortunately he did not need the sugar! We were supplied by Costa incidentally.

      Hopefully we can share a coffee one day in the future.

  4. amanda elsewhere

    I love coffee, possibly even more than I love my mother. This is probably because I can live without my mother, but I can’t live without coffee. Sorry Mom.

    I had to comment, because a few years ago I visited the Smithsonian in DC and there was a special exhibit on poop. I think it was a children’s exhibit, but nonetheless, I (being a 20-something year old child) decided to pop my head in. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the world’s most expensive coffee comes from poop.

    Kopi Luwak is made from the coffee beans/berries that have been digested and pooped out by the Asian Palm Civit (a small little catlike creature) and then made into coffee in Indonesia. Reading your post brought back all these memories of being shocked that this is actually a thing, and I’ve just Googled it. It is actually a thing: http://www.catsasscoffee.com/. Smithsonian wasn’t lying either – the cheapest I found it (in my 6.5 seconds of research) is for $65/bag. $65!!!

    So my question to you, sir, is: Have you tried Kopi Luwak? If you have, what was it like? If you haven’t, would you?

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      Iain

      Sorry Mom indeed Amanda, thanks for the comment. The simple answer is no I have not tried that particular blend as when I travelled that part of the world I was not actually a coffee drinker, I am a late developer 😉 I would really like to howver seems quite intriguing. I did not mention it on here as it has been the subject of a post on another site and this post was already getting quite long. When I do manage to try some I will let you know how it tastes 🙂

  5. Don Faust

    Great article! I love the poop-coffee comment – hilarious. Sounds more like a marketing ploy to me to sell $65 bags of coffee. I’m sure it has a “musty” essence.

    Someone mentioned Jamaican coffee, which is actually very good. What’s unusual is that they are a large producer, and Jamaicans don’t drink much coffee – they drink tea, which was handed down by the British.

    Iain – have you been to Seattle? We moved here about a year ago, and this is the largest coffee culture place I have been. It’s also home to Starbucks, who helped to spread the movement of “select” connoisseur blend coffees, much the way you think about wines. Some will say there is even better coffee here though. It seems like there are coffee cafes every few blocks, and also drive-thru coffee huts, that you can order your favorite brew from your car. I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the trends here are derived from the weather that exists during most of the year – drizzly and gray. The summers are nice though!

    I’d also have to give nods to the coffee you find in New Orleans, such as at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. Coffee first came to the states by way of New Orleans. The French had added chicory to their coffee, mainly as a way to add body to the drink with a less expensive filler during their own civil war. The Acadians (who left French Canada, and later became known as “Cajuns” in Louisiana) brought that custom with them to New Orleans. I love the taste.

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      Iain

      Thanks Don this comment is almost as comprehensive as my post! As mentioned well aware of Kopi Luwak and yes possibly a great marketing ploy to drive up the price.

      I have not been to Seattle, in fact not travelled much in the states at all. I am just much more of a fan of independent coffee houses than big chains like Starbucks (often use a less complimentary name). I guess it is a little biased due to the ‘extras’ in the manner of the flavours and the mass produced pastries too, my taste is for the little guys with a more personal touch. That weather sounds like ours though except for the summers.

      Thanks for adding some additional valuable insight to the post.

  6. Lisa @chickybus

    Cool post…I’m a coffee lover, too. I went on a really cool tour in Panama and got to sample some great beans there. It was the kind of place I’m sure you’d love; my tour guide was a local (and indigenous) and had grown up working on coffee estates.

    Too bad I’m running low on the coffee I brought home from there. It was that amazing!

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      Iain

      Thank you Lisa I knew there was some reason we got on. I am equally sure that Panama would be great and especially that tour. Coffee never last long when I am around 🙂

  7. Krystina Marie Price

    How interesting … Just last night, I went for a walk with Boznian neighbor to a park just a few blocks away to catch a local performance of “Much Ado About Nothing” on the tennis court. Silly and fun. Along the way, was her tale of disappointment in not finding a replacement coffee grinder, for the one that finally sighed “kaput”. Turns out her Turkish coffee is one of the pleasures of her life, (as well as the surrounding countries of the region) and a regular grinder just won’t do. When we got back home, I forgot that I offered her my grinder to try, promising that it grinds down very fine. Oh no, she didn’t forget. Now after having the pleasure of reading your blog, I’m really looking forward to to my first cup of Turkish brew. Hope the Saltan brand I gave her works but if not, I’m wondering if anyone knows of a national shop or online resource for a Turkish coffee grinder?

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      Iain

      Cool Krystina great to hear it struck a personal chord right now.I am sure you will really enjoy te Turkish blend which is indeed of the finest grind. I can recommend a german company Zassenhaus for a great quality grinder capable of a suitbaly fine grind. Good luck.

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      Iain

      Thank you Sheril glad you found it of interest, I noticed black coffee was not drunk over there but did not realise it was not drunk at all. Fascinating fact in itself.

  8. Colleen Kaleda

    Oh, the goat herder story … glad you started this piece with it. It makes me smile. I’ve heard this story happened in Ethiopia …. hence some Ethiopians’ claim that theirs is the country where coffee was discovered.

    I bring coffee beans back from nearly every country I visit, and after my recent travels in Ethiopia, I brought back at least four pounds. Mmmmm…. I recently wrote about my experiences in Ethiopia as the leader of a volunteer-vacation group on my blog, http://goodjourneys.wordpress.com

    Your post has obviously brought the coffee & travel addicts together in one place. 🙂

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      Iain

      Glad to have travel & coffee addicts together, maybe we should have a coffee morning meet up somewhere. Four pounds, that might even last me a little while 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

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      Iain

      Thanks for sharing Pamela, doesn’t really count as a comment on my post, but will let it stand as adds some additional good info.

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  9. wandering educators

    i loathed coffee until i went to college. and discovered the magical benefits of caffeine! LOL! now, for the last 10 yrs (since i got pregnant with our daughter), i’ve been decaf. can you BELIEVE IT? still, so VERY delicious. and, i have my own gaggia espresso machine, and make mad mochacinos that make me very happy. 🙂 what a great article this is!

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      Iain

      Thank you for taking the time to comment here and in the other forum Jessie and for the kind words, glad you enjoyed it. I will not comment on the decaf especially as it was enforced 🙂 My home machine is actually not well right now have a feeling it is struggling with limescale, probably needs replacing. Those mad mochaccinos sound tempting though

  10. Sam Lovell

    I’ve never been such a coffee nut, however I still enjoy a rich, strong brew, now and again. I remember having some great espresso’s in Ljubljana, Slovenia and then going to spend the day busking. They certainly set us up! lol. Nice post! 🙂

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      Iain

      Thanks Sam I think that some espresso in Ljubljana or Slovenia might even cause a totally tone deaf guy like me go busking. Thanks for commenting and glad you enjoyed it.

  11. Mark Wiens

    Great article Iain!
    I started drinking a cup of coffee every morning about 1 year ago, and though I’d like to think I’m not addicted, I might be getting there. However, addicted or not, I just really love the taste of good coffee. I live in Thailand right now and I drink from my giant stash of Vietnamese coffee. I enjoyed reading this article!

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      Iain

      Cool Mark glad you enjoyed reading it and maybe even whilst drinking some of that awesome stash of Vietnamese coffee, thanks for taking the time to comment.

  12. Natalie

    Great post. I like the cafe culture when it comes to the world of coffee. As for Turkish coffee, I can not stand the stuff. It is like drinking six cans of red Bull in a row!

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      Iain

      LOL you have only just realised Rachelle, I have coffee/wine blood group and depending on what day of the week some mojito 😉 Glad you liked the post.

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      Iain

      Thank you Nancy so glad you enjoyed it. I will have to check out that Ethiopian coffee ceremony, things like that fascinate me, the Japanese tea ceremony takes sometime but I could just watch it all day, amazing the incredible ceremonies that exist for our everyday beverages.

  13. Jodi

    Fun post for an addiction I happily indulge. Have you read The Devil’s Cup? It’s a great backgrounder and travelogue tracing the roots of coffee through the ages (and continents).

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      Iain

      Glad you enjoyed it Jodi, and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I have not, read that book, I’ll have to searchi it out and make an exception in my normal reading patterns or climbing/adventure literature and dozens of blogposts of course 🙂

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  14. anne

    In my academic life I wrote a piece on third places which required me to look at Jamaican coffee shops. Despite the fact that we grow some of the world’s best coffee (Blue Mountain), it was not a part of the culture until recently, No Starbucks in Jamaica but we have our own brands which are becoming very popular. Interestingly though it is not for everyman because of the price which puts coffee (and I daresay leisure) out of the reach of the everyday Jamaican.

  15. Salvatore

    Great post! I am already familiar with a few of these blogs but looking forward to discover the rest.

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