September 29th – International Coffee Day

September 29th, 2013 by Tatiana

Today is International Coffee Day and I am celebrating it with my third or maybe even fourth cup of coffee!

I am a big coffee drinker. Whether it is hot or cold, morning or night, in the tube or airport, waiting in queues or  meeting friends – coffee accompanies me everywhere. I usually go to coffee shops to do some work as I feel like I can focus there better. Research at the University of British Columbia and the University of Virginia suggests “that moderate ambient noise – 70 decibels, like that found in a coffee shop – can boost your ability to come up with creative ideas”. Maybe that’s why I have so many ideas hitting me all the time? :)

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If I am grumpy, you know how to please me :)

When I went to China, my only fear was that I will not be able to find coffee there, in the country of tea culture, where the average consumption of coffee is just two cups a year, a lot less than the global average of 134 cups per person per year. Luckily, in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, there were plenty of Starbucks and Costa coffee shops, but deeper in China, in places like Zhangjiejie I had to look for coffee in.. McDonalds.

In different countries people take their cups of coffee in different ways and give preferences to certain types of coffee. In China, for example, contrary to the UK, coffee shops have small counters and big seating areas. For the Chinese, where coffee culture is only about 10-15 years young, having a cup of Starbucks coffee is a reason to socialise with  friends, people watch or play games on mobile phones. They tend to spend more time in coffee shops and take quite elaborate cups of coffee, with syrups, powders, cream and all other additions imaginable.

Italians would totally disagree with such way of drinking coffee. For them espresso, served is tiny cups, is the one and only true coffee. And the only appropriate time to really enjoy coffee is in the morning. I remember last year in Milan I made a faux pas by ordering cappucino and sitting down at the table. The waiter brought us cutlery thinking that we would order some food and was rather confused when I saod that I only wanted to have coffee. The other “coffee accident” I made is having a latte after a meal – an italian gentleman who I was having dinner with really didn’t appreciate it and could not understand how I could have such a heavy drink after my meal. Maybe he thought that it was milk because when ordering “latte” in Italy you will get a glass of milk. Ooops,mi dispiace!

When living in France I could never get used to their petit café until I discovered café au lait – coffee with hot milk served in a mug wide enough to allow the dipping of baguettes or croissants.

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One of the highlights in Amsterdam for me were coffee shops. Not THE infamous coffee shops, but coffee-serving cafes :) Bakkie troost, the Dutch kaffe is enjoyed any time of day, usually comes black, and is served alongside a cookie.

If you are not a fan of cookies but still want something sweet how about coffee with Irish whiskey, sugar and whipped-cream?  Irish coffee was actually created in Ireland in the 1940s to warm up American tourists on a cold winter’s night.

Irish coffee is not typically my choice of coffee on a cold night. Nothing can beat coffee served in Viennese cafes, called Mélange, Austria’s traditional drink similar to a cappuccino. It kept me happy during my trip to Vienna in December but I will be honest that mulled wine kept me even happier, especially when browsing numerous Christmas markets in Vienna.

When living in the US I remember being surprised by their small choice of instant coffees in supermarkets. I could not find vanilla or caramel lattes, for example, but mainly black coffee, and the range of brands was rather limited compared to the UK. I had to intergrate into their culture and had Americanos – they are basically espressos served with hot water in bigger cups.

The other big fans of black coffee are the Turks. A famous Turkish proverb says that coffee should be “as black as hell, as strong as death and as sweet as love.” A true Turkish coffee is a thick deep black brew which is usually served sweet after a meal.

I found this infographic with some interesting facts about coffee.

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