Café S’il Vous Plait

Moments after being told the coffee I selected tastes like dirt.
Doubleshot, Johannesburg

No one wants to drink coffee with me. 

“Why would you make me drink dirt?” Stephanie

“Are you trying to poison me?” Husband

“This is the gin of coffee” Katrina

While the responses after one sip varies, the faces are always the same.  Pure and utter disgust.   

J’ADORE Café.  Io AMO ilcaffè.  Ich liebe Kaffee.  Kahve severim. My love with coffee is REAL.  To date, I can order a cappuccino in four languages.  Prior to traveling, I never learn to ask for the wash closet or how to say “my name is Jessie.”  I learn how to properly order an espresso. What’s ironic about my love affair with coffee, is that it started less than quatre ans ago.  Oui, je suis un late bloomer.  What’s even more ironic is while I lived in Seattle and Milan and I NEVER touched a caffeinated coffee beverage. 

It wasn’t until I traveled back to Italia, ten years later that I discovered my affection for un café.  I often think about all of the quintessential college coffee dates I missed while at uni in Seattle because of my lack of interest in coffee.  I then reason and assure myself that had I partook in those late-night study sessions at the nearest Starbucks, I could possibly be trapped in the land of over sweetened and under crafted caramel macchiatos. 

I have nearly gone into a diabetic coma after a SIP of these “coffee” beverages.  It’s not for me.  I am far from a barista but I do know good coffee.  I also know that a lot of the beverages we consume in America are not considered coffee anywhere else in the world.  Below I will provide an elementary blueprint of coffee and its customs around the world.

Un. Synonyms 101.

In some European countries the term café can refer to the beverage and the establishment in which the beverage is consumed.

DeuxCafé = espresso.

When Americans think of café we typically envision a 16 oz beverage.  In Europe café is a single shot of espresso.

Trios. Do not order a cappuccino in Italia after 11am.

Si, you read that correctly.  In Italia you will get the ultimate look of disapproval and disgust if you order un cappuccino after noon.  As Italians see it, un café with that much milk is only appropriate for the morning, not late in the day. If you do insist on ordering a milky café, go for an macchiato. Which you will be also be surprised to discovered is nothing like the macchiatos you may be accustomed to.

QuatreNon, frappuccinos s’il vous plait.

Whatever your favorite glucose in a cup beverage is in the States, do NOT order or expect to receive one in Europe.  Here is an visual breakdown of caffeinated beverages and its appropriate serving size.

Cinq. Do not expect a menu.

Oui, c’est vrai. Take a screen snippet of the diagram above or etch it into your long term memory. When ordering un café abroad (especially in Europe) it is extremely rare to find a menu that lists and describes the caffeinated beverage available.

Six. Skip the seats.

Observe the café culture in the city you’re visiting. Is everyone standing or sitting to enjoy their café? In Spain and Italia it is customary to stand at the bar and have your morning café with a small pastry. While en Paris it is not frowned upon to sit for hours while sipping a 4oz drink. Do note, you can always sit if that is your preference but beware, some countries charge an additional fee for sitting. Example, if un café is sold for 1,5 euro you maybe charged 2,75 euro for sitting in the shop versus standing at the bar.

Sept. Wake up and smell le café

When traveling j’adore blending with the locals. I purposefully stay in working-class neighborhoods and start my day during the morning commute. J’adore to feel the authentic energy of a city and that’s hard to come by if you’re staying a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower or next to the Duomo. I leave my flat no later than 08:30 local time and venture to the nearest café, to enjoy a café with commuters.

El-Fishawy gained its popularity when French Emperor Napoleon drank his coffee here. Hundreds of years later, Egyptian Nobel laureate Nagiub Mahfouz chose El-Fishawy Café his favorite destination El-Fishawy

Huit. Nothing beats a failure like a try.

Venture out and enjoy a unique café experience in the country you’re visiting:

In Italia, have a slice of lemon with your café

While in Turkey, have and unfiltered Turk Kahvesi in which the café keeps it’s grounds

Order a Café de Olla when south of the boarder, where a cinnamon stick is added to your café

Spice up your life in Senegal by adding a Guinea pepper to your café

Cheese please? Yes! Kaffeost is a speciality Finnish drink in which hot coffee is poured over juustoleipä (curds of cheese.)

There’s so much you can learn about a city by watching the way people enjoy their first beverage of the day.

What’s your favorite caffeinated beverage of choice?

Have you experienced any interesting café blends or customs while abroad?

6 Comments

  1. Discovering what a real cappuccino is in Italy was an awaking to me. So that is my true love but then again I recall the taste of a pressed coffee in Vietnam …OMG so good. Truly not surprised when I found out France introduced coffee to them. Standing in Europe is common but in Asia sguatting on a child size chair isn’t uncommon. The typical position when enjoying your morning pho soup…a second awaking to me.

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    1. The furtherest east I’ve gone is Turkey, where tea culture reigns supreme. Vietnamese coffee is absolutely amazing, the French not only left cappuccinos there but the most delish pastries. I definitely want to go back to Ethiopia to experience a coffee ceremony. I was only there for a day. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  2. Hahaha! Okay now I am informed and ready (I still don’t like the taste but I can appreciate it more!)! Thank you 😊

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  3. *gasp* I can not believe you put my business out there like that oh the betrayal……just kidding, LMAO. I prefer coffee with my milk 🙂

    Like

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