Coffee addicts often say "even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all," but for connoisseurs and enthusiasts around the world, this is not the case. Blogs have been dedicated to this bewitching beverage, poems and songs written in ode to the dark brew, such is the love for one of the world's most important drinks.
For someone like me, for whom coffee has always just been an on-the-go-pick-me-up, it took years to wrap my head around why so many people take their coffee so seriously. What’s so special about that morning cuppa? I often wondered.
Over the years, I've come to realise that a good cup of coffee just doesn't happen magically, a lot of effort goes in its making. But beyond the complex production process, from selection of the beans and the method of roasting, ranging from lightly roasted to very dark roast with various degrees and grinds in between, it was when I began to take note of how the rest of the world enjoyed their coffee, that I discovered surprising revelations that deepened my appreciation.
While in Austria I was taken aback to see a cup of espresso layered with an egg yolk, brown sugar, and whipped cream, in Paris I was pretty amused to see people sipping their milky morning coffee from a bowl. I was even given a few funny looks by a Parisian waiter at the restaurant when I ordered milk-coffee during the day. It was only later I learnt that black coffee is the beverage of choice for the rest of the day.
In Italy they say the espresso is served with a sliver of lemon peel, while in Spain, the espresso is topped with steamed milk, cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey, and across the ocean in Mexico they prepare a delicious spiced coffee flavoured with cinnamon and cooked in clay pots to add an earthy flavour to the drink.
Coffee ceremonies play an important role in Ethiopia where women spend hours roasting beans and brewing the stuff. But my very first taste of international coffee, deviating from espresso, drip, or that pseudo-coffee, Nescafe, was in Oman, where I tasted kahwa for the first time.
At a press conference I was surprised when I was handed a small thimble of black coffee, fragrant with cloves and cardamom. It was deliciously different.
I went on to learn that in this part of the Middle East, coffee is never taken with milk, and is instead flavoured with spices such as cardamom, cloves, ginger, and saffron, and sometimes a hint of rosewater. When you drink it, you should be able to distinguish between all the different flavours and aromas.
Enjoying your morning brew is no small thing, from the way you drink it to the way you brew it. This daily ritual tells a story about its consumer, her culture, her taste, her travels, and her personality.
Join us on a quick-hits global coffee tour that will have you reaching for another cup before the end of your coffee break.
My tryst with coffee without milk was with kahwa which initially was bitter for my palate. But gradually I acquired the taste and the delicately spiced flavours in it opened up a new world of coffee for me. Served with a handful of dates for sweetness, kahwa is served as a gesture of hospitality in Oman, served to guests both at home and in offices. The coffee beans are lightly roasted, sometimes purchased green and pan-roasted at home, then ground with cardamom pods. Clove, cinnamon, rose water, and saffron may be added to the brewed coffee for added flavours.
Kokkaffe (Sweden/Scandinavian Countries)
In Sweden, coffee is made by boiling ground coffee beans in water and serving it without filtering. It tends to be very strong and gets stronger as it is kept hot for consumption throughout the day. It is said that Swedes drink more coffee than almost anyone anywhere else in the world and years have been dedicated to master a perfect cuppa. A coffee break in Sweden can last for hours, and is taken several times in a day.
Italian Coffee (Italy)
Italy is synonyms with espresso, and Italians are very particular about how and when to drink it. Cappuccino, foamed milk and espresso; caffé Americano, water and espresso; caffé macchiato, espresso with a dot of milk; and caffé ristretto, which is stronger than regular espresso are all savoured. Never ask for a latte in Italy unless you want to be served a glass of milk. While mornings usually start with a frothy cappuccino, the other less milk heavy varieties are taken during the rest of the day — after lunch, during work, and post dinner — often with a sliver of lemon to offset the bitterness. Making the perfect espresso in Italy is all about finding the right balance and is considered an art, practiced with immense precision.
Those who have been to Turkey might have heard the Turkish expression, The memory of a good Turkish coffee lasts 40 years. Turkish coffee is made with ground beans boiled in a small brass pot also known as an ibrik, with or without sugar, and is then served in small glasses. It is important to specify how much sugar you want while asking for Turkish coffee, as it is best to have the sugar cooked along with the strong brew. A cardamom seed is sometimes added for flavour. These tiny, strong servings are meant to be enjoyed sip by sip, and is an important aspect of socialising.
American Coffee (America)
In America, it has always been more about drip coffee and speciality beans than shots of espresso, and coffee began as the beverage of the "working-man" as a quick pick-me-up during short breaks. This has evolved over the years and now many cities in America, like Portland and Seattle, are known to have great artisanal coffee cultures, with organic and speciality coffees, innovative brewing methods (like cold brew for strong coffee served over ice in the summertime), and coffee shops on every corner. Some of the small American coffee houses and roadside diners grew over the years into massive international chains, like Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, though boutique coffee culture remains important in the United States. Despite coffee's importance as the daily drink of choice, Hawaii is the only state in America that actually grows coffee beans.
Built into their lifestyle, people in France are known to stop for a café anytime of day or night. The counter top brewing devise in which hot water is poured over grounds, left to steep, and then poured out through a strainer, is aptly called a French press. If you ask for café express, you will get strong and concentrated coffee in tiny cups. While cream and milk in coffee is not very common in France, the café crème, basically an espresso topped with foamed milk, is a popular morning beverage. But a cappuccino in France has no similarity with the ones that Italians are famous for. If you order a cappuccino in Paris, you’ll end up having a watery, almost Americano-style espresso topped with froth. The French have their café as a digestif after a hearty dessert, so it is often taken bitter and black to offset the sweetness.
Filter Coffee (India)
Indian filter coffee, which is extremely popular in South India, is a slowly brewed coffee that basically steams in a metal tumbler outfitted with perforated cups inside. The resulting frothy beverage is usually mixed with milk and sugar in a metal tumbler called davara. The flavour and froth of filter coffee is attained when the right quality of beans are selected, roasted well, and ground to the perfect coarseness.
Try a Cup
Caffe Vergnano 1882
for Italian coffee and espresso
Assarain Complex, Madinat Sultan Qaboos & Avenues Mall
+968 2443 4703, + 968 2450 1743
for Omani Kahwa
Al Massa Mall, Sarooj Area
+968 9779 2463
Turkish Coffee Restaurant
+968 2448 8071
for Indian filter coffee
Ruwi & Al Khuwair
+968 2470 4502, +968 2448 7873
for French coffee
Muttrah Port, Fish Market, Muttrah
+968 9137 1999
for coffee made out of nine types of Arabica beans
Avenues Mall, Bausher
+968 2200 5420
Kony & Jo’s Cafe
for iced café latte and iced cappuccino
Fun Zone Qurum
+968 9549 5799