Wake Up To Coffee Culture Around the World
This article was written by Maresa Giovannini and was featured in our January issue of Home By Design magazine. To visit the original Home By Design article and view more photos, click here.
If you jump-start your day by sipping a cup of Joe, you are far from alone. In fact, after water, coffee is the top drink around the world with more than two billion cups consumed every day. Coffee appears to be a universal love language, but with myriad ways to brew, serve, and sip it, each cup is as distinctive as the person who prepares it. For more buzz about global coffee culture, read on.
“ . . . although the word for coffee is slightly different in every language, the variations have the same foundation . . . ”
There are plenty of cheeky quotes about caffeine—“Give me all the coffee and no one gets hurt,” or “No talkie before coffee,”—but there is much more to the roasted beans than comedy. In reality, it’s serious business. In 2018, Seattle, Washington-based industry giant Starbucks netted $4.52 billion USD. And that dollar amount is nothing to laugh at. While the demand for espressos, americanos, and macchiatos doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, beans are still an agricultural crop subject to favorable weather, a strong workforce, and community support to maintain production.
More than half of the world’s coffee is grown in South America, but it is a global cooperative. Enter the International Coffee Organization (ICO), which helps bring “together exporting and importing governments to tackle the challenges facing the world coffee sector through international cooperation,” according to their website. Every October 1, the organization supports International Coffee Day, which unites coffee lovers and helps bring attention to industry issues.
Káva. Café. Cà phê. Kaffe. Kahve. Although the word for coffee is slightly different in every language, the variations have the same foundation. So wherever you travel, it will be easy to get your caffeine fix. If you are in search of the world’s best, you won’t be disappointed with Italy’s offerings. The country’s coffee culture is fast-paced, robust, and an integral part of la dolce vita. Other top spots around the world include Austria and Turkey—both recognized by UNESCO for their coffee traditions. Vienna, Austria’s capital, is renowned for its coffeehouse social hubs “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill,” as described by Austria’s National Commission for the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Turkey’s coffee culture is steeped in tradition from beginning to end. Preparing and consuming the drink with family and friends is a significant ritual; when a cup is empty, the leftover grounds are even used to tell the drinker’s fortune. Head to tropical climes like those found in Hawaii and Costa Rica for popular, in-person tours of coffee farms.
Casual coffee drinkers want to know where to get the best cup, but true javaphiles won’t rest until they track it down. If you are planning a pilgrimage, consider scheduling your next trip around world coffee championship events, including the World Cup Tasters Championship, the World Latte Art Championship, and the World Brewers Cup (www.worldcoffeeevents.org). While there aren’t many companies that will create a coffee itinerary for you, any city known for coffee will offer at least one tour to make sure you get an authentic local experience.
If you prefer to experience coffee closer to home, look for a local coffeehouse or roastery that offers cupping. The tasting practice will help you get more in tune with the flavors, textures, and aromas from beans to brews. Novices should start with the basics and get familiar with light, medium, and dark roasts. Although it’s counterintuitive, the lighter the roast, the more caffeine—so start slow.
You might not want to waste a drop, so think beyond the drink. Leftover coffee can be used as a fabric dye and as a medium for creating art. Find artists who are using the beverage in all its shades for original and classic paintings. The rich color of espresso inspired artist Karen Eland to dip her brush into her coffeehouse cup. Now Eland’s portfolio includes the Mona Latte—her interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic piece. Whether you desire to savor traditions or paint like the masters, a good cup of coffee may give you just the boost you need.