Over the centuries, coffee has enjoyed a dramatic rise in popularity that has culminated in it becoming an absolutely essential staple part of the lives of hundreds of millions to enjoy coffee around the world. Be it as the morning fix of caffeine, a partner to desserts, or as the occasional treat with whipped cream, coffee has earned an image of austerity and tradition in many parts of the world. Like tea, the true origins of coffee are shrouded in mystery, but today, the global industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. It is one of the most valuable commodities available out there, more popular than even natural gas, sugar, and gold, and many countries that have historically consumed alternatives like tea are increasingly switching over to coffee.
This article will explore various cultures in detail and shed light on the different ways coffee is consumed in these nations. While Italy, the US, and France are common countries attached to coffee, some like Mexico, Australia, and Ireland have cultivated their own niches in the coffee market. We’ll go into what that means for countries like these, and more. Lastly, we’ll also shed some light on the quirky, but likely fictional, stories surrounding how exactly coffee came to be as popular as it is today.
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So How Did Coffee Become So Popular?
This is one area of history where there is significant disagreement: the true origins of coffee. Some say that Ethiopia is the birthplace of the beverage, while others claim that it is Yemen. Both places have their own legends, but we’ll recount one from the former.
Be sure to also read “Where Does Coffee Come From?” to know the origins of your favorite morning drink.
According to the tale, a goatherd named Kaldi observed that his goats would get very excited after eating this particular shrub with red cherries. They would jump around and bleat frantically. Kaldi tried the beans from the cherry and felt the signature caffeine buzz too. He took these beans to the nearest monastery, where it was greeted with disdain. The monks were somehow convinced that the coffee was the product of the devil, and burned the beans. However, on smelling the aroma of roasted coffee, they decided to give coffee one more chance. And the rest is history.
Want to see what kind of beans go into making your cup of coffee? Check out “10 Best Types of Coffee Beans” for more.
Coffee in the 21st Century
Regardless of how coffee was discovered, the global market for coffee today is a booming one. Around 1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed across countries on any given day. Furthermore, much of this coffee is produced in developing countries, providing stable economies for millions of workers in these nations. However, coffee has earned a much deeper significance in these countries, as well as the ones that eventually consume the processed beans.
Recipes and styles of preparations differ, while some populations prefer specific coffee beverages at particular times of the day. We mentioned that clarified butter and eggs are among the delicacies that are added to coffee in some parts of the world, and this section will go into great detail about the quirky features of several cultures from across the globe. This by no means an exhaustive list, especially since the diversities of coffee in the world are far too many to be listed in an article, but we do our best.
No list of vibrant coffee cultures is complete without the powerhouse that is Italy. If you were to walk into an Italian cafe and simply ask for a coffee, or ‘caffé’ as it is locally known, you would promptly receive a shot of espresso by default. For the uninformed, an espresso is merely ground coffee with steamed milk, granulated sugar, and some foam on top. This concoction was birthed in this very country and is perhaps the best way to feel the perfect jolt to start your day. Take a look at “What is Italian Roast Coffee?” or “What is Espresso Roast Coffee?” for more on the espresso coffee trend.
Italians love their espresso and consume around 14 billion shots of it each year. This espresso is usually meant to be had in the morning amidst a hasty rush, so much so that Italian cafes generally don’t provide seating, which can cost extra. In Rome, you can also experience espresso with a slight twist. This coffee is called the Italian Espresso Romano, and it differs from the norm by being served with a slice of lemon that is meant to be rubbed around the rim of your cup. This quirky recipe is just one of the many ways Italians have found to innovate new types of coffee.
Also, check out “How to Make the Perfect Espresso” for a tutorial on making that exquisite Italian cup.
Cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos are other acceptable ways of consuming your coffee in the morning but are strictly prohibited by tradition any time beyond noon. This is because milkier coffees are thought to be more suitable for earlier in the day, and the fact that the word ‘espresso’ literally means ‘forced out’. Italy is one of those countries that does not produce coffee indigenously but has mastered the art of preparing it. The richness of its coffee is symptomatic of the general Italian mastery over food and beverages, be it with, a Neapolitan pizza, you name it.
Want more espresso? Take a look at “6 Different Types of Espresso Drinks You Need to Try” for more.
Vietnam is one country that has perhaps not had as long a connection to coffee as some other entries on this list, but they have achieved some impressive milestones in their short experience with the beverage. The French colonists were responsible for introducing Vietnam to coffee during their exports, and locals have since been quite creative with the process despite unfavorable weather conditions for coffee growth.
Want to see more popular coffee drinks in Vietnam and Asia altogether? Take a look at “7 Popular Coffee Drinks In Asia” for a list of the best drinks in Asia.
But the catch is that many Vietnamese prefer their coffee iced. Vietnamese iced coffee is prepared by slowly roasting the beans on a low heat for around fifteen minutes before grinding, pouring over through a metal filer and finally mixing with ice. Locals often add sweetened condensed milk to their coffee as well. Want to find out how to make iced coffee at home? Read “How to Make Iced Coffee at Home” for more.
Unlike Italy, Vietnam produces its own coffee and a lot of it. The Southeast Asian country is the second biggest exporter of coffee in the world. A large chunk of the production has been dedicated towards robusta beans, which are cheaper, but also higher in caffeine than arabica beans. However, recent developments have been encouraging, and the growth of arabica and general improvement in quality has been observed, and this can only improve the fascinatingly unique coffees of Vietnam. Don’t know the difference between Robusta and Arabica beans? Check out “What’s the Difference Between Arabica vs Robusta Coffee Beans” for a full guide.
Mexico has historically prioritized beverages like tea and hot chocolate over coffee, but this trend is seeing a sharp decline as Mexico climbs on the list of largest coffee producers in the world. Ranked eighth, Mexico’s experience with coffee is as brief as Vietnams. Coffee came to this country in the late 18th century through Jamaica, and the ‘Café de olla’ is the beverage of choice for urbanites. However, other Mexicans in more remote parts may be less familiar with the drink, indicating a healthy and significant variance in coffee consuming practices across the country.
The Café de Olla is shrouded in revolutionary zeal from the early 20th century. It is said that wives would give their soldier husbands this coffee to give them the strength and energy to fight for their cause. As such, it is known for its strong flavors that are made spicier by the addition of cinnamon sticks and brown sugar. This balances the harsh bitterness with some caramel flavors after being filtered.
Learn how to make your cup of coffee less bitter in “How to Make Coffee Less Bitter?“.
Like the Irish, Mexicans are also fans of mixing their coffee with some alcohol and ice to make the perfect cocktail. Called the ‘carajillo’ in Spanish, this beverage is basically espresso mixed with a particular drink called the Licor 43. Though unpleasant on its own, the 43 compliments the taste of coffee surprisingly well. Recently, carajillo has become popular as a party drink for a quick boost during a long night.
As was discussed earlier, Ethiopia is widely considered to be the birthplace of coffee and has been attached to it ever since the dawn of the beverage itself. This has led to the deep cultural integration of coffee in the linguistic idioms of the local folk. These phrases include ‘Buna dabs naw’, which means “coffee is our bread”, encapsulating the centrality of these beans to the lifestyle of the people of Ethiopia. Coffee is the country has not historically been ‘brewed’ in a modern way. Rather, grounded coffee was mixed with clarified butter and eaten as a porridge. Today, this tradition has taken the form of butter being added to brewed coffee.
Another prominent characteristic of coffee culture in the country is that it is highly social. Citizens will often congregate in cafes and restaurants and consume coffee together. Many times, these meetings are accompanied by the performance of a coffee ceremony. Jebena Buna is a traditional ritual wherein coffee is prepared and consumed in a very specific way. Beans are grounded with a mortar and pestle, and incense is used to chase off any evil spirits. This piece covers the entire process in great detail.
Besides the buttery coffee and social significance, Ethiopian coffee is also steeped in deeply traditional values. Coffee is often served first to the elder men of the house, and women are served last. The fairer sex is also unerringly the host(ess) of a social gathering centered around coffee. All of these factors combine to make Ethiopian coffee a truly special delight, and Addis Abada, the capital, is the place to experience it.
Be sure to read “Best Coffee Brands from Ethiopia” to see what brands come from this great nation.
Finland consumes more coffee than any nation on the face of this planet. The average Finn consumes around 12 kilograms of coffee in a year, double the amount drank by Italians in the same period. However, Finland is an outlier in several ways. Brands like Starbucks have not really caught on in the nation, with outlets mostly restricted to Helsinki, the capital. It is a rare place where espressos are not enjoyed with the same excitement as they are in the rest of the world. Many Finns, especially older generations, prefer their coffee light roasted, and on the sweeter side. This is surprising given Finland’s unbearably harsh weather, where minus 20º Celsius can feel like a warm day. Lastly, many establishments in the country will allow you a second refill. This is virtually unheard of outside private gatherings and is perhaps the reason behind its booming industry.
Like Ethiopia, sharing coffee is a deeply personal act in Finland. If you were to visit the household of a native, especially with elders in the family, you are bound to be offered several cups of coffee. Declining the beverage is generally considered rude. The hostess will serve you either a half or full cup depending on your preference, along with a refill, so be wary before requesting for either.
See the differences between light and dark roasted coffee in “Light vs Dark Roast Coffee“.
Besides home, coffee is also served in every imaginable social gathering, weddings, funerals, birthdays, memorials, if there are people, there’s likely going to be coffee as well. Finland is a country where people consume the recommended maximum of four cups as a bare minimum, and several consume tens of cups a day. Coffee is simply not something the Finns can survive without, but who can, really?
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Thank you for reading! Let us know in the comments below what type of roast you prefer in the morning. Also if you’re looking for more interesting information about coffee around the world, check out “The Most Expensive Coffee in the World“, “What is the Strongest Coffee in the World?“, or “What is the Best Tasting Coffee in the World?“.
We’ll brew ya later!! ☕️