We’ve all met friends for coffee- whether it be for studying, catching up, or brainstorming purposes, coffee shops are prime hotspots for productivity.

In Greece, coffee breaks are long and taken seriously- just like the coffee itself is.

There are two forms of cafés in Greece: kafeteria (modern larger cafés) or “kafeneio” (a traditional Greek café that has been standing for decades). Kafeterias tend to attract younger crowds (often transforming into bars at night) while the kafeneios attract older.

No matter which café you choose, both will serve standard Greek coffee.

Ellinikós kafés (Greek Coffee): A Brief History

Greek coffee is actually a type of Turkish coffee; it is still prepared as it was made during the Ottoman occupation (1453-1821).

The Greeks do not call this coffee “Turkish” even though it technically is. Historically, it is a sore subject in Grecian culture.

After the Turks forced all the Greeks out of Istanbul in 1955, the word “Turkish” (and all of its variations) was considered insulting and, in a successful effort to expunge the word from their vocabulary and daily life, the Greeks started calling the coffee “Greek coffee”. It has been a permanent term in Grecian society since 1974.

In 1919, the Loumidis brothers introduced “ready ground” coffee to Greece after working as coffee roasters in the local coffee industry for a time. By 1923, they were selling to the public. The family formed a company that still carries a prestigious reputation for authenticity to this day.

Around the same time, in 1923, the Samourkas family in Athens opened up a small local coffee shop; in 2017, they are the world’s second largest exporter of Greek ground coffee.

3 Greek Customs Surrounding Coffee

Fortune Telling

Does anyone else remember Harry Potter’s crazy Divination teacher, Professor Trelawney? She was the one who read fortunes in the tea leaves at the bottom of tea cups. Well anyway, although it is tea in the books, Trelawney practices a variation of a real Greek custom.

The grounds that form in the bottom of a cup of traditional Greek coffee has created a fascination with fortune telling in Greek society. There are even those who “read coffee” professionally!

As the custom goes, once you’ve finished your coffee you should swirl your cup around (so the sediment covers all sides of your cup), place the saucer on top of the cup and turn it over. Wait for a few moments as the grounds drain down the sides of your cup; then flip it back over. Now, someone else must look into your cup and interpret what they see.

From initials to rivers to a fork, many types of shapes and symbols can be interpreted. The bottom portion of the cup represents people or experiences from the past, the middle portion is dedicated to current goings-on in the present, and the top portion is reserved for what’s to come in the future.

“Pouring One Out”

Some Greeks believe that if they pour a little coffee out of their cup onto the ground that luck and money will find them.

Predicting the Weather

In Greek culture, it is believed that a cup of coffee has the ability to predict weather. If bubbles are present in the center of the cup, then pleasant weather is on the radar. Alternatively, if bubbles form on the edges, then the weather will be dark and grey- indicating either rain or snow in the forecast.

How to Brew Traditional Greek Coffee

Traditional Greek coffee is thick and strong, served with a heavy foam on top. It is prepared in a “briki pot” and served in a “half cup” with the grounds still present in the bottom. This beverage is meant to be enjoyed slowly, savoring every sip. If you are serving a large group, it is customary to also serve a glass of ice water to each person.

What you’ll need:

  • Greek coffee, ground into a fine powder
  • briki (comes in 2,4, or 6 cup sizes)
  • Demitasse cup(s)
  • Cold water

Instructions:

  1. Measure cold water in demitasse cup (which equals ~ 1/4 cup) and pour into briki.
  2. This step requires some experimentation on your part, depending on your flavor and sweetness preferences. There are 4 standard ways to brew Greek coffee:
    1. Unsweetened (sketos)- add 1 tsp. of coffee to the briki water
    2. Semi-sweetened (metrios)- add 1 tsp. sugar to the 1 tsp. of coffee
    3. Sweetened (glykos)- add 2 tsp. sugar to the 1 tsp. of coffee
    4. Heavily Sweetened, Extra Strong (vary glykos)- add 3 tsp. sugar to 2 heaping tsp. coffee, stir to combine
  3. Turn burner to medium low. Place the briki over the burner and stir coffee until it dissolves and then never again. Repeat: Do not stir again. Foam will start to rise very quickly in the briki before it comes to a boil.
  4. Once foam reaches the top, remove the briki from heat and serve, evenly dividing the foam into cups before adding the coffee. Pour coffee carefully, disturbing the foam as little as possible.
  5. Sip and enjoy!

 

Want to learn about coffee culture in other countries? Check out our posts about Traditional Indian Coffee CultureTraditional Irish Coffee Culture, and Traditional Vietnamese Coffee Culture– all with recipes included for iconic coffee beverages from each country!

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