Europe is far from being the birthplace of coffee. It’s also not a continent where a significant chunk of the world’s coffee is grown.
But the one thing Europe is known for is how their philosophy on life aligns well with the coffee culture they have built. Each of the regions brings something interesting to the coffee community; something worth noting and perhaps even adopting.
Of course, we all know that the espresso drink was invented in Italy and that countries like Germany, France, and the Netherlands are some of the biggest coffee importers in the world (bringing in millions of dollars worth of coffee each year). So, let’s take the time to focus on several of these European regions and see what’s special about their approach to coffee.
Coffee was first brought into Italy in the 16th century through trade channels.
In addition to espresso, the espresso machine was also invented in Italy back in the 19th century. Suffice it to say that they’ve had centuries of time to hone their skills.
In Italy, people typically frequent establishments called “bars” for their daily dose of coffee. Unlike in other countries where bars are places you go to for alcoholic beverages, the bars in Italy serve a range of products such as ice creams, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, stamps, pastries, etc.
As per custom, you are supposed to stand at the bar and finish your coffee. You shouldn’t take a table by yourself unless you’re prepared to pay a lot more for the drink. People in Italy value time, not just their own but others too.
The coffee they consume at different times of the day also varies. Italians have a strict no-milk coffee rule after 11 am. Then, throughout the day, they only get shots of espresso. Drinks like latte and cappuccino are only had with breakfast.
Coffee roasted in Italy tends to be quite the dark roast. This means there’s little to no acidity and quite a bitter taste.
If you want to try something that is unique to Italy go for a corretto. It is an espresso prepared with liquor.
The only place in Europe where coffee is grown commercially is called Gran Canaria. It is a Spanish island with ideal conditions, such as volcanic soil and warm temperatures.
One of the most unique aspects of Spanish coffee culture is the torrefacto coffee.
This roasting method was developed in the 19th century as a way to increase the shelf life of coffee beans while also retaining their flavour. The beans are layered with sugar while roasting. As such, they get caramelised, and each roasted bean then has a coating of sugar giving it a unique flavour and texture.
Depending on the roaster, this sugar coating can be thin or thicker. But unlike you’re thinking, it doesn't have a sickly sweet taste to the coffee. The sugar layer gets burnt during roasting, adding a more bold flavour to the coffee.
In Spain, coffee is consumed in small portions multiple times a day. Many locals prefer drinking coffee at restaurants or bars rather than at home.
The Dutch have played a crucial role in the global spread of coffee. Historically, they would plant coffee in their colonies and import them to the Netherlands.
Initially, coffee was a product only the wealthy could access, but now it’s part of social norms.
Considering how cold the climate gets in the Netherlands, it makes sense that the locals consume a lot of coffee to battle the chill.
It’s believed that for many Dutch people, premium quality is not of the highest concern. They’d much rather be able to drink as much coffee in a day as possible, and so the third-wave coffee movement has been slow to take hold in the country.
It is common to find large pots of filter coffee in homes and cafés in this region. What’s more is that the Senseo coffee pad machine, invented in 2001, is a popular equipment as there’s a significant demand for capsule coffee machines.
Traditionally, coffee in the Netherlands is served with some kind of a sweet delectable on the side. This can be a cookie or a chocolate.
The Dutch coffee tradition called koffie en appelgebak is one where coffee is served with apple pie on the side.
Introduced in Paris in the 1660s, coffee gradually became a favourite beverage in the country. Even coffee houses began to be set up soon after.
French coffee tends to be some of the darkest roasts of coffee you’ll find in the world, giving the brew a bold, smoky flavour.
In France (much like elsewhere), coffee consumption is an important part of daily routine.
Some believe that the French coffee culture has more to do with the approach than with the taste of the coffee itself. It’s more about sitting in a café, leisurely sipping on hot, strong coffee as you take in the scene in front of you.
France’s coffee culture has some similarities to that of Italy. The espresso drinks are usually consumed without milk or sugar. Not as many coffee options are available as in the West with loads of whipped cream or toppings in a traditional French café.
Today, you’ll find an increasing number of specialty coffee shops and artisanal brands in France.
We hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. There are several more countries to be covered in our next instalment. Stay tuned for that!