I love coffee. The ritual of it, the history behind it, and the comfort of it. Not to mention, as my fellow writers can connect with, I guzzle it as a procrastination and inspiration tool. I'm one small step away from Lorelei Gilmore level. Just hook me up to an IV drip why don't you! My slight obsession (not so slight after all) took me down the rabbit hole of coffee culture across the globe. I have a strong stance that we here in North America, with our absurd 'hustle' mentality and 9-5 lifestyles, need a schooling in coffee tradition in order to take back (and monitor) our stress levels. From the Swedish Fika to the delicious Munich afternoon cake hour, here are five coffee rituals to incorporate into your life.
1. Fika - time to take a break!
The Swedes, like many of us, hold coffee in high regard. The other day I came across a BBC YouTube video (as one does) on the Swedish coffee break. Fika is part of their daily routine (I wish we had the same standards here in North America). This ritual is less of your average coffee break than a very important and deserved moment in the day to take a breath and chat with people. You can use it as a verb: "let's fika" or a noun as I've used it here. It involves several baked goods that you can enjoy alone or with colleagues and friends.
There's a specific order to what baked good you eat (since there are usually three different types ranging from sweet cakes to their famous cinnamon bun the kanelbulle) but there is ample controversy which sweet is snacked on in what order during fika. It doesn't really matter, all that is required is that you slow down. Sweden is one of the happiest countries on earth, according to The World Happiness Report, and I think this importance of taking a break during your day is directly correlated.
2. Vietnamese Drip
Image: Woks Of Life
My best friend returned from her grad trip backpacking through Vietnam with many takeaways from that beautiful country - one being their many coffee recipes. You can find their very popular condensed milk coffee here in North America in traditional Vietnamese restaurants and cafes. It's very rich, intensely flavoured and strong, and oh so delicious.
What gives it that face-punch flavor is of course that key ingredient of condensed milk. That layer of thick sweetness lays on the bottom of your cup (usually served in a thick, clear class and stainless steel Phin Vietnamese filter sitting on top). The coffee then drips into your glass, where you can stir and sip.
You can make this at home by using store bought condensed milk, Vietnamese coffee grounds, and near boiling water. Here's one of my favorite recipes to follow.
3. Kaffee und Kuchen
Image: Buzz Trips
As a German, 'Kaffee und Kuchen', or 'coffee and cake' is a tradition close to my heart. Picture the late afternoon sun, a cozy cafe nook, and gathering with friends and family for chat over, well, what I argue the Germans do best - cake! Like the Swedish Fika or British 'afternoon tea', Kaffee und Kuchen is about connecting with others over two of the best things on earth.
This delicious habit of meeting over coffee and cake (or torte, whatever you like), first began in the late 17th century (Conde Nast Traveler). In the 19th century once coffee was widely accessible, the German ritual was observed country-wide. Let's learn from my ancestors and turn your day around by bonding with friends or strangers over delicious 'kuchen' and a fresh drip.
Image: Smitten Kitchen
I recommend a black forest cake (named after the famed and story-told mountains of southern Germany) or Bienenstich; also thought to hail from Munich but who can say. That dessert, a beautiful vanilla custard with almond detailing translates to "bee sting" - which is a mystery but I promise as nothing to do with the dessert itself.
4. Celebrity Status Irish Coffee
Obviously, I can't leave out Irish Coffee. Hard day at work? Been standing in the very isles-esque rain all morning? Rip a page from the ol' Limerick book. When I visited Dublin a few years back, you could depend on ducking into any pub out of the rain and ordering up this heart-warming (and hand-warming) brew. The Irish say drink Irish Coffee when you need to warm your toes or sooth your soul. Trust the barkeep to know how much whiskey they think you need upon first glance - but if you're your own bartender, it's up to you.
Image: Foynes Flying Boat Museum
As to its history, Irish Coffee was created in wintertime, 1943, by Joe Sheridan, a Chef at Foynes Port near Limerick in Ireland. Foynes had become a massive civilian airports in Europe during World War ll and then an airbase for transatlantic flights that often carried celebrities and public figures. A new restaurant was created to cater to these dignified passengers. One evening, a flight had to turn back to Foynes Air base mid way through its journey, where "Chef Joe Sheridan, feeling empathy for the delayed, cold and weary passengers decided to whip up something special for them to drink." The story goes that "a silence descended as everyone enjoyed this delectable concoction," (Weaver's).
5. Türk Kahvesi
Image: Nico Kaiser
The Turks have been brewing since the 15th century. This new "Black Drink" they brewed from imported coffee beans became wildly popular in the elite mansions of the day, soon taking over the Ottoman Empire. Coffee houses opened, the drink cemented itself in Turkish culture, so much so that a law was passed allowing married women to divorce their husbands if they could not provide them with their daily need of coffee. (Honestly, this law should be implemented world-wide, no?)
Once Turkish Delight (cue the scene of the White Witch and Edmund in Chronicles of Narnia) became popular and coffee pot making and porcelain cups were trademarked in Turkish Coffee business (Turkish Style Ground), the two delicious things were often served together.
Because of the bitter taste of coffee, no one can deny its home next to a sweet thing. I'd recommend taking inspiration from the pages of Turkish history and demand your partner bring you home ample amounts of coffee, and no less. Additionally, if they wanted to also bring home sugar dusted sweets - there would be no complaint. I've been using the knowledge gained from the history of coffee culture in Turkey to drink my coffee out of porcelain cups (or china tea cups) and making an event out of it. There's something to be said for taking the time to prepare a fancy spread in beautiful dishes - I think the Turks were onto something. A beautiful drink deserves a beautiful setting - and the time to prepare it!