Northern Europeans are used to drinking large quantities of (fairly diluted) coffee. The Finnish, for example, have the highest coffee consumption per capita, preferring light roasted blends in particular. In Central Europe (eg., Germany, Austria and the Netherlands), medium roast is the order of the day, while a darker roast is the choice of the French, Spanish and Italians, although they drink less coffee than in Scandinavia.
Globally, coffee is an ancient tradition, although each country has its own preparation method
Coffee also has a long tradition in Great Britain. The first café opened in the mid-17th century, although they also served tea, which originally was an expensive beverage that only the bourgeoisie could afford. It was only with the reduction of taxes at the end of the 18th century that tea became popular with the middle and working classes as well. Nowadays, still faithful to the tradition of their tea-time ritual, the British continue to prefer tea to coffee, possibly due to the Royal Family’s long-standing preference for tea.
But things are changing fast in Great Britain too: an article published on 28 June 2012 in the London Evening Standard cited a study which found that 45% of British people thought that coffee had a higher social status than tea. 70% of wealthier respondents said they prefer coffee. Despite that, coffee consumption in Great Britain still has a long way to go: the British consume, on average, 2.3kg of coffee per capita, which is just over a third of the per capita consumption in Germany.
Italy is the quintessential home of coffee, a country where espresso is sacred. Ask for a coffee in Italy and you will receive a straight espresso, which can be drunk at any time of day just to take a quick break, usually standing at the bar counter and finished in a few seconds. In fact, real espresso should be drunk in just two or three sips. If you need an extra boost of caffeine, you can order a “caffè doppio”, i.e., a double espresso.
In Italy, cappuccino is usually only consumed at breakfast time, often with sweet treats such as a croissant. The milk in the cappuccino is considered part of the meal, which is why it is avoided at other times of day, as it is too rich. Italians prefer espresso after lunch, dinner or late in the evening. Each year, to satisfy their need for coffee, Italians consume about 5.6kg per capita on average.
Germans also have a close relationship with coffee, although the coffee-drinking culture is not as pronounced as it is in Italy. Germans drink coffee whichever way they like it best, at any time of day: weak or strong, with or without milk or sugar, made in a vending machine or on a brand-new espresso coffeemaker. Each year, Germans drink an average of 6.7kg of coffee per capita, that is 160 litres a year or about four cups a day.
Since the launch of the first home coffeemaker in 2001, portioned coffee has won over the German market as well. Capsule or pod coffeemakers, which make excellent fresh coffee for all tastes, can now be found in many German homes and offices.
The coffee break:
a ritual common
to Europe and America
In the Netherlands, coffee is as popular as it is in Germany, with a per capita consumption of about 6kg a year. During the day, the Dutch drink a lot of coffee: in the morning to start the day with a boost; between 10 and 11 for the “koffietijd” (coffee break); for a burst of energy later in the day; or while socialising with colleagues in the office. After dinner, the Dutch often drink a long coffee, American-style. Sometimes they indulge in a caffellatte, latte or a “koffie verkeerd”, which in Dutch literally means “reverse coffee” and refers to milk with a drop of coffee, instead of coffee with a drop of milk. Koffie verkeerd is served in a small glass which looks nothing like the French equivalent used for café au lait.
France is famous all over the world for its savoir vivre — the art of living that, together with a passion for coffee, is an important part of the national culture. With an average per capita consumption of 5.6kg, the homeland of love and the Tour Eiffel is halfway between the Old Continent and the New World. Coffee is mainly consumed at home, where it is made using a machine or a French Press, which was invented in France at the turn of the 20th century. Despite the preference for ‘more intimate’ home consumption, cafés are still very popular in France, maintaining a long tradition. Customers usually order café au lait, served with a croissant or toast with a few spoonfuls of jam.
French café au lait is made up of half very hot, strong filter coffee (or a double espresso), and half milk, often frothed. The perfect café au lait is served in a thick bowl or “bol”, and the milk and coffee are poured in at the same time. During the day, the French might delight the palate with a “petit noir” (espresso) or a “café noir” (black coffee), sometimes diluted with water — that is why it is also called “café lungo”. After dinner, cognac might be served with black coffee, or alternatively Cafè Granit, a sweet but intense coffee with mocha liqueur.
Americans love coffee. Whether in a restaurant or a bagel shop, a nod of the head is all you need to get a free refill of coffee. Coffee houses proliferate in large American cities like no other place on Earth. They offer a huge variety of recipes: coffee with milk, cold coffee, cappuccino, vanilla coffee, and a whole host of other flavours. Despite this, the annual per capita consumption figure is very low: about 4kg less than the average for countries on the other side of the Atlantic. This could be explained by the fact that Americans are no longer big fans of breakfast, and tend to prefer quality over quantity. A growing number of cafés are in fact attracting customers with fine blends.
Other reasons can be the home consumption of portioned coffee, and the sky-rocketing increase in the purchase of capsule or pod coffeemakers in recent years. In America, as in Italy, coffee has certainly become an essential daily indulgence.
No matter how or where: all over the world, coffee brings people together and encourages socialisation