Coffee culture around the world

Posted on 1 October 2018

Something as simple as ordering coffee can be a challenge when overseas. Here are tips for navigating coffee culture around the world.

Photo from Origin Coffee Roasters

Origin – coffee culture in South Africa.


Ordering coffee in the USA

Ask for a coffee and you’ll get it black and filtered. Many Americans drink theirs with cream, but if that’s too rich for you, go for half-and-half (half cream, half milk) or milk.

Ordering coffee in Austria

Order a cappuccino and you’ll be surprised with a sweet, whipped-cream concoction, not the expected frothed-milk version. For that, you’ll need to order a melange.

Ordering coffee in Scandinavia

Scandinavians are as serious about their coffee as they come. With a higher per capita coffee consumption than anywhere else in the world, they drink it black and strong. Make a point of asking for milk.

Ordering coffee in Japan

In typical Japanese on-the-go style, coffee is widely available in piping-hot cans spewed out of vending machines. Most come sweet and milky, but bitter black versions are available too.

Ordering coffee in Brazil

Waiters will often offer you a complimentary cafezinho after meals – this small filter coffee usually comes (very) pre-sweetened. If you want it bitter and black ask for un cafe’ longo, which is equivalent to an Americano.

Ordering coffee in Greece, Bosnia and Armenia

Coffee is prepared in the Turkish style, but because of long-running political tensions, it’s never referred to by that name. Avoid dirty looks and order a Greek, Bosnian or Armenian coffee, depending on where you are.

Ordering coffee in Turkey

Turkish coffee is made by boiling a mixture of powder-fine coffee and sugar in a small brass cezve (coffee pot). Never served with milk, it comes with a thick dark foam on top. Often made with sugar, it can be ordered without.

Ordering coffee in China

Historically a tea-drinking country, China’s coffee culture is influenced by the West. You’ll find the same steamed-milk easy-sipper at a Starbucks in Shanghai as you would in Seattle (the birthplace of the franchise giant). If you want it black, ask.

Ordering coffee in Argentina

Ordering un cafe’ will get you an espresso. It’s customary to serve this with sparkling water to help wash it down and keep you refreshed.

Ordering coffee in Western Europe

In most parts of this region, if you simply order a coffee you’ll get an espresso – great if you want a quick caffeine kick. But if you’re after something mellow, order whatever hot milk-espresso infusion applies:

Order a cafe’ au lait, which is often served in a bowl or mug wide enough for dunking your choice of tasty pastry.

To avoid Italians looking down their noses at you, don’t order coffee diluted with milk after midday. However, if easy sipping is more important than local esteem, go for a classic latte.

Cafe’ con leche, literally ‘coffee with milk’. Unlike in Italy, you can order this at any time of the day without fear of scornful grunts.

See these Coffee Shops for working in Cape Town

Did you know?

Brazil is one of the heavyweights of international coffee production, supplying roughly one 60 kg bag of it for every person in South Africa. Across the ocean, the biggest coffee drinkers are the Finns, each of whom consumes about 12 kg of the brew a year and with many drinking it daily by the age of 12.

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