There aren’t many drinks as widely loved all over the world as coffee. It’s enjoyed in cafes everywhere, and many countries even have their own way to prepare it. Forget Italian espresso, French cafe au lait, and the Australian/New Zealand flat white – you can get those almost anywhere. If you want to experience unique coffee culture on your travels, here are the ones that you have to try.
1) Turkish Coffee, Turkey
Known by locals as Türk Kahvesi, this brew is pretty famous, and very distinctive when made correctly. It’s a form of black coffee, but one that is thicker and stronger than you’ve ever had before. The real deal is made like this: the coffee beans are roasted and finely ground, then brewed in a particular pot, made of copper or brass, called a cezve. The almost sludge-like mixture of grounds remains unfiltered, so it stays at the bottom of the glass when you drink – you could probably stand a spoon up in it, it’s so thick. The Turkish are so proud of their coffee that it was put on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013 – definitely one not to miss.
2) Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Vietnam
The Vietnamese’s favorite way of preparing coffee is just as strong, but it’s also equally sweet. The standard version is called cà phê đá, which is percolated hot and mixed with ice cubes; for something even more special, you want the cà phê sữa đá. This one contains sweetened condensed milk, making for a refreshing and delicious respite from the country’s weather. Brewing looks almost like an art form – and one you won’t see anywhere else. They take a coarsely ground dark roast and place them on top of a glass to create a mini percolator. Once the dark liquid has made its way through the French drip filter, it lands straight onto the condensed milk. Just add some ice to the cup and you’re ready to go![READ:
3) Ceremonial Coffee, Ethiopia
No list would be complete without the birthplace of coffee, which is called buna in the Amharic language. Ethiopia naturally takes its coffee drinking seriously, which is why they have a whole ceremony dedicated to it. It’s an impressive event, but not one to partake in if you’re in a hurry – it takes at least an hour, if not three! Focused attention is given to creating the perfect brew, starting with roasting the beans and grinding them. They’re then brewed in a jebena, made from pottery with a straw lid, and strained three times, re-using the coffee grounds to make three small cups of deliciousness: the first ultra-strong, then getting weaker as it goes on. Sugar, salt or butter may be added to the coffee, which is served with small snacks. It’s an honour to be invited to take part, and certainly an experience you’d never forget.
4) Cofftea, Hong Kong
The beverage with a thousand names, this is also known as Yuanyang, Yuenyeung or Kopi Cham (in Malaysia, where it’s also drunk). A surprising mixture of coffee and tea, it not only works but could give you enough of a caffeine jolt to run up and down The Peak a few times! Served hot or cold (with condensed milk), it uses black coffee and milk tea in roughly a 3:7 ratio – although everyone in Hong Kong has their own secret recipe. The Association of Coffee and Tea of Hong Kong even holds a competition every year where they award a prize to the best yuanyang. Comparing them is a great excuse to keep trying this delicious mixture! And it goes with everything from breakfast to other Hong Kong treats like pineapple buns and egg tarts. If you end up with too much of a buzz, you can also try a children’s or baby yuanyang, made from malty Horlicks and chocolatey Ovaltine.
5) Coffee with cheese, Finland
No, you didn’t read that wrong – in this Nordic country, there’s a tradition of drinking (or eating?) a specialty known as kaffeost. Mostly enjoyed in Kainuu, in the east of Finland, this bizarre-sounding drink is made with a very specific type of cheese that the region is known for. This cheese is called juustoleipä, which is made from the milk of a cow that has recently calved, giving it a rich color and flavor. The juustoleipä, which is also baked, is cut into small chunks and put into the bottom of the cup before adding hot coffee; the pieces float, and you can eat them during or after drinking by using a spoon. You could probably argue that it’s not really a type of coffee, but it was just too unique not to add!
Travelling can open your coffee horizons as well as your cultural ones, and tasting new things is part of the fun and adventure. Whether you like yours sweet, dark, milky, or even with cheese, make sure you don’t miss these unique and delicious ways to get your daily cup of coffee!
Rudy Caretti has more than 15 years of experience in the coffee industry, a passion that started in Italy within the family business and brought him to found Gimoka Coffee UK and G Coffee Pod with a group of friends, who share the same passion.