Coffee time

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Most of us need a jolt of caffeine to get things firing. Wherever you find yourself waking up, here are the rules for ordering the perfect coffee

Take a seat – a plush chair in Hanoi’s Metropole bar; a pavement stool, anywhere – and order a cà phê. Now wait. Some paraphernalia will eventually arrive: a tiny glass (containing a splash of sweet condensed milk) with a curious aluminium pot on top. Slowly – drop by oil-slick drop – the java falls… The French did a good thing, introducing coffee to Indochina in the 1800s; the invention of condensed milk sealed the deal – a dairy product that could survive the tropics! A match made in hydration heaven.
The rules
 Don’t bother ordering coffee strong (manh) – it just comes that way. You can try ordering it weak (nhe), but it’ll get you bouncing anyway.
 Foreigners get a thermos of hot water with which to dilute the brew – but it’s better enjoyed the unadulterated Vietnamese way.
 Take slow, tiny sips. Let the flavour resonate on your tongue. Feel alive.

Coffee, Vietnamese style

The Ottomans liked a brew to accompany their Turkish delight; Istanbul’s first coffeehouse opened in 1640. Now, as then, it all starts with a copper pot, the cezve, in which the super-fine beans simmer. The smell is divine. Sugar is added (unless you ask not), and the thick, dark liquid is poured into a glass, but only experts can deliver the perfect foam head on top.
The rules
 Order according to your sweet tooth: az şekerli (a little sugar); orta şekerli (some sugar); çok şekerli (lots); şekersiz/sade (none).
 In eastern Turkey, try mırra – ‘old-fashioned coffee’, flavoured with cardamom.
 Don’t drink the sludge left at the bottom of your glass – it tastes bad, and can be used for fortune-telling.

Caffeine addicts: welcome to the Motherland. Ethiopia is the birthplace of buna (we thank an ancient goatherder for the tree’s discovery). Fresh black, cappuccino and latte-style brews are served countrywide (we thank occupying Italians for injecting style). An Ethiopian coffee ceremony is the best way to drink it, a slow-burning ritual in which you accept three, progressively weaker cups, culminating in the berekha – or ‘blessing’.
The rules
 Pick your poison: beu/ya leu skwar (with/without sugar); beu/ya leu weu teut (with/without milk).
 Know the accompaniments: coffee might come with butter or herbs rather than milk and sugar.
 When offered coffee at a ceremony, nod your head in appreciation.

That’s right: the man wants you to pay top dollar for coffee that’s been pooped by a cat. Kopi luwak has been the world’s most prized brew since the 18th century, in spite of its production process. It’s made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of the palm civet; the animal’s enzymes reputedly make the beans smoother and less bitter. Which you can test, if brave/rich enough to try it.
The rules
 Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive blend: if you see it sold cheap, it’s likely fake.
 Kopi luwak is produced mainly on Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi, as well as the Philippines and East Timor.
Don’t fancy it? Try local specialities kopi telur (raw egg and sugar, topped with coffee) or kopi jahe (coffee with ginger) instead.

An Indonesia coffee plantation

You want caffè Italian-style? Then stand up, people! This is no time to dither. You hit the bar, you order, you drink (no sipping!), you go. This is fast fuelling – but done oh-so- well, and in so many ways. In truth, you can sit and savour if you like, just expect to pay more for the privilege.
The rules
 Don’t order espresso – the short shot is called caffè here, served with a tawny crema on top.
 As well as the familiar options, look for ristretto (very short black), doppio (long, strong, black) and corretto (with a dash of liqueur).
 It’s bad form to order coffee with milk after a meal – Italians reckon it monkeys with digestion.

If it weren’t for the postwar wave of Italian migration, Australians might still be making coffee with bottled essence. Nowadays, no city cafe would survive without its espresso machine and well-trained staff. Invented Down Under, most beloved is the flat white: coffee mixed with microfoam (non-frothy steamed milk).
the rules
 Be picky if you like: Aussie baristas are used to orders for skinny-soy-decaflattes. You want choc sprinkles with that?
The flat white is a point of pride. What to say: ‘Bonza brew, mate!’ What not to say: ‘Didn’t the Kiwis invent this?’ If ordering coffee in the dust-blown outback, don’t ask for cappuccino. They might spit in your instant.


Pike Place Market, Seattle, 1971: ground zero of US coffee culture. This is where the first Starbucks opened its doors – andthe hot-beverage-service world changed forever. It’s a complicated world now, too. The coffee shop giant reckons there are 87,000 ways of ordering one of its frappuccinos. Don’t know what a frappuccino is? Boy are you in trouble…
The rules
 A frappuccino is coffee blended with ice and whatever else you fancy: milks, syrups, creams, sprinkles…
 Other handy vocab: no fun (decaf), double no fun (double decaf), speed ball (regular coffee with shots of espresso).
 Consider your waistline: grande sizes and sweet extras can turn your caffeine fix into an obesity problem. A Starbucks venti dark berry mocha frappuccino (!) contains more than 500 calories.

Extract taken from The Food Lovers Guide To The World (£29.99, Lonely Planet, published 12 October 2012)

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