Coffee drinking is a daily pleasure, a habit that most people love to practice every day. “Let’s go out for a coffee” is what Greeks say to friends, relatives, or colleagues after work.
Hot or iced coffee? It depends on the season and your preference. The traditional Greek coffee is prepared in a briki (small pot) and served hot in a thick-walled cup next to a glass of cold water. The Greek coffee brewed in a pot placed on chovoli (charcoal ash covered by sand to keep it hot) is most flavorful and definitely worth a try! In the afternoon or evening hours a sweet treat will accompany your coffee very nicely: ask for a spoon sweet or a ypovrychio (a spoonful of a tasty gum-like paste, placed in a glass of cold water).
The iced coffee that Greeks enjoy any time of the year is the so-called frappé, which –despite its name – is not French. It’s a frothy iced coffee prepared with cold water in a shaker (sugar & milk added to taste – if any) and served with ice cubes. Other popular types include the freddo espresso and the freddo cappuccino, made with espresso coffee blended with ice (and an added thick froth of chilled milk for freddo cappuccino), and served in a tall glass. Don’t let their Italian names fool you, they are Greek recipes!
Whatever the type of coffee you choose, if you want to enjoy it the traditional Greek way, you must take your time with it. The Greeks like to sip it and savor the aroma while socializing; the longer it takes for them to drink it, the more they enjoy it!
There are impressive traditional café-restaurants across the country, and it’s worth discovering them and their history. In Athens, follow us on a visit to the café Oraia Ellas (est. 1839) in Monastiraki. The eye-catching exhibits, the pictures on the walls, and the traditional tables are all part of the old-time atmosphere of this place. There’s a large variety of tasty Greek dishes and sweets to savor. For chess lovers, there’s Café Panellinion (Exarchia, Athens), where apart from freshly brewed coffee and other titbits, there are chess boards and dedicated players who take part in games and tournaments, while the famous chess masters of former times watch them from their picture frames on the walls.
On the Aegean Sea Island of Lesvos, Kafeneion O Ermis is one of the oldest coffee houses in Greece. Much of the original décor has remained almost intact and visitors will be impressed by the marble-topped tables, the velvet curtains, large mirrors, gold-framed paintings, and the traditional wooden sofas. The local seafood dishes are a must-try. Café Kipos (est. 1870) is in the Municipal Garden of Chania town, Crete. Once the haunt for princes, politicians, and personalities of the arts & letters, this legendary café now hosts art, music & theatrical events, food festivals, and a photography exhibition about the history of Crete.
The Greek historical cafés combine flavor with culture & history. Explore them and relish the experience!