Although Greece does not have such an influence, over the years it has developed its own, special coffee culture!
We all know that coffee has always been very popular in Greece - after all, our country is among the top fifteen in per capita coffee consumption worldwide, as coffee consumption in our country reaches 5.5 kg per person per year. The roots of coffee in Greece go very far back in time. Of particular interest are the forms that our favorite drink took in Greece, but also the special habits we developed around it. Habits that have to do not only with the preparation and the consumption of coffee, but also the cultural and social importance that coffee gradually acquired for the Greeks.
The first contact of the Greeks with coffee dates back to the years when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire. As in other parts of the Ottoman Empire, in Greece, the traditional brewing of coffee in the kettle (what we know today as "Greek coffee") spread as early as the 19th century, perhaps even earlier. In Greece, as in the rest of the Balkan countries, this coffee remained the protagonist of the coffee shop for decades, almost until the end of World War II. Although since then, more and more often ordered as "Greek" and not as "Turkish", the invasion of Cyprus and the tense, hostile relations with the neighbors catalyzed the adoption of the name "Greek", which was completed through targeted advertising campaigns.
Greek coffee, with its 48 (!) different preparations, its special aroma but also its divinatory properties, was the most popular drink from the creation of the Greek state until the Second World War, when it started, slowly and gradually, to be sidelined. However, in the meantime having laid the foundations for the development of the first pillar of Greek coffee culture: the kafeneion – the traditional Greek café.
The first form of shop that served coffee in Greece was without a doubt the kafeneion. The first kafeneio is located in Greece since the last years of Turkish rule and serves Greek coffee, drinks, and some pastries. Despite the years that have passed, the kafeneion has not evolved much. It remains simple, popular, which gathers almost exclusively male customers and remain faithful to the original requirements of coffee, without innovations - so it is, after all, more or less, the traditional coffee places that survive to this day.
As the traditional kafeneion did not gather women, nor the Greeks of the more financially strong classes, from the end of the 19th century more luxurious cafes began to appear, with a more European orientation and a greater appetite for avant-garde and modernity. These cafes of the bourgeoisie, but also the patisseries, which could be frequented by women, actually put the seed for the further development of coffee in Greece and the '60s will develop into cafeterias: the most modern shops that are addressed to the young people and serve all kinds of drinks. Traditional cafes and coffee shops still survive and dominate, while in recent years coffee chains have also strengthened their position, opening stores everywhere, being an easy choice for a quick coffee.
The Greek cafes are indicative of the place that coffee occupies in the daily life of Greeks. For most of us, coffee is not just a drink, but an occasion to go out with friends. It is characteristic that in contrast to the counters of Italian espresso bars, Greek cafes and cafes always have tables, as a cup of coffee with friends lasts in Greece on average one and a half to two hours - many times, even longer. It is no coincidence that the most common proposal for a date, which marks the beginning of a new relationship, a new friendship, or just a new social contact, is the question "are we going for a coffee?". For this reason, perhaps coffee has taken such a deep root in the daily life of Greeks, beyond its taste and other properties: it is a cohesive element for creating company, an occasion for socialization, and the cheapest, easiest entertainment.
In the late 1950s, an easy, instant coffee came to compete with Greek coffee in mass. Dimitris Vakondios at the Thessaloniki International Fair of 1957 mixes instant coffee with cold water, ice cubes, sugar, and milk and creates frappe, which will monopolize the preferences of the male audience, but also of the younger audience in general until the late 1980s. and is considered a characteristic Greek taste, indicative of the incidental, Greek coffee culture (which, moreover, influenced, as it is consumed very slowly, making the consumption of coffee even more time consuming), the frappes has been in decline for years, and do not seem to easily regains his former glories.
Although the introduction of espresso in Greece took place quite early, as there were hangouts of artists, secularists, and intellectuals who served espresso since the '50s, what delayed a lot in Greece was its widespread. Until the 1990s, espresso and cappuccino in Greece were the business of a limited group of people, however, the landscape changed abruptly, and quickly espresso and cappuccino became very popular with the general public. Two Greek variations, Freddo Espresso and Freddo Cappuccino, which combined the rich taste of espresso with the Greek need for iced, refreshing drinks, catalyzed the marginalization of frappe, and the almost universal adoption of espresso, but also all rely on it. Espresso has become the new favorite Greek habit, whether we are talking about espresso, or cappuccino, or even their frozen versions.
The first years of the 21st century find the Greek coffee scene more pluralistic than ever. It is a fact that in our country a highly informed and demanding public has developed, which is always looking for, reading, tasting, and having an opinion about the coffee they drink. The innovations and habits of the "Third Wave" of coffee have found fertile ground in Greece, and all the discussion that has developed around coffee always results in more choices for the consumer but also in improving the services provided. The only thing that has not changed, is the core of the Greek coffee culture: coffee is time-consuming, it is simple and daily entertainment, and is always enjoyed with friends, whether it is an old-fashioned frappe or a quality Italian espresso. The only sure thing, with all the changes that come, is that we will always continue to enjoy our coffee!