A cup of Greek coffee is a must for Greeks some time in their lives. The Greek man who respects himself enjoys the fine aromatic beverage preferably with three cigarettes in the morning. For women a cup of Greek coffee offers the opportunity to chit chatting with other female relatives and friends. Of course, these images are clishe of the past as the average young Greek man or woman has rather abandoned the Greek coffee and turned to iced Frappe and instant coffee, and in the last decade increasingly to Italian style Cappuccino and Freddo.
However, the Greek coffee has never lost in deliciousness and a touch of nostalgia for the past.
Greek tradition and hospitality: Coffee served with Loukoumi – Turkish Delight – and a glass of water
But what’s in the Greek coffee? Tradition. Relax. Leisure. Hospitality. Politics. And fortune telling.
Greek coffee vs Turkish Coffee
Let’s make it clear right away. The Greek coffee is not Greek and it’s not Turkish either. Coffee beans were discovered in Ethiopia the 5th century and made to Ottoman empire through Yemen. I suppose it was first the Sultan – or better say his vortester – who tried this beverage and open the green light that all the Unternanen may drink it as well.
There is still no coffee growing in Greece, neither in Turkey.
Greeks used to call the Greek coffee ..Turkish coffee. However, this changed after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. They got allergic to every term “Turkish” and renamed the coffee Greek.
Apart from the political aspect, Turkish coffee is a bit heavier in taste, not so fine in structure and darker in color due of the blend they use and because it is double-roasted.
In comparison, Greek coffee is of mild taste and its color is light brown or “blond” as they call it. The blend for the Greek coffee is made of Brazilian and Ethiopian coffee and has a very fine grind.
How to make the Prefect Greek Coffee
First of all you need a briki – a special pot for coffee, a small, tall and round long-handled pot.
Don’t try to brew your Greek coffee in another kind pot. It won’t work.
The perfect cup for Greek coffee is thick. Thick walls keep the beverage warm for longer time.
Then you will need small coffee cups with a capacity of 40 to 70 ml of fluid. This is the absolute measure tool for a good coffee.
Then you need room temperature water, fine grind coffee and sugar, if you fancy it sweet. And a teaspoon.
For a simple coffee the measurement is: one teaspoon coffee , often heaped : one small coffee cup water.
Greeks love to cook their coffee over open fire and therefore you will see a small camping gas burner almost in every Greek household kitchen. Alternatively, it can be cooked on electric stove or if lucky, our gas stove.
Method for one medium sweet coffee:
Pour one cup of water (40ml) into the briki.
Add one teaspoon coffee.
Add one teaspoon sugar if you like.
Put the briki on the heat and stir very well.
Remove the spoon, bring the coffee slowly to heat up , turn the heat lower and watch how the coffee is brewed. Do not leave boiling coffee unattended.
The secret of the prefect Greek coffee is to start and finish at very low heat. Of course, the brewing procedure takes a bit longer.
While the coffee water is cooking, a foam is being built. When the foam bubbles, lift it slightly from the heat, see the bubbles settle and bring it back to the heat.
When the coffee and the foam starts “swelling” quickly remove the pot from the heat and pour it into the coffee cup.
If you don’t remove the briki quickly, the coffee will over the briki, the gas burner, gas top or the kitchen mati, the foam will break apart and disappear and you will get a Greek coffee you can pour into the kitchen sink right away. It is a spoiled coffee!
Usually the coffee is cooked one by one, but it is not a sin to cook two coffees at the same time. Important is, thought that both coffees are plain without or with the same amount of sugar.
Do not try to add sugar into a cup with brewed coffee. Stirring the sugar will spoil the foam, and grounds of the coffee will come up.
Important when you cook two coffees at a time is to first add a teaspoon of foam to each cup and then pour the coffee in them.
Greek coffee is served hot with a glass of fresh water, to clean the palate afterwards.
Foam is everything
Foam καϊμάκι is everything for a good coffee.
An over-boiled coffee without foam is nothing.
A good coffee needs a thick foam first of all to keep it warm, while one slowly takes small sips.
How to drink Greek Coffee
A good coffee needs time to cook and time to be enjoyed. One drinks the Greek coffee while sitting and slowly takes small sips.
Older Greek men use to drink their coffee sipping loud because the air they use cools down the hot served coffee a bit.
The usual way is one sip at a time, small break, another sip and so on until you see a thick layer is left on the cup bottom.
Don’t ever try the ground. It tastes like it is: coffee mud.
How to order Greek coffee
There is a whole one-word coded terminology on how to order a coffee. Here is a simple guide:
Sketos – Plain: coffee without sugar
Metrios – medium: 1 tsp coffee + 1tsp sugar
Glykos – Sweet: 1 tsp coffee +1 1/2 -2 tsp sugar
Elafris – Light: 1/2 tsp coffee
Varis – Strong: 2 tsp coffee
Vari-Glykos: 2 tsp coffee + 2 tsp sugar
Me Nai kai Ohi – With and Without: 1 tsp coffee + 1/2 tsp sugar
Alternatively you can combine: Elafris-Glykos, Elafris-Sketos, Varis-Metrios etc but keep in mind that the first word refers to amount of coffee and the second to the amount of sugar.
Serving: With or Without Bubbles
Serving or better say pouring coffee is an handcraft on its own. It should be noted that in older times, the name “Varis” was a reference to the foam and the bubbles and the way it was served.
Varis – Heavy was originally meaning thick flat foam without bubbles. To achieve this, the coffee is poured into what cup with the pot to almost touch the cup. Alternative names: Polla Varis Kai Oxi- Flat foam, no sugar.
Vrastos – Boiled: Foam with bubbles. this is achieved when one pours the coffee with the pot close to the cup and once half is poured one lifts the pot and pours the coffee from a higher distance so that it creates bubbles. The foam is thinner than in varis.
With no bubbles – almost….
In older times, the skilled coffee makers knew 48 ways of how to cook, brew and serve Greek coffee.
Fortune telling: Coffee ground and Foam reading
Once the coffee is drunk, you turn the cup a few times around, while you’re making a wish. Then cover the cup with a saucer, and turn it upside down. It takes some 10 minutes for the ground to settle on the cup walls and form shapes, essential for the coffee reading.
A professional fortune teller or a skilled neighbor, a cousin, a friend or a friend of a friend will interpret the shapes, revealing events of the near future but also secrets of the past.
What Skilled fortune tellers never read a coffee cup on Sundays as it brings “bad luck” or they read mostly “bad news.”
What shapes do we see here? A woman running after a man who has unfortunately for her “erased” her form his memory and is going his own way.
One’s fortune is not only written in the coffee ground but also in the foam.
If you spill coffee on the saucer while serving it, the person to whom the coffee is intended will earn money.
The presence of many bubble divides the superstitious community: Some say many bubbles mean “a lot of money. Other claim many bubbles mean “people keep an eye on you,” “they envy you” and also ” speak bad about you.” – Probably because of the lots of money you are going to gain.
A skilled coffee reader need to include also the saucer in order to complete the procedure.
A new trend is to read the ground of filter coffee.
It is fairly difficult to manage the ground of filter coffee set on the cup’s wall. There is a trick. However, this trick is currently secret.