Greeks consume 5.5 kilos of coffee annually per capita, putting the country into 15th position in a global list of top coffee drinkers.
Probably one of the most important traits of modern Greek society, coffee is not just part of an everyday routine but also a ritual that Greek people cannot live without.
Despite the serious financial crisis that hit society in past years, coffee still maintains its status of a serious business. Bars and cafeterias welcome visitors who regularly indulge in this daily pleasure.
Coffee breaks can be really long pauses in Greece; meeting over a cup of coffee is also the perfect excuse to meet, talk, relax, play board games or even read the news.
Traditional Greek coffee
More modern coffee places, popular among the young, offer a selection of coffees made through a variety of brewing methods. On the other hand, the kafeneio is a more traditional kind of bar, usually visited by older men.
Coffee choices vary a great deal, ranging from the popular frappé, actually created in Greece, to more the traditional Greek coffee, as well as even more fashionable options, many of them with Italian-flavored names.
Also known as ellinikó, the traditional Greek coffee is a version of the Turkish coffee which turned into part of the local culture during the Ottoman occupation.
Greek coffee is a thick beverage prepared in a small pot called a briki which keeps the grounds in the bottom of a small cup. The sediment that these grounds form is at the origin of the Greek custom of fortune telling.
Locals confirm that brewing the perfect cup of Greek coffee is an art.
A team of researchers has found that Greek coffee contains a high amount of polyphenols, which means that drinking it can actually help clean out your arteries and curtail the development of heart disease.
The research was presented in a recent issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, by Spanish scientist Maria-Paz de Peña and her colleagues.
However, this is not the first time that scientists have touted Greek coffee for its health benefits. The University of Athens Medical School also found evidence that Greek coffee promotes longevity, as part of a study of the longer-than-usual lifespan of locals on the Greek island of Ikaria.
The residents of Ikaria have, on average, a longer life expectancy than the general population, with many living well beyond the age of 90 and even past the age of 100. Research found that 87 percent of those who participated in the study drank between 3-4 cups of Greek coffee each day.
New coffee trends in Greece
Unfortunately, traditional Greek coffee is no longer as popular among the younger generations. It was first ditched in favor of the frappé, an original Greek coffee that became popular during the ’60s.
Accidentally invented in 1957 by Dimitris Vakondios during the International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki, the Frappé is still very popular in Greece and Cyprus, and is available at virtually every single Greek café.
Made either with a shaker or a special mixer, the Frappé is one of the easiest-to-make coffee drinks available.
In more recent years, global trends landed in Greece bringing with them espresso and cappuccino. Both coffee types, in their cold (freddo) varieties, have turned into the new fashionable frappé, especially among younger generations.
Freddo Cappuccino, the iced version of the regular cappuccino coffee, usually has a small amount of cold frothed milk (afrogala in Greek) on top of it.
Freddo Espresso, the cold version of espresso coffee, is made with a double shot of espresso coffee mixed in a mixer with ice cubes.
Particularly popular among those who prefer a cold and strong coffee, the Freddo Cappuccino has become the most widely consumed coffee in Greece over the past ten or so years.
Imagination made its way through the coffee culture, producing beverages such as frappuccino, which is no other than an espresso with frothed milk or freddoccino, a frozen mix that looks like coffee flavored water-ice, similar to a coffee milkshake, usually with syrup or whipped cream.
Filter coffee (filtrou), also known as American coffee and even French coffee can also be found in Greece; the same goes for the regular Italian cappuccino and espresso.
One thing is certain, these heavenly beverages all have their own place in the Greek ritual of everyday coffee.