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Frappe: The History of Coffee That Greeks Are Obsessed With

Greek Frappe coffee history
The frappe is a lifestyle for Greek people. Credit: Robert Gourley, CC BY 2.0

Frothy, cold, and full of caffeine, nearly everyone—Greeks and non-Greeks alike—loves the classic Greek coffee drink “Frappe.”

Frappe coffee, or Greek frape, is a foam-covered, iced coffee drink made from instant coffee, sugar, ice cubes, and water. Occasionally, people add milk to the drink.

It is very popular in Greece and Cyprus, especially during the hot summer months, but has spread to other countries around the world, and especially wherever Greeks are present.

Greek frappe became a symbol of the post-war, outdoor Greek coffee culture. Although the freddo espresso, another Greek invention, has become very popular, the frappe, to this date, remains the most popular coffee beverage among the Greeks.

But what is the history of the frappe, and how did it come to be? After contacting Yiannis Michalopoulos, Senior Brand Manager at Nescafé of Nestlé Hellas, the widely known story of the frappe being invented by accident at the 1957 Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) was confirmed.

Dimitris Vakondios, an employee of the Nestlé company, invented the delicious coffee drink at the TIF. Nestlé was introducing a new chocolate beverage for children that was produced instantly in a shaker.

During a break, Vakondios wanted to have his regular Nescafé Classic but he could not find any hot water, so he mixed the coffee with cold water in a shaker, and the Frappe was born.

Frappe has become the iconic coffee of Greece

Frappe took over its official name and became the national coffee beverage of modern Greece around 1979. Although the word frappe originates from the French word meaning “shaken” or “stirred,” the Greek invention has nothing in common with the French chilled beverage produced in a shaker, which contains milk or fruit juice instead of coffee.

Greek frappe is available in three degrees of sweetness, determined by the amount of sugar used. These are: glykós (sweet—two teaspoons of coffee and four teaspoons of sugar); métrios (medium—two teaspoons of coffee and two teaspoons of sugar); and skétos (plain—two teaspoons of coffee and no sugar).

All varieties of the drink may be served with or without milk. Sometimes, frappe is served without any water (besides the water used in the foam), and milk is used instead. This variation is most commonly found in Cyprus. Different kinds of liquors are sometimes used for additional variation, as well as chocolate milk or a ball of vanilla ice instead of milk.

The preparation recipe is quite easy. The coffee can be made either with a cocktail shaker or an appropriate mixer (e.g. a hand mixer). One or two teaspoons of coffee, sugar to taste, and a little water are blended to form a brownish foam, which is poured into a tall glass. To this, add cold water and ice cubes, and, if desired, milk—typically evaporated milk. The coffee is served with a straw.

Nescafé Frappe has been exported to many European countries, including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Bulgaria, the USA, and Australia.

Ever since its first commercial launch in 1979, Greek Frappe has been symbolically and visually connected to the easy-going and careless summertime for Greeks.

This iconic connection and the frappe’s unique ability to maintain its quality longer through the heat than any other beverage, has resulted in the myth of the frappé being a symbol of a lazy day on the beach during the iconic Greek summertime.

However, Michalopoulos explained that extensive research has shown that the two key reasons why someone chooses to drink frappé are stimulation and social sharing rather than laziness.

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