Coffee makes the world go around, with a whopping 400,000 cups of coffee being made every day… and that’s only in the US! This number goes up to more than two billion cups of coffee, which is what the world drinks on an average day.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a break from our routine and explore how other people, in other countries and with completely different cultures, enjoy their cup of coffee. In short, what other countries’ versions of a coffee break look like.
Perhaps one of the most known coffee breaks is the fika, the Swedish coffee break. Not so surprising, as Sweden is one of the 5 countries with the highest consumption of coffee per capita (the US ranks 25th, by the way).
Fika is centered around coffee -traditionally black coffee, with sugar and maybe milk- which is to be enjoyed with delicious, freshly baked Swedish pastries and other sorts of sweets. You step outside of the daily struggle for a while, focus on the deliciousness of the coffee and the food, and come out a better person— energized thanks to the caffeine and the sugar.
Ethiopia is where coffee originated; we know that people have been drinking coffee for a long time, but not exactly how long as it predates written history.
This country’s also home to the coffee ceremony, a sort of ritual involving coffee that takes place three times a day. Instead of drinking coffee each at their own home, Ethiopians gather at one specific house -a different one each day- to have coffee.
To host this is an honor and also a responsibility: the woman of the house undertakes almost all of the workload.
The coffee ceremony consists of procuring fresh, green coffee beans and roasting them at home. Then, they are ground using a manual mill or more often a mortar. From these freshly roasted and ground coffee, a big batch of coffee is brewed, which is then served to all the guests.
The tradition in Japan has been that of a tea -green- break for centuries, but Japan’s love for coffee is making many homes have coffee breaks more and more often. Remember, this is the home of the Hario V60 as well as the vac pot!
Just like with the tea break, a coffee break involves silence and a mindful, slow enjoyment of the beverage. It is a sort of meditation as much as it is a time to relax and release the stress that builds up during the course of the day.
The most traditional food to have on this occasion are senbei, rice flour crackers which are ideal for drinking with tea and coffee, as they are light and help cleanse the palate— they help you savor the full extent of your coffee with each sip.
Merienda, as it’s called, is a type of snack break which happens once or twice every day; once in the middle of the morning, around 10 or 11 am and then again in the evening around 6 pm.
While these meriendas can be heavy on the food side (particular during the evenings, which usually feature a baguette sandwich, a bocadillo) they always involve coffee. For the children, however, it’s usually hot cocoa.
The one thing that sets the Spanish coffee break apart from others is that it almost certainly is accompanied by salty food. More particularly during the evenings— a baguette sandwich called a bocadillo is the norm, which can to some seem like a full meal!
#5 South America
(Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.)
It’s important to note that South America is very different depending on which country you’re talking about. Brazil, for example, has a very different culture and speaks a whole different language than the rest of the continent. They might as well be on opposite sides of the globe.
What is true is that South America loves coffee. They have for centuries, as early settlers brought the bean to the continent prompting many countries to start growing it (same thing in Central America), turning Brazil in the largest coffee exporter in the world and Colombia into arguably the most well-known coffee growing country in the entire world.
Colombia and Venezuela
These two countries share a lot in common throughout their cuisine - the same thing is true when it comes to coffee. Colombia, however, does have a much more forgiving climate for growing coffee but, just like Colombia is renowned for their coffee, Venezuela is for their cacao.
These two countries are passionate coffee lovers. Coffee is brewed all day and watered down so they can keep drinking cup after cup. Strong coffee is reserved mostly for after lunch. But it can easily be drunk throughout the day.
Cities are awash with street vendors selling black coffee (sweetened with raw cane sugar) in shot-sized plastic cups. They can be seen next to bus stops, in the subway, and virtually everywhere and anywhere. Wherever you find yourself in these two countries, there will be coffee near you.
A country that saw a much bigger influx of European immigrants during the 20th century, the culture and tradition of the Old World are much more present in this country than in the rest of South America.
Italians, for the most part, helped shape the culture of Argentina— and we know how much they love coffee!
Coffee breaks in Argentina are short and involve a cortado or an espresso with a very traditional type of puff pastry called media luna (half moon) which are miniature croissants, available in sweet or salty presentations. Half moon pastries are the classic Argentinian breakfast accompanied by either yerba mate or coffee, and are also the favorite choice for coffee breaks!
Making up half the population of South America, Brazil is one of the most important coffee-growing nations in the whole world. It is a country not only known for the sheer amount of coffee they grow (around 3 million tonnes) but because it ranges from standard quality robusta to good coffee, to specialty grade.
Although an incredibly multicultural country, the traditional Brazilian coffee is delicious and very simple - done by boiling the water first with sugar in it and then using it to brew coffee. If you use muscovado sugar, you get extra points and extra flavor!
This type of coffee is called a cafézinho (portuguese for cafecito!) and is a more common sight in rural areas, where coffee farmers get to drink coffee so fresh that we can only dream of.
#6 Central America
In general, Central Americans are quite fond of coffee and would rather have coffee than tea any day of the week. The climate is hot, however, so it’s more of a drink that one has either during the early morning. There are, of course, some exceptions:
Cuban coffee culture is vibrant and rich. Cubans like strong, concentrated coffee - if they cannot have espresso, they make themselves a nice cup of moka pot coffee. Traditionally, they pour first raw cane sugar (or muscovado sugar) into the cup and then dilute it with either piping hot coffee or water. Then, they pour the rest of the coffee: this makes for a syrupy, caramel-like flavor that makes you instantly fall in love with Cuban coffee.
While Mexico is very much a Cosmopolitan place and people enjoy their chai lattes and frappuccinos, rural Mexico has a very old tradition of brewing coffee with powdered cocoa and spices in a big ceramic pot then serving into ceramic cups. The result is a super rich earthy coffee, completely unique and utterly delicious.
#6 New Zealand
Interestingly, New Zealand has a word for cigarette breaks: “smoko”.
Coined during a time where the dangers of cigarettes weren’t as obvious as they are today and people smoked as if their lives depended on it, people took cigarette breaks all the time. They would take this opportunity to drink their morning coffee: thus, a smoko came to mean a cigarette and coffee break.
In recent times, and quite ironically, smoko rarely means having a smoke, but more a type of coffee break that is usually under ten minutes.
Why not use those 10–20 minutes to connect with someone for stimulating conversation through Cafecito, a platform that connects at home workers like entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creatives for short and informal coffee breaks. It’s a great to network and more importantly connect at a human level with professionals from all over the globe!