It goes without saying—Greece is a country that has an extremely rich culture and history. However, between being the birthplace of democracy and having some of the most picturesque islands in the world, there is a lot more to Greece that is sometimes overlooked. Greek coffee is one of these taken-for-granted, everyday things. Sure, it’s coffee, and yes, people all around the world drink coffee, but there’s much more to the story than that. Greek coffee is a huge part of Greek life, culture, and cuisine—and as with almost everything else that’s Greek, it has a long and complex history. In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Greek coffee—what it is, the history of it, how and what you need to make it, and its cultural significance.
WHAT IS GREEK COFFEE?
In the Greek language, Greek coffee is referred to as Ellinikos kafes, Elliniko kafe, or simply Ellinikos (you guessed it, “Ellinikos” translates to “Greek”). Greek coffee is made in a briki, a long-handle coffee pot, using coffee that is ground to a very fine, powder like-consistency. To make Greek coffee, the right amounts of coffee and water are put into the briki and onto the stovetop. As the briki is on the stovetop, the ingredients are mixed using a teaspoon. Finally, once the coffee begins to bubble up and boil, the briki is taken off of the stove and the contents are poured into a small demitasse cup (pronounced deh·mee·taas). The result is a strong coffee that when made right, has a creamy layer of froth along the top.
There are four primary brewing styles, which vary according to the levels of sweetness. These include:
- Sketos (skeh·tohs): Unsweetened—features only coffee and no sugar. Purists often argue that this is the traditional way of making and drinking Greek coffee.
- Metrios (meht·re·ohs): Meaning medium, is made using 1 teaspoon of sugar for every cup or teaspoon of coffee.
- Glykos (ghli·kohs): Translating to sweet, is for people who prefer a definitively sweet taste for their Greek coffee. To make this, use 2 teaspoons of sugar for every one teaspoon of coffee.
THE HISTORY OF GREEK COFFEE
It’s commonly believed that the first coffee shop in the world was created by Greeks in Constantinople in the latter half of the 15th century. Some people may know Greek coffee as Turkish coffee, Armenian coffee, Bosnian coffee, or even Cypriot coffee. The truth is that all of these coffees are the same—they are made the same way using the same finely ground beans. What makes Greek coffee Greek, Armenian coffee Armenian, or Turkish coffee Turkish, is the person that is making it and the culture they are a part of or connected to. Greek coffee, just like Armenian coffee or Turkish coffee, refers to the way the coffee is made, not the origin of the beans. In fact, coffee is not grown in any of these countries.
COFFEE IN GREEK CULTURE
As mentioned earlier, Greek coffee is an integral part of Greek culture and identity. At a kafenio (Greek coffeehouse) in Greece, you can expect to find older men playing backgammon and drinking Greek coffee late into the night. Similarly, you’re also sure to find Greek coffee and a briki in the homes of Greek families in New York, Boston, Chicago, or LA, where many Greeks in the US live. For many, a cup of Greek coffee is the perfect way of ending a meal. Given the significance and surplus of hospitality in Greek culture, it’s basic etiquette for Greeks to invite a new friend over for a cup of Greek coffee. Often times, after drinking their cup of coffee, Greeks will flip their cup over onto the saucer. After a few minutes, the hardened grounds that were at the bottom of the cup paint a scene that is used to tell a fortune.
At Sara Coffee Co., we spent years refining what is now our Original Blend to help you make a cup of Greek coffee that has the perfect flavor and aroma. Whether you’re a Greek yourself or have a friend who is Greek that’s gotten you hooked on Greek coffee, you’ll be sure to appreciate the Sara Coffee Co. Original Blend.