My Big Fat Greek Coffee

To me, Coffee is not an addiction. I don’t drink several cups a day to call myself an addict as such. Instead, I spend my mornings working hard to get that perfect cup with the limited resources of a middle class Indian kitchen. I like to maintain a pristine relationship with this beverage. Hence, no addiction.

I carry my coffee love to our travel destinations. Nothing gives me as much joy as sipping local coffee around the world – be that Torrefacto loaded coffee of Spain or the mildly brewed organic coffee of Nepal, I love to try them all.

For the longest time, I associated excellent coffee with the words ‘fresh’ and ‘hot’.I had not experienced the famous cold brews of the world, barring the instant shakes one can find in international chains, which I do not think of as anything more than a tasty milk shake. We’re talking real coffee here.

My encounter with the cold brew happened in Greece.I was surprised to see the Greeks sipping on a huge plastic cup of iced coffee in the rather balmy weather, first thing in the morning. The first sip of this cold monster was a meeting that is etched in my memory forever – it was like meeting a long lost lover.

The most common versions of the iced coffee, or Freddo as the Greeks call it, have thick, dark and aromatic espresso at the bottom of the plastic glass. You can load the top of the glass with milk, ice or crema. I loved the Espresso Freddo(with ice) and Cappuccino Freddo (with unsweetened,frothy milk). Needless to say, it was my favourite coffee in Greece!

Don’t confuse this drink with the the Nescafe Frappe that you might find in a lot of refrigerators. That’s a packaged instant drink. You can buy freddo versions at local coffee chains like ‘Gregory’s’ – ‘Coffee right’. International brands like Starbucks don’t do well in Greece. Greeks like their coffee local, so did we.

A Gregory's Coffee Right Chain in Chania, Crete - Our favourite place to get a Coffee in Greece
         A Gregory’s Coffee Right Chain in Chania, Crete – Where we would spend our evenings

The cold brews are definitely delicious. The more traditional style, though, is the hot version that we all know as ‘Turkish coffee’. It’s a thick, almost unsweetened, strong coffee that is served in a small metallic or white cup. It’s a blend of water, little sugar and light roasted Greek coffee. Once you finish drinking the coffee, you can find the finely grounded coffee particles settled at the bottom of the cup. One may consider this to be the espresso shot of Greece, but it’s just the opposite. The purpose of such a strong, almost bitter drink is to keep you busy for hours while you chit chat or go over your chores. Incidentally, the Greeks love to drink it post a languid lunch.. It’s a common sight to spot two grandpas sipping on it, as they reminisce on love and life.

You can order this coffee almost anywhere in Greece. Be careful not to refer to it as ‘Turkish coffee’. Greeks either refer to it as Greek coffee’ or ‘Ellinikos Kafes.

It’s pretty straightforward to order your kind of coffee in Greece. Everyone speaks manageable English but a few Greek phrases go a long way. Here is a little guide:

/kafés/ is Coffee – καφές

/zestós/ means warm. Use it for hot beverages – ζεστός

/krýo/ refers to cold which is the literal meaning – κρύο ; Use ‘Freddo’ to refer to cold beverages. You will find the word ‘Freddo’ used in the menus quite often

/záchari/ is Sugar – ζάχαρη

Other than these unique coffee styles, international coffee styles like cappuccino, white float etc  are easily available. But if you are in Greece, I would recommend starting your day the Greek style – a little less heat and a lot more ice.

~ Divya

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