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Coffee Culture: from Bean to Brew

by Corinne Homer

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If our culture has a love affair with any of Earth’s goodies, it’s the aromatic elixir that comes from the roasted, brewed coffee bean. Popular Coffee legend says that in the 9th century, an Ethiopian shepherd noticed his goats became particularly exuberant after chewing on the green berries of the Coffea tree; and ran straight to his local pastor. News of these magical, energy-inducing beans soon spread across Africa, to the Arab world and the rest of Asia; then on to Europe and the Americas. That’s a long journey to get to your first morning brew.

Below we’ve explored some of the world’s most intriguing coffee-drinking customs in honour of International Coffee Day, which falls on September 29th or 1st October, depending on your country. Really, if you’re anything like us at TravelLocal, everyday is Coffee Day...

Indonesia

Being one of the world’s big producers means Indonesians are big on kopi. Though the standard format is usually black with sugar, there are many wondrous variations. Java’s kopi jahe is steeped in ginger and palm sugar and supposed to relieve flu; while Yogyakarta’s kopi joss is dunked with red hot charcoal before serving. Let’s not forget kopi luwak, or civet coffee; a unique blend of part-digested beans retrieved from the droppings of the Asian civet cat.

Brazil

The biggest producer of coffee in the world, Brazilians guzzle their version of the world’s best brew like water. In fact, cafezinho - a gulp-sized cup of hot filter coffee (not to be confused with Italian espresso), is often served for free with meals, or from a ‘help yourself’ stand when waiting for petrol.

Ethiopia

In the country of its discovery, it makes sense that Ethiopians would commemorate this life-giving drink in a big way and their ritual coffee ceremonies do just that. Fresh beans are roasted over smoking hot coals, then ground in a pestle and mortar. The grounds are steeped in a jebena, a jug-like boiling pot, which is then poured continuously over a tray of cups without pause. Guests go on to add sugar, salt or butter to taste.  

Senegal

Sipping Cafe Touba in stalls off the coast of West Africa, the Senegalese mix a shot of ground coffee with a spoonful of sugar, then sprinkle with African black pepper. Occasionally accented with cloves, this spicy version is said to have medicinal properties, according to its inventor.

Vietnam

The Vietnamese like their coffee in all kinds of ways; with ice, yoghurt and egg - but most traditionally, thick and sweet. Locals sit in the streets, each hugging a Ca Phe Nau (called Ca Phe Sua in the south) - a strong coffee served in a mini drip filter, sat atop a glass of condensed milk. It’s delicious, addictive and easily ordered again.

Hong Kong

If you thought this former British territory would prefer a traditional tea to a coffee, you’d be partly right. In fact, three parts coffee with two parts Hong-Kong style milk tea makes up a cup of Yuanyang. The name refers to mandarin ducks, the male and female of which appear very different to each other.

Make it happen.

For a true taste of these coffee cultures, check out the trips on our Indonesia, Ethiopia, Senegal, Vietnam and China pages (Brazil coming soon!)

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