Once my mother noted that if coffee were to run out in Denmark the nation would close down. She had a point as Scandinavians consume almost 10 kilos of coffee per capita annually, compared with the global 3 kilo average.
The Coffee War
London’s contemporary coffee culture started not so long ago with a few joints, which also served tea. Then there was a chain reaction; Coffee Republic,Costa and Starbucks. We were witnessing the outbreak of an urban coffee war. Global giants were fighting with local businesses for ‘café hot-spots’. In trendy Primrose Hill, one of London’s small local villages, residents demonstrated against a Starbucks opening. They didn’t want their local village polluted by a café without soul.
Claiming the Coffee Culture
One thing is for sure: the Americans didn’t invent coffee culture, despite acting as if it’s their original creation. On a recent trip to Vienna I spotted a beautiful historic building with a huge sign reading: ‘Don’t worry – Starbucks will open soon bringing the café culture to Vienna’. My reaction was astonishment: Are you guys serious? It made me wonder, where the thin line between downright ignorance and complete self-obsession falls.
The Real Thing
Over the years I have travelled the world’s café metropolises. After my first café au lait in Paris in the early ’80s I was sold. In Italy, where coffee making is a sacred art, I later enjoyed soulful social encounters with espresso, cappuccino and latte-drinking. Eventually I discovered the tradition of the Viennese, whose first coffee house – and the first outside the Ottoman Empire – opened in 1645. Arabs and Persians got there long before that, drinking coffee in the 15st-Century.
Pseudo Coffee Religion
We are officially in the ‘latte age’. Ritual latte drinking is an obsession and coffee is our new religion. Even the British have moved from fanatical tea drinking to a mad ‘latte-on-the-go’ culture; now rating 49th with a 2.2 kg global coffee consumption per capita. The new coffee concepts invented are branded as unique experiences – but accompanied by a patronising coffee language that frustrates anyone in a hurry. Honestly – get a life! Who cares about a stupid new coffee term when the ‘real experience’ is lost in translation and the coffee itself is a fluffy foam confection, bearing few or no traces of Arabica beans or (come to that) authenticity. Serve me a cup of good strong black coffee anytime and I will be happy.
* Latte Art – How to pour a Rosetta >>
* Top 10 countries by coffee consumption per capita
1. Finland 11.4 kg
2. Aruba 9.2 kg
3. Iceland 9.1 kg
4. Norway 9 kg
5. Denmark 8.1 kg
6. Sweden 7.9 kg
7. Bermuda 7.5 kg
8. Switzerland 7.4 kg
9. Netherlands 6.8 kg
10. Germany 6.6 kg
Images All Kjaer Global
1. Flat white, Expresso and Cappuccino, London
2. Aurora Brekke in Bar Italia in Soho London
3. Comparing latte Rosettas
4. Espresso in Paris
Article: First published by Oestrogen (DK), 01_2008
Anne Lise is a keynote speaker and works across the world out of London base
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