Coffee Cult Comes to Catalonia

by Elyn Aviva

When we went for an early morning stroll in Girona, Catalonia, my husband, Gary, and I saw a group of well-dressed people standing impatiently outside a shop. We took a closer look and saw a storefront with impressive, fluted grey stone columns, large display windows, and imposing glass double doors. The merchandise on display was unusual: small metallic capsules in coordinated colors arranged in geometric designs. Emblazoned in glowing white letters over the doors was “Nespresso.” Nespresso? The coffee capsule brand?

The crowd grew increasingly noisy and impatient. We decided it was time to leave before they became even more restive.

I was puzzled. Who would want to purchase pre-made coffee capsules? It seemed neither cost-efficient nor ecologically sound. And besides, when you ran out, there was nothing you could do—except wait desperately for the Nespresso shop to open.

Returning from our stroll, we paused again at the shop. Nespresso was its name and luxury was its selling point. From our vantage point we could see inside. Slim young women in classy matte-black uniforms stood near the open door, gatekeepers into this exclusive club. People entered, sometimes showed a membership card, chatted for a moment discreetly, and then were ushered into this high temple of gustatory excess.

 

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Coffee Rituals Around the World

by Vera Marie Badertscher

 

Drop me down in a coffeehouse somewhere in the world, and if I have ever visited that country the native rituals will tell me where I am before I’ve heard a single “sucre”, “glyko”, “milchcafe”, or  “café negro.”

flickr photo by uteart via flickr (common license)In Europe and the Americas, coffee is the upstart, edging out the earlier communal drinks of hot chocolate and hot tea.  I have learned from impeccable sources that coffee was first discovered by goats. That legend somehow makes me feel better about the fact that although I love coffee houses and their ritual, I really can’t stand coffee. With a few slight exceptions, I drink tea—or hot chocolate.

In Greece, my husband and I acquired a taste for Greek coffee, in defense against the alternative to American coffee. The waiter inevitably served a small shiny packet of powdery brown stuff, which would perhaps dissolve if the water in the cup were hot enough.  From the prevalence of this powdery stuff throughout southern Europe, we figured that some Swiss Nescafé guy was one heck of a salesman.

To ease into drinking Greek coffee, served in a small cup that holds strong black liquid on top of a spoonful of black sludge, and makes you grateful it comes in a tiny cup, we took it sweet. This coffee, we decided, explains the hairy chests on Greek fishermen. It helps to drink it down after a glass (or between glasses) of ouzo, the licorice-flavored, clear firewater of Greece. While ouzo is getting you drunk, the strong coffee is sobering you up.  I could keep that routine going for quite a while.

I had first discovered that trick in Switzerland, where I found I could indeed tolerate a cup of coffee livened with a lot of plumkirsche or orange or pear-flavored liquer, or best of all, cheri-suise. Yum!

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