Grande Soy Lattes to Cafe con Dulce de Leche: Coffee Culture Around the World

Oct 28, 09 Grande Soy Lattes to Cafe con Dulce de Leche: Coffee Culture Around the World
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by Damian Papworth

Visiting a foreign land for the first time and clueless about where to go or what to do first?  Just find a local cafe.  Whether it is early morning, during the slow afternoon hours, or late at night, there is always something to learn at a cafe.  In fact, the best way to learn about the country or city you’re visiting is by hanging out, having a cup of coffee, and looking around.

The café lifestyle varies greatly from country to country.  The Europeans of the world wouldn’t think twice about spending a couple of hours sitting in a restaurant or cafe, drinking only coffee.  You see, it is possible to even sip a single espresso for a long time, have a couple of cookies, and enjoy your free time.  And with some of the finest coffee in the world in Italy, why wouldn’t you enjoy the fine art of beverage making?  Most of the cafes will have an espresso machine that’s older than the United States, and that will make the drink taste that much better.  But more than just the taste, it’s about the idea that it’s okay to relax, in public, drinking coffee.

A number of countries have a rather relaxed lifestyle, but others elevate their culture from simply enjoyable to intellectually important.  Over by the university on the left bank of Paris, a number of tourists flock to the cafes where Sartre and other existentialists wrote some of the most important books of the 20th century.  In a city like Paris, the cafe lifestyle is about something more than just leisure.  It’s about valuing the time to think and create on your own, but also valuing the exchanges that occur in public spaces.

A couple of cities in the United States are a close to what could have been, or rather, what was before Starbucks made carryout coffee the thing that everyone needed and wanted. At a couple of regal cafes in New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, you’ll be laughed out the door if you try to order a “tall” anything.  Families who came to the States managed to order large machines from the old country that make seriously great drinks, so it is possible to sit for a while and enjoy a decent coffee and a sandwich with the other people in the neighborhood who value such things.

Probably the biggest difference from country to country is what comes with your beverage.  In the States, there’s not going to be any free snacks coming with your cappuccino or latte, but elsewhere in the world, a cafe would not think of serving you just a coffee.  You see, the café lifestyle in places like Buenos Aires, Argentina, will practically give you an afternoon snack.  Order a coffee–any coffee–and not only will a nice Italian-style espresso-based beverage come out, it will be accompanied by a glass of sparking water, at least three packets of sugar, a couple of tasty cookies, and a variety of chips or crackers.  Likewise, if you’re in Paris, it’s sometimes cheaper to go with their special, which means that your coffee always comes with a croissant or cookies.

It says a lot about a country when snacks come with your coffee.  Because if someone is serving you enough food to nibble on for a couple of hours, they are not trying to throw you out.  They’re saying to stay, to sit awhile, to relax.  And that is an incredible and welcome change if you’re used to a society that is too fast paced.  People genuinely do seem more relaxed in places where the café lifestyle allows for leisure time.  Everyone, from businesspersons to aspiring young writers and artists, takes the time to sit down and have conversations or enjoy some private time.  There’s no societal penalty, it’s just a legitimately nice time.

And there is just something more relaxing about sitting and talking for a while.  Even though that culture might not exist in your home country, or perhaps the pace of work makes it hard to indulge in it, but it’s an important relic of a time where life was about more than just work, even when everyone was working.  And work might actually save the café lifestyle.  Because now, if you have a laptop, you pretty much have an excuse to sit as long as you like, in a public place, under the guise of work.

However, wherever you are in the world, get to know a little bit more about the city you are visiting by heading over to a well-worn looking spot.  It might have waiters in bow ties, it might have beat-up looking wooden tables, but all that matters is it has a nice view of the street, and a few customers.  You now have the best seat in the whole city to learning how things work.  Just don’t rush off now, you hear?

Damian Papworth adores coffee.  Therefore, he launched the ( One Cup Coffee Makers website.  On this site, you can read up on your ( 1-cup coffee maker.

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