A short background, facts and fables, and how to make traditional Greek coffee.
The Mediterranean is known for long, lingering meals — a tradition dating back to the Ancient Greeks. Early recordings storied feasts — appetizers of olives, figs, cheese or dried fish; main courses, pastas and desserts and wines — that would start in the morning and last all day long, not unlike foodie feasts of today. At the end, the men stayed behind to drink and dance (and), while their wives retreated to separate quarters to have their own celebrations consisting of conversation among women and … coffee. In Greece, a coffee among women is as ancient and celebratory as the celebratory feasts that precede them.
Facts and fables I learned about Greek coffee on my Jeep safari in Sithonia — where I had my first authentic cup:
Legend says that Greek coffee is good for your health: “It is soft on the stomach and good for the nerves!”
Greek coffee is strong and thick like mud. And unlike other parts of the world (Paris, for example), it’s not a travesty to request milk and sugar.
Traditionally, coffee was boiled by the heat of coals laid upon hot sand, the process lending a smoky, earthen taste.
When served, you will almost always hear “Parakalos” (it’s phonetic.) “Here you are.”
“There is always a coffee among women” they say…
Beauty: Women drink the grinds that remain in the bottom of cup, believing that the heavy caffeine content will provide more beautiful skin and hair.
Fortune: For generations, upon finishing a cup it would be held upside down — grinds falling into patterns depict the fortune of the cup-holder. Readers come from a hierarchy (elders and other skilled members based on past successes are selected first to read fortunes; after that, it is passed by request.) This tradition is practices only among women.
Coffee = conversation: In modern Greece, being asked for “a cup of coffee” is typically coffee, lunch, or wine and falls not short of a three hour affair. At restaurants, coffee is expensive because you can sit as long as you want. “There is always a coffee among women” they say…
How to make Greek coffee:
- 2 tsp. of ground Greek coffee
- Boil 4 oz. water — in Greece, we happened upon mountain spring water that stays a perfect 45 degrees all year round (legend says it helps beauty endure!)
- Heat the water slowly. don’t let it fully boil.
- As the water foams, add cream and sugar (½ teaspoon of sugar for one teaspoon of coffee)
- Once you add the cream, stir constantly until serving
Smooth, light bodied, mild acidity, strong nose, meaty texture