The world over, many countries love coffee. However, there is a set of countries worldwide that stand out as having a particular coffee culture. They either have a unique coffee history, a coffee preparation or drinking tradition, a passion for coffee, or a penchant for growing it. For this list, we’re showcasing countries that have been around for a while. Every country on this list has a unique coffee culture dating to at least the early twentieth century. Nowadays, many more people worldwide love coffee and many countries have unique properties to their coffee prep or drinking tendencies. Alas, other posts have covered the history of coffee or new ones will present modern coffee-growing or coffee-loving in the future. There is only room for seven countries on this list.
#1 - The Birthplace of Coffee
Did you know the term “mocha” originates from a Yemeni town named Al-Makha? The first country to grow coffee commercially, Yemen loves and appreciates its coffee to this day. Yemen is in the middle east, on the southwest side of the Arabian Peninsula. The energizing effect of coffee fruit was first discovered in the neighboring country of Ethiopia. These two countries compete a bit in the historical coffee fame department. At least by the 1400s, Sufi monks in Yemen were growing coffee to sell it. They were surely drinking it too! Do note that the Yemeni term “mocha” doesn’t directly relate to the chocolatey flavor of today’s mocha.
Today, Yemeni farmers take great care in producing coffee with old-fashioned methods. They truly care for and cultivate coffee, without machines. However, we must note that with an eight-year-long civil war in Yemen, the people have been suffering a humanitarian crisis.
#2 - Coffee Shops Are Life
In Malaysia, historically, coffee shops have been one of the centers of social life. A kopitiam, as coffee shops are called, usually serves three meals a day. Older men tend to spend their days in the shops, talking about politics, people and playing games. Open air-coffee stalls are also popular in Malaysia.
Sometimes, Malaysian coffee is embellished by frying it in a wok with sugar and butter. Malaysia cultivates liberica coffee and sometimes mixes it with robusta. Recently, liberica has been explored as a remedy for arabica shortages. It will be interesting to see what happens with Malaysian coffee.
#3 - Sweet Coffee by a Voluminous Producer
While coffee from Vietnam gets roasted and brewed in countless ways worldwide, since it is the runner-up coffee producer by volume, we’ll look at how the Vietnamese prepare it. The coffee brewed there tends to end up sweet. It’s also potent. Dark roasts are popular, as are iced coffees in this hot country. A special drip filter made of metal is the classic Vietnamese brew method. And boy, do they brew it strong! The Vietnamese add sweetened, condensed milk as a cream.
#4 - Passion for Coffee in Diverse Brews
Italy is famous for its espresso—as well as for Italian’s many expressions and exclamations. However, the coffee culture has layers and branches of complexity. In fact, certain timing rules govern what an Italian is most likely to drink. In a bar (which is the name for a café), espresso is the most popular. Italians tend to drink it quickly, without sitting. Nevertheless, they savor the blends of arabica and robusta in their espresso. Much of the Western world prefers straight arabica, but a bitter espresso blend is how Italians like to keep life moving and vibrant. As far as calendar timing, in the warmer months, a shakerato brings a cold dash of caffeine. It’s espresso shaken in a martini shaker, then often poured in a beautiful, elevated glass—it’s up!
At home, Italians brew coffee much slower in a moka pot. This large pot isn’t as famous as a French press, however, you might’ve seen one before. From cappuccinos drank in the morning to the many other types of Italian coffee, even with liquor or ice cream added, coffee options abound in Italia.
#5 - An Intense Coffee Culture
UNESCO’S Intangible Cultural Heritage List ratified Turkey’s coffee culture as so special it must be recognized and celebrated. Following the discovery of coffee in Ethiopia, to the first commercial growth in Yemen, to coffee’s spreading through the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), Turkey represents an important stop on a journey into coffee’s historical spread throughout the world.
Authentic Turkish coffee brewing, with a method dating back centuries, uses a long-handled pot. A cezve pot is small and tapers to a narrow neck. The most interesting part of the traditional process is heating it with sand. A pan or pot is filled with sand and brewed over an open flame.
Finely ground coffee is important to Turkish-style coffee. That’s because there is no filtration process. Adding sugar (but not stirring it in) before cooking the coffee is an option. After heating fine grounds in it for 1-2 minutes, remove the head of foam and add it into the cup. Letting the coffee produce another round of foam and pouring it into the cup quickly thereafter is important.
#6 - Synthesized Mediterranean Coffee Culture
Coffee symbolizes hospitality and companionship to the Greeks. Coffee culture in Greece has parallels to its Turkish neighbors and its Italian brothers a short hop across the Med. Coffee is very important in all three countries. Since Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, the coffee culture roots lead back to a main Ottoman taproot. The parallels in Greek and Italian coffee and coffee culture don’t stop at coffee. They continue to their cuisines due to these peninsular Mediterranean’ love of coffee, olives, soft cheese and doughy concoctions.
Turning to traditional Greek coffee, a pot called a briki is used. It is a small, cute pot, that often has a tapered, human-like waist. Like in Turkey, the long-handled-pot brew method involves sand. Studying this interesting pot, and the dynamics of the hot sand is its own rabbit hole. Basically, the coffee simmers until it produces foam. Greeks pour it into a unique cup that’s larger than an espresso cup. It may be served with a sweet pastry and even a lemon.
In contrast to the strictness, or at least limits of other countries’ coffee cultures, with their need for barista skills or specific recipes, in Greece we find a now-famous coffee anyone can make: the frappé. It’s democratic. A frappé doesn’t fall within the specialty coffee movement. A frappé uses instant coffee, hot water and then ice. Adding milk and sugar is optional, but common.
# 7 - Honduran Coffee – A Chance for Coffee to Change Lives
Honduran coffee’s history dates back centuries. Coffee beans were bought from the French Island of Martinique to Honduras. Tracing the history of tobacco and banana farming in Honduras reveals insights into present-day coffee cultivation. Today, high-altitude coffee beans grow on the agricultural foundations that produced tobacco and bananas that were shipped north.
Unlike in other parts of the world where coffee is just a fraction of that country’s culture and cuisine, coffee can have a huge impact in improving the lives of local Hondurans. Agriculture accounts for 12% of GDP. Honduran coffee is the crop that generates the highest prices. While one crop alone can’t catapult a country to prosperity quickly, efforts to spread knowledge and skills around Honduran coffee farming, business principles, biology and trade can help bolster communities. The Honduran government provides lines of credit, scholarships and technical programs to support agricultural efforts.
Try Coffee from Honduras
Subida Coffee Co. combines delicious, sustainably grown coffee from Honduras with a mission to empower the youth of Honduras. Subida provides traditional and agricultural schooling for boys who couldn’t otherwise continue their education. The non-profit helps cultivate a brighter future. With a 120-acre farm directed by agricultural engineers, the boys receive practical lessons in agriculture, business and sustainability while they complete high school.