You may wake up and think ‘I can’t function without my morning coffee’—and globally, you’re not the only one. Americans aren’t alone in waking up and needing a strong cup’o’Joe, and coffee culture exists all across the world, from North Africa to Europe, through the Middle-East to Asia.
In reality, Americans don’t even rank in the top ten of the biggest coffee drinkers worldwide. The biggest coffee drinkers in the world are, in order of most caffeine consumption per capita:
10. Canada, 6.2kg
9. Luxembourg, 6.5kg
8. Belgium, 6.8kg
7. Switzerland, 7.9kg
6. Sweden, 8.2 kg
5. Netherlands, 8.4 kg
4. Denmark, 8.7 kg
3. Iceland, 9kg
1. Finland, 12kg
As you can see, Europeans dominate, with the Scandinavians taking the lead and the Benelux countries soon behind them. Canadians are hot on their tail, and if there’s a pattern emerging, it’s that people in some of the coldest places in the world consume the most coffee.
Although these places may consume the most, their coffee culture is perhaps not as exciting, or integral, as it is in other places. In Belgium they might always be reaching for another cup, but coffee may not have the social importance it does in a place like Turkey.
We’re going to introduce you to some places where coffee is at the heart of their social life, making these countries stand out as having the most interesting coffee cultures in the world.
Fika is a social institution in Sweden, and coffee is at the heart of it. If the word was directly translated it would be as ‘a break’—but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s an important ritual that cements social bonds. Everyone takes fika, even children, only their coffee is replaced with juice or lemonade.
Fika is a time when people come together and eat sweet snacks—fika always involves snacks—like cinnamon rolls or cookies. Along with these snacks, the Swedes take a cup of coffee, rest, and catch up on gossip. In most offices in Sweden, fika is taken twice a day, at 9:00am and again at 3:00pm.
If this sounds ideal, maybe try and introduce something similar in your office and pitch to your boss the perks of coffee breaks—it could do you some good! Perhaps the high value the Swedes place on rest explains why they’re among the happiest people in the world.
You’d be hard pressed to find a nation with such strongly regimented rituals surrounding eating and drinking as you would in Italy—but those rituals are part of the fun.
Having pasta as a main course is a shameful act, and putting vegetables on a plate with a pasta dish will earn you a slapped hand in an Italian home; first primo piatto (pasta), then secondi (vegetables or meat)—NEVER together.
The ritual around coffee is just the same. Cappuccino is for the morning, to be taken with cornetto (croissant) or the other sweet biscuits and cakes they consider breakfast food. Taking cappuccino later than that is ‘Che schifo!’—disgusting—because it’s too milky.
Ordering uno caffé will get you an espresso—an acceptable drink for the afternoon, or after eating, and the only kind of coffee most Italians drink. Pay only 80c and take it standing at the café counter in three swift sips, lest you come across as uno touristo.
The first recorded cafe culture was in the Middle-East, with Yemenis being the first people to brew and prepare the drink as we know it today. In light of this, it seemed only fair we included an area from the region on this list.
In Turkey, the drinking of coffee or Kahve, as it is known, is not just about a quick black cup to perk you up. Whether meeting a friend or acquaintance, for pleasure or for business, a cup of coffee must always be offered. A cup of Kahve symbolises a friendly exchange—so it’s the only way to start a meeting on the right foot. But the Kahve has to be good; a Turkish proverb demands it be ‘as black as hell, as strong as death and as sweet as love.’