When I first started this blog, the intention was that, alongside serious conversations about the European Union, Brexit, politics, hope and despair, there would be some light relief, some moments where we simply shared things we love in about Europe, common experiences, differences, and more.
Early on, I knew that I’d be asking a question about coffee. With each of my interviewees I like to imagine we’re sitting at a table in a cosy coffee shop and the first question is naturally ‘what would you like to drink?’ I’ve soon found out that the response varies quite a lot, but that Italy, closely followed by Austria, provides the best coffee in Europe. So, in a break from the politics, here’s what my interviewees so far have had to say about coffee in Europe:
Question: Where is the best place in Europe to drink coffee? What would you order?
Justine Saracen: Though I generally prefer my coffee in quantity rather than quality, I love the ritual of the three tiny swallows of strong coffee with a square inch of chocolate and a teensy tiny spoon. In deciding where to have it, I think it’s a toss-up between Vienna, where the Strudel is magnificent, or Brussels’ Grande Place, where the chocolat noir is exquisite. And the Grande Place has more to look at.
Kat Boettge: Without any hesitation it is Italy, and I normally would have a cappuccino. Although the French do good coffee too. I am afraid to say the UK is probably the worst place for coffee. Although nowadays you can get good coffee in most countries, if you go to proper coffee houses.
Anne Amison: I am very partial to a well-made espresso. The further south in Italy one travels, the more wonderfully bitter it becomes.
Karin Gersak: I haven’t been to all the European countries but I would say that the Italians know all there is to know about coffee. I have tried it many times in different places in Italy.
Moez Adamjee: I have to be a little bit biased as I went to a place in London called “Monmouth Coffee” and the Flat White was superb.
Catherine Pawsey: I’d like to say France and one would expect me to but in all honesty I can’t stand the little cups of black stuff that are served up here. Give me a cappuccino any day so I’m going with Rome, another lovely city. Although….there’s Vienna, coffee and cake in Salzburg, ooh now I don’t know!
Madeleina Kay: I’m not a coffee connoisseur. If someone “takes me for coffee”, I’m usually grateful for whatever I get! I drink it black, no sugar, which I think is quite continental. I remember staying with a host whilst studying French in Rouen, Madame Roquet was a doctor at the university hospital and for breakfast she had a bowl full of black coffee which she drank with a spoon!
So, in 8 interviews we have 5 votes for Italy. We have 3 for Austria – where the cake seems to be almost as important. 1 vote for Belgium and 1 for the UK. There are several casual mentions of France, but it’s not a first choice for anyone. As my interview series grows, I’ll keep track of this and see if the proportions remain the same!
My opinion? I miss the kava z mlekom and Turkish coffee of my days in Slovenia. I find the creamy-topped Austrian coffee irresistible. I’ve had fabulous Eis Kaffee in German cities. And I love Nottingham’s very own 200 Degrees.
Great coffee is about the setting and the experience. Alone with a good book, or notepad, people to watch in idle moments. Or with company and conversation. Perhaps our best coffee is influenced by people, not the coffee itself. But I’m happy to continue my quest to the coffee houses of Europe to find out!
Any recommendations for the best coffee in Europe? Do comment! And look out for more interviews and political musings coming up soon.