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  • Lynn Blattmann

The History of drinking coffee

After the Turks withdrew after the siege of Vienna at the end of the 17th century, the coffee stayed behind. Institutions were created around this drink, which stimulated our modern world and stand for a very specific attitude towards life: the coffee houses. A Viennese coffee house is more than a heated room for enjoying coffee, it is a place for reading the newspaper, for talking, for debating or even for writing books. Coffee houses were invented for socializing around coffee, so a Coffee house is almost as much about talking to each other and reading the newspaper as it is about drinking coffee and eating cake. The Viennese coffee houses are now even under the protection of Unesco, as they are now considered a world-class intangible cultural heritage. A real Viennese coffee house is characterized by an impressive selection of coffee specialities, the presence of various newspapers and magazines and a wide range of pastries (cakes and tarts), which are served by a waiter. Even in the 19th century, coffee houses were places that men particularly liked and frequented. In these living rooms of the bohemians and the bourgeoisie, political ideas spread, as did comfort and unexcited conviviality. Coffee houses have also spread from Vienna to many other cities. In the Zurich Café Odéon, too, revolutionaries, writers and Zurich celebrities not only met to drink coffee, but above all to discuss, read the newspaper and smoke.

The Italian Coffee house

It is no coincidence that the oldest coffee house in Italy is in Venice. Because in this port, the mocha, i.e. the coffee beans, were unloaded from the ships from Arabia and Africa and made ready for trade throughout Europe. However, the Italians later developed a different coffee culture than the Austrians. They mainly drank brewed coffee and they invented the espresso, a quick pick-me-up that you could also drink while standing and in a hurry.

Café Florian is the oldest Coffee house in Venice

The pick-me-up for better work

The coffee trade was a lucrative business. That is why farmers and workers were introduced to coffee in the 19th century. Coffee was supposed to keep them awake and curb the consumption of schnapps somewhat, but it was quickly discovered among the commoner population that coffee tasted delicious with added sugar and a little booze.

Many people warned from drinking too much coffee, but nevertheless coffee stayed very popular.

The preparation and the type of coffee enjoyment was constantly varied. As a young woman, my grandmother learned to roast green coffee beans in a pan. In her eyes, this skill was essential for a good wife. My mother liked to add a little Franck aroma (chicory crumbs) to the coffee (Jacob's crowning glory) before putting it in the Melitta filter.

Instant Coffee made coffee drinking easier

But in the 1980s, the heyday of filter coffee was actually over. The espresso was cool back then. As a young woman, I swore for a long time that coffee only tasted good from the Italian cafetiera (bubble machine). When I got a little older, the Jura coffee machines spread and we all agreed that filter coffee was only good for a bad stomach ache. Nevertheless, the coffee in the restaurant always tasted a little better than at home. Then the portafilter machines began to spread in private households. Coffee was now available as cappuccino, macchiato, espresso, lungo, americano and of course as the original Swiss café crème with coffee cream, a culinary unsuccessful but nevertheless very successful invention of the Swiss dairy industry. After the turn of the millennium, the Americans brought some movement back into the coffee market with the Starbucks coffee house chain. The coffee was mixed with innumerable aroma additives and single-origin coffees were increasingly served. We learned that the coffee can have different degrees of roasting and that Arabica tastes different than Robusta. At that time, drinking coffee began to overwhelm us.

(Ten years ago, ordering a coffee got really complicated /Starbucks commercial)

After this culinary re-education by the Americans, Nestlé launched the Nespresso capsules. This is how the variety of coffees from Nespresso came to our homes and with other (anti-theft) capsules also to the office. A few years ago we went one step further. Cool employers gave their office lists expensive portafilter machines as an incentive to do even better work, and we've learned how to deal with their quirks. Many have already attended a barista course, a kind of cooking course for the perfect coffee preparation, and yet we still know a lot more about wine than about coffee.

Whether hand-ground, cold-infused or styled into a perfect cappuccino, coffee has been attracting more and more attention in recent years

So we are well prepared to finally become more conscious and sustainable when enjoying coffee.


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