From short and strong to tall and frothy, coffee comes in many different shapes and flavours in our contemporary climate. Coffee offers a unique tour of Europe through the sampling of the continent’s many different coffees and visiting the uncountable unique coffee shops and cafes.

This guide will look to provide some background for those visiting Europe on escorted river cruise holidays wanting to experience the coffee culture of the different countries around Europe.

France

Home of the espresso, France has a particularly unique coffee culture that may seem especially foreign to the take-away-coffee-loving English and Americans. The French see coffee as more of a relaxing experience than fuel for work and, as such, don’t do take-away coffee; so you most certainly wouldn’t see any polystyrene cups or wooden stirrers.

In the morning you are more likely to see coffee in bowls rather than cereal as it is quite common for the French to enjoy café crème, or milk with a dash of coffee, in a large cup with an accompanying croissant to dip. After breakfast, espresso is often the coffee of choice, usually drunk without milk but with sugar, as sugar usually accompanies coffee across the country.

France is the 17th highest coffee consuming country in the world, consuming 5.4kg of the drink per capita, according to 2007 figures, and their coffee culture is something that is highly regarded around the world. Breakfast is the only time the French serve coffee with food as their cafes tend to be ambient settings for watching the world go by rather than for catching a quick bite.

Want to try a taste for yourself? Here are the coffee houses we recommend in the City of Love.

La Caféothèque

Open throughout the week, La Caféothèque of Paris lives and breathes coffee. Next to their delicious roasts you can also take part in their coffee production training courses and learn all about the art form. Hosting intriguing events including the Porcelain Coffee Cup, an international design competition where artists and designers create a set of Limoges porcelain coffee cups, there is never a dull moment.

“La Caféothèque de Paris is a pioneer and leader of the French specialty coffee movement.

“The only Parisian venue to serve up to 20 single estate coffees, La Caféothèque opened in 2005 at 52, Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville, across the Seine from the Île Saint-Louis. Beyond offering an unparalleled coffee tasting experience, La Caféothèque inspires its customers via educational and cultural events –concerts, art exhibits and L’Ecole du Café amateur and professional classes. More than a coffee shop, La Caféothèque is a true ‘coffee salon’.

“The favorite Parisian specialty coffee shop of Alain Ducasse, Louis Vuitton and the New York Times, La Caféothèque attracts Le Marais residents (some of them famous), international artists (it is located next door to La Cité Internationale des Arts artist residency) and coffee loving visitors from other Parisian neighborhoods and from around the world.”

      -  La Caféothèque

HolyBelly

Holybelly offers a very different kind of French coffee experience, with owners Nico and Sarah both having spent time in Melbourne and styling their shop around this relaxed vibe. While their atmosphere is relaxed they make it clear that their food and more importantly their coffee is ‘top shelf’.

“Holybelly is a café based in Paris serving delicious coffee and food. Sarah and I both own Holybelly. She oversees everything kitchen and I oversee everything coffee and we work hard to deliver the goods in a consistent fashion. Holybelly is very much influenced by our time spent in Melbourne. We both worked there and learnt a lot from the amazing scene. People often mistake us for an American diner when we’re actually much closer to the type of coffee shop you could find in Melbourne. We start serving food from 9am, all the way to 3pm which was a bit of a novelty in Paris. Savoury breakfasts such as eggs and sides, or pancakes with fried eggs and bacon paired with a mug of black filter coffee is something that wasn’t really common in Paris before. I think our coffee is quite unique because we use perfectly calibrated filtered water, fresh, locally roasted beans, and that we use all the tools and knowledge we’ve got to produce an excellent cup over time. I’m really happy to see more and more quality coffee shops opening in Paris and in Europe in general.”

      -  Nico Alary - Holybelly

Austria

Austria, and Vienna in particular, is also well known for its coffee culture and the Viennese coffee house is held in high acclaim around the world for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. As coffee is not only served but roasted in Vienna there are many great roasters and cafés in the capital, so it may be difficult to know which is the best. For those on Danube river cruises in Vienna who may not have the time to go traipsing through the capital in search of the local favourites, here is a list of the coffee houses that are a must visit.

Aida

Aida is actually a franchise that began in Vienna and is recognised by its signature pink packaging that customers can take home. There are 26 individual espresso bars throughout Vienna and the coffee is guaranteed to be fresh at each location, with roasting taking place three times a week.

Naber

This coffee shop is based in the 21st District and has been family run since 1908, instilling the Viennese coffee house ethos into all elements of its coffee production. Serving four types of espresso and organic coffees using the highest quality highland Arabica coffee beans, and made up to their customers’ specific requirements, it is no wonder that people come back time and time again.

Alt Wien Kaffee

Taking its name from the historic Viennese café Kaffee Alt Wien that opened in 1936 by founders Leopold Hawelka and his wife Josefine the day after their wedding day, Alt Wien Kaffee was opened in 2000 by a passionate coffee lover. Having been told that the original owner was due to retire, founder Christian Schroedl learned from the coffee master to keep this delicious coffee alive. The shop has since moved to its current location in Schleifmuehlgasse near Naschmarkt and enjoys a loyal and appreciative fan base. We asked for their thoughts on the idea of ‘European coffee’ and here is what they had to say:

“I don’t think that European coffee is unique any more than American or Asian coffee is. The region “Europe” is far too big and shares in my opinion no connection with the quality or type of coffee experience you might have there. Going smaller, even “Viennese” coffee is no homogenous cup of tea. As coffee quality varies so vastly and is so intimately dependent on the diligence of the person involved in its preparation, you will find it very difficult to come up with valid location qualifiers for coffee. That might sound a bit exaggerated, but there is no such thing as European or Austrian or Viennese coffee. There is only good coffee and bad coffee. And the latter should be avoided at all cost.”

     -  Alt Wien Kaffee

Coffee events

Europe’s love of coffee extends past the varying coffee cultures and cafes around the continent and has transpired into displays of the artistry involved in coffee making and pouring. The Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, the SCAE, which has bases across Europe, has established numerous competitions and events for the public to enjoy and to promote the drinking of high-quality coffee.

“SCAE are a membership association representing thousands of coffee enthusiasts and professionals from all over Europe and Asia, and it’s our belief that coffee is, first and foremost, about community. What makes the European speciality coffee market so unique is that our community spans across dozens of different cultures, beliefs, languages and traditions, and the results are the dozens of different techniques to roasting, brewing and enjoying speciality coffee that exist in every country across Europe. The passionate people in this diverse network are always keen to share their individual ideas, knowledge and experiences in the everyday challenge of inspiring excellence in coffee so that we can all be better educated about the world’s favourite beverage.”

     -  SCAE

With events such as the Coffee Roaster Championship and Brewers cup and even competitions centred on the art of being a barista, the SCAE is raising the level of coffee making across the continent. From Romania to the Netherlands, the coffee events organised by the SCAE continue to celebrate coffee culture around the world.

Prague Coffee Festival will be held in November this year and will have a host of coffee events for visitors to enjoy. Held over two days, the festival puts on lectures for both professionals and amateurs as well as interactive workshops and, of course, plenty of coffee to try. Organised by NGO Coffee Embassy, the festival promotes coffee culture and industry changes, making it a must for any coffee aficionado.

“Prague Coffee Festival 2015 will bring two days of flavourous coffee experience. The festival unites gastronomic enticements and new findings from the coffee World. The energizing programme will offer parade of the cafés & roasteries presenting their specialities on the espresso & brew bars as well as lectures and workshops given by coffee experts from different countries.”

     -  Prague Coffee Festival

Image Credit: trophygeek (flickr.com)

This content was written by Angela Sloan. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.


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