Coffee is, by nature, an international commodity. It grows in various regions of the world, from the eastern highlands of Ethiopia to the farms of Vietnam and is culturally adopted in unique ways—stretching from the milky culture of France to the spicy-sweet tastes of Mexico. It’s globally coveted and consumed. Let’s take a trip around the globe to explore some of the signature flavors that are home to various countries. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite on this coffee tour!
French Café Au Lait
The café au lait is, as one might guess, a French invention—literally, “coffee with milk.” It’s a 1:1 ratio of milk and coffee served in a white porcelain cup or bowl. Most will prepare the coffee portion of this drink using a French press. It stems from the introduction of Turkish coffee to France, which, to French people, was especially harsh, prompting them to add milk.
Turkish coffee is partly known for its brew method—brewed in a small coffee pot called an ibrik—but especially known for its fine grind. It also has sugar added before brewing and is served in a demitasse.
Coffee was introduced to Turkey in the 16th century by a high-ranking official in Yemen who brought it to the sultan. Those around him began to experiment with ways to make the coffee, and they then spread the coffee through coffeehouses. There’s even a thought that Turkish coffee preparation was a marriage ritual at one time, with brides-to-be attempting to impress their mother-in-law with coffee-making skills.
Coffee isn’t just from regions of Africa and South America—in fact, it’s a dominant part of the Vietnamese export economy. It was introduced to Vietnam in the 19th century by the French, and Vietnam today is known for its instant coffee. Vietnam is a major producer of the Robusta variety of beans, which is notably more bitter—and more caffeinated—on average than the Arabica. How to make Vietnamese coffee: It’s sometimes consumed with condensed milk or in cappuccino form, with egg. (Or, as the case may be, with the simple addition of hot water.)
Coffee in Mexico sprang onto the scene in the 1700s courtesy of the Spanish. About a century later, Mexico was producing its own coffee and, by the 20th century, was a major player in Arabica coffee cultivation—particularly given its proximity to other coffee-growing hot beds like Guatemala. Coffee from Mexico is notoriously rich in flavor.
Many, however, when thinking of Mexican coffee, will think of a particular coffee drink that involves cinnamon and brown sugar—thrown into the coffee during brewing, and not after. Some recipes may also call for an orange peel. It’s typically prepared with a dark roast.
Scandinavian Egg Coffee
More than just a trendy way to spruce up a drink with egg, the Scandinavian Egg Coffee derives from immigrants from Minnesota who would, whether from tiredness or frustration, enliven their bland coffee by adding an egg during brewing. It is, therefore, not necessarily a Scandinavian concoction so much as an American one.
A rather dizzying scientific process, the egg white essentially strips the coffee of bitterness and supercharges the caffeine effect. Egg is mixed with coffee grounds and heated on a stovetop, before being mixed with cold water and left to rest. What’s left is an off-brown color that is more coffee-like than it is coffee, but balanced. It’s not necessarily the easiest cup of coffee to prepare at home but is a delicious staple of high-end restaurants.
The espresso is a staple of most creative coffee beverages we consume on the regular—but how did it come to be? Though it’s associated with feelings of “premium,” it’s actually meant to be a quickly made beverage—“espresso,” after all, means “express.” But the espresso machine, invented at the turn of the 20th century, changed the game, adding pressure and better filter to coffee. The invention set into motion a culture of coffee that endures today.
A good espresso is almost always defined by its crema, but beyond that, for an Italian espresso, it’s about the dark Robusta roast that is harsher than a milder American espresso.
Even if you’re not up for a trek around the world to sample exotic coffees and coffee beverages, there’s a good chance you can find some variation of coffees from around the world in your own backyard — or closest metropolitan area. Even if you don’t have the luxury or budget of travel, dig around online to find some ways to try your hand at some of these coffee beverages from around the world. We hope you enjoy every sip!