WORLD’S COFFEE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
How coffee is roasted, prepared, and served in all the leading civilized countries—The Arabian coffee ceremony—The present-day coffee houses of Turkey—Twentieth-century improvements in Europe and the United States
COFFEE manners and customs have shown little change in the Orient in the six hundred-odd years since the coffee drink was discovered by Sheik Omar in Arabia. As a beverage for western peoples, however, and more particularly in America, there have been many improvements in making and serving it.
A brief survey of the coffee conventions and coffee service in the principal countries where coffee has become a fixed item in the dietary is presented here, with a view to show how different peoples have adapted the universal drink to their national needs and preferences.
To proceed in alphabetical order, and beginning with Africa, coffee drinking is indulged in largely in Abyssinia, Algeria, Egypt, Portuguese East Africa, and the Union of South Africa.
Coffee Manners and Customs in Africa
In Abyssinia and Somaliland, among the native population, the most primitive methods of coffee making still obtain. Here the wandering Galla still mix their pulverized coffee beans with fats as a food ration, and others of the native tribes favor the kisher, or beverage made from the toasted coffee hulls. An hour’s boiling produces a straw-colored decoction, of a slightly sweetish taste. Where the Arabian customs have taken root, the drink is prepared from the roasted beans after the Arabian and Turkish method. The white inhabitants usually prepare and serve the beverage as in the homeland; so that it is possible to obtain it after the English, French, German, Greek, or Italian styles. Adaptations of the French sidewalk café, and of the Turkish coffee house, may be seen in the larger towns.
In the equatorial provinces of Egypt, and in Uganda, the natives eat the raw berries; or first cook them in boiling water, dry them in the sun, and then eat them. It is a custom to exchange coffee beans in friendly greeting.
Individual earthen vessels for making coffee, painted red and yellow, are made by some of the native tribes in Abyssinia, and usually accompany disciples of Islam when they journey to Mecca, where the vessels find a ready sale among the pilgrims, most of whom are coffee-devotees.
Turkish and Arabian coffee customs prevail in Algeria and Egypt, modified to some extent by European contact. The Moorish cafés of Cairo, Tunis, and Algiers have furnished inspiration and copy for writers, artists, and travelers for several centuries. They change little with the years. The mazagran—sweetened cold coffee to which water or ice has been added—originated in Algeria. It probably took its name from the fortress of the same name reserved to France by the treaty of the Tafna in 1837. It is said that the French colonial troops were first served with a drink made from coffee syrup and cold water on marches near Mazagran, formerly spelled Masagran. Upon their return to the French capital, they introduced the idea, with the added fillip of service in tall glasses, in their favorite cafés, where it became known as café mazagran. Variants are coffee syrup[Pg 656] with seltzer, and with hot water. “This fashion of serving coffee in glasses”, says Jardin, “has no raison d’être, and nothing can justify abandoning the cup for coffee.”
In the principal streets and public squares of any town in Algeria it is a common sight to find a group of Arabs squatting about a portable stove, and a table on which cups are in readiness to receive the boiling coffee. The thirsty Arab approaches the dealer, and for a modest sum he gets his drink and goes his way; unless he prefers to go inside the café, where he may get several drinks and linger over them, sitting on a mat with his legs crossed and smoking his chibouque. Indeed, this is a typical scene throughout the Near East, where sheds or coffee tents—sketches of the more pretentious coffee houses—coffee shops, and itinerant coffee-venders are to be met at almost every turn.
In an unpublished work, Baron Antoine Rousseau and Th. Roland de Bussy have the following description of a typical Moorish café at Algiers:
We entered without ceremony into a narrow deep cave, decorated with the name of the café. On the right and on the left, along its length, were two benches covered with mats; notched cups, tongs, a box of brown sugar, all placed near a small stove, completed the furniture of the place. In the evening, the dim light from a lamp hanging from the ceiling shows the indistinct figures of a double row of natives listening to the nasal cadences of a band who play a pizzicato accompaniment on small three-stringed violins.
Here, as in Europe, the cafés are the providential rendezvous for idlers and gossips, exchanges for real-estate brokers and players at cards.
Europeans recently arrived frequent them particularly. Some go only to satisfy their curiosity; others out of an inborn scorn for the customs of civilization. They go to sleep as Frenchmen, they awake Mohammedans! Their love for “Turkish art” only leads them to haunt the native shops and to affect oriental poses.
If we quit for a moment the interior of the city to follow between two hedgerows of mastics or aloes, one of those capricious paths which lead one, now up to the summit of a hill, now to the depths of some ravine, very soon the tones of a rustic flute, the modulations of the Djou-wak, will betray some cool and peaceful retreat, some rustic café, easily recognized by its facade, pierced with large openings. To my eyes, nothing equals the charm of these little buildings scattered here and there along the edges of a stream, sheltered under the thick foliage, and constantly enlivened by the coming and going of the husbandmen of the neighborhood.
Certain old Moors from the neighboring districts, fleeing the noises of the city, are the faithful habitués of these agreeable retreats. Here they instal themselves at dawn, and know how to enjoy every moment of their day with tales of their travels and youthful adventures, and many a legend for which their imagination takes all the responsibility.
Gérôme’s painting of the “Coffee House at Cairo,” which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gives one a good idea of the atmosphere of the Egyptian café. The preparation and service is modified Turkish-Arabian. The coffee is ground to a powder, boiled in an ibrik with the addition of sugar, and served frothing in small cups. Story-tellers, singers, and dancers furnish amusement as of yore. The Oriental customs have not changed much in this respect. Trolley cars, victorias, and taxis may have replaced the donkeys in the new sections of the larger Egyptian cities; but in old Alexandria and Cairo, the approach to the native coffee house is as dirty and as odorous as ever. Coffee is always served in all business transactions. Nowadays, the Egyptian women chew gum and the men smoke cigarettes, French department stores offer bargain sales, and the hotels advertise tea dances; but the Egyptian coffee drink is still the tiny cup of coffee grounds and sugar that it was three hundred years ago, when sugar was first used to sweeten coffee in Cairo.
In Portuguese East Africa, the natives prepare and drink coffee after the approved African native fashion, but the white population follows European customs. In the Union of South Africa, Dutch and English customs prevail in making and serving the beverage.
Manners and Customs in Asia
“Arabia the Happy” deserves to be called “the Blest”, if only for its gift of coffee to the world. Here it was that the virtues of the drink were first made known; here the plant first received intensive cultivation. After centuries of habitual use of the beverage, we find the Arabs, now as then, one of the strongest and noblest races of the world, mentally superior to most of them, generally healthy, and growing old so gracefully that the faculties of the mind seldom give way sooner than those of the body. They are an ever living earnest of the healthfulness of coffee.
The Arabs are proverbially hospitable; and the symbol of their hospitality for a thousand years has been the great drink of democracy—coffee. Their very houses are built around the cup of human brotherhood. William Wallace, writing on Arabian philosophy, manners, and customs, says:
The principal feature of an Arab house is the kahwah or coffee room. It is a large apartment spread with mats, and sometimes furnished with carpets and a few cushions. At one end is a small furnace or fireplace for preparing coffee. In this room the men congregate; here guests are received, and even lodged; women rarely enter it, except at times when strangers are unlikely to be present. Some of these apartments are very spacious and supported by pillars; one wall is usually built transversely to the compass direction of the Ka’ba (sacred shrine of Mecca). It serves to facilitate the performance of prayer by those who may happen to be in the kahwah at the appointed times.
Several rounds of coffee, without milk or sugar, but sometimes flavored with cardamom seeds, are served to the guest at first welcome; and coffee may be had at all hours[Pg 658] between meals, or whenever the occasion demands it. Always the beans are freshly roasted, pounded, and boiled. The Arabs average twenty-five to thirty cups (findjans) a day. Everywhere in Arabia there are to be found cafés where the beverage may be bought.
Those of the lower classes are thronged throughout the day. In front, there is generally a porch or bench where one may sit. The rooms, benches, and little chairs lack the cleanliness and elegance of the one-time luxurious “caffinets” of cities like Damascus and Constantinople, but the drink is the same. There is not in all Yemen a single market town or hamlet where one does not find upon some simple hut the legend, “Shed for drinking coffee”.
The Arab drinks water before taking coffee, but never after it. “Once in Syria”, says a traveler, “I was recognized as a foreigner because I asked for water just after I had taken my coffee. ‘If you belonged here’, said the waiter, ‘you would not spoil the taste of coffee in your mouth by washing it away with water.'”
It is an adventure to partake of coffee prepared in the open, at a roadside inn, or khan, in Arabia by anaraba, or diligence driver. He takes from his saddle-bag the ever-present coffee kit, containing his supply of green beans, of which he roasts just sufficient on a little perforated iron plate over an open fire, deftly taking off the beans, one at a time, as they turn the right color. Then he pounds them in a mortar, boils his water in the long, straight-handled open boiler, or ibrik (a sort of brass mug or jezveh), tosses in the coffee powder, moving the vessel back and forth from the fire as it boils up to the rim; and, after repeating this maneuver three times, pours the contents foaming merrily into the little egg-like serving cups.
Cafée sultan, or kisher, the original decoction, made from dried and toasted coffee hulls, is still being drunk in parts of Arabia and Turkey.
Coffee in Arabia is part of the ritual of business, as in other Oriental countries. Shop-keepers serve it to the customer before the argument starts. Recently, a New York barber got some valuable publicity because he regaled his customers with tea and music. It was “old stuff”. The Arabian and Turkish barber shops have been serving coffee, tobacco, and sweetmeats to their customers for centuries.
For a faithful description of the ancient coffee ceremony of the Arabs, which, with slight modification, is still observed in Arabian homes, we turn to Palgrave. First he describes the dwelling and then the ceremony:
The K’hāwah was a large oblong hall, about twenty feet in height, fifty in length, and sixteen, or thereabouts, in breadth; the walls were coloured in a rudely decorative manner with brown and white wash, and sunk here and there into small triangular recesses, destined to the reception of books, though of these Ghafil at least had no over-abundance, lamps, and other such like objects. The roof of timber, and flat; the floor was strewed with fine clean sand, and garnished all round alongside of the walls with long strips of carpet, upon which cushions, covered with faded silk, were disposed at suitable intervals. In poorer houses felt rugs usually take the place of carpets.
In one corner, namely, that furthest removed from the door, stood a small fireplace, or, to speak more exactly, furnace, formed of a large square block of granite, or some other hard stone, about twenty inches each way; this is hollowed inwardly into a deep funnel, open above, and communicating below with a small horizontal tube or pipe-hole, through which the air passes, bellows-driven, to the lighted charcoal piled up on a grating about half-way inside the cone. In this manner the fuel is soon brought[Pg 659] to a white heat, and the water in the coffee-pot placed upon the funnel’s mouth is readily brought to boil. The system of coffee furnaces is universal in Djowf and Djebel Shomer, but in Nejed itself, and indeed in whatever other yet more distant regions of Arabia I visited to the south and east, the furnace is replaced by an open fireplace hollowed in the ground floor, with a raised stone border, and dog-irons for the fuel, and so forth, like what may be yet seen in Spain. This diversity of arrangement, so far as Arabia is concerned, is due to the greater abundance of firewood in the south, whereby the inhabitants are enabled to light up on a larger scale; whereas throughout the Djowf and Djebel Shomer wood is very scarce, and the only fuel at hand is bad charcoal, often brought from a considerable distance, and carefully husbanded.
This corner of the K’hāwah is also the place of distinction whence honour and coffee radiate by progressive degrees round the apartment, and hereabouts accordingly sits the master of the house himself, or the guests whom he more especially delighteth to honour.
On the broad edge of the furnace or fireplace, as the case may be, stands an ostentatious range of copper coffee-pots, varying in size and form. Here in the Djowf their make resembles that in vogue at Damascus; but in Nejed and the eastern districts they are of a different and much more ornamental fashioning, very tall and slender, with several ornamental circles and mouldings in elegant relief, besides boasting long beak-shaped spouts and high steeples for covers. The number of these utensils is often extravagantly great. I have seen a dozen at a time in a row by one fireside, though coffee-making requires, in fact, only three at most. Here in the Djowf five or six are considered to be the thing; for the south this number must be doubled; all this to indicate the riches and munificence of their owner, by implying the frequency of his guests and the large amount of coffee that he is in consequence obliged to have made for them.
Behind this stove sits, at least in wealthy houses, a black slave, whose name is generally a diminutive in token of familiarity or affection; in the present case it was Soweylim, the diminutive of Sālim. His occupation is to make and pour out the coffee; where there is no slave in the family, the master of the premises himself, or perhaps one of his sons, performs that hospitable duty; rather a tedious one, as we shall soon see.
We enter. On passing the threshold it is proper to say, “Bismillah, i.e., in the name of God;” not to do so would be looked on as a bad augury alike for him who enters and for those within. The visitor next advances in silence, till on coming about half-way across the room, he gives to all present, but looking specially at the master of the house, the customary “Es-salamu’aleykum,” or “Peace be with you,” literally, “on you.” All this while every one else in the room has kept his place, motionless, and without saying a word. But on receiving the salaam of etiquette, the master of the house rises, and if a strict Wahhābee, or at any rate desirous of seeming such, replies with the full-length traditionary formula. “W’ ‘aleykumu-s-salāmu, w’rahmat’ Ullahi w’barakátuh,” which is, as every one knows, “And with (or, on) you be peace, and the mercy of God, and his blessings.” But should he happen to be of anti-Wahhābee tendencies the odds are that he will say “Marhaba,” or “Ahlan w’ sahlan,” i.e.,[Pg 660] “welcome” or “worthy, and pleasurable,” or the like; for of such phrases there is an infinite, but elegant variety.
All present follow the example thus given, by rising and saluting. The guest then goes up to the master of the house, who has also made a step or two forwards, and places his open hand in the palm of his host’s, but without grasping or shaking, which would hardly pass for decorous, and at the same time each repeats once more his greeting, followed by the set phrases of polite enquiry, “How are you?” “How goes the world with you?” and so forth, all in a tone of great interest, and to be gone over three or four times, till one or other has the discretion to say “El hamdu l’illāh,” “Praise be to God”, or, in equivalent value, “all right,” and this is a signal for a seasonable diversion to the ceremonious interrogatory.
The guest then, after a little contest of courtesy, takes his seat in the honoured post by the fireplace, after an apologetical salutation to the black slave on the one side, and to his nearest neighbour on the other. The best cushions and newest looking carpets have been of course prepared for his honoured weight. Shoes or sandals, for in truth the latter alone are used in Arabia, are slipped off on the sand just before reaching the carpet, and there they remain on the floor close by. But the riding stick or wand, the inseparable companion of every true Arab, whether Bedouin or townsman, rich or poor, gentle or simple, is to be retained in the hand, and will serve for playing with during the pauses of conversation, like the fan of our great-grandmothers in their days of conquest.
Without delay Soweylim begins his preparations for coffee. These open by about five minutes of blowing with the bellows and arranging the charcoal till a sufficient heat has been produced. Next he places the largest of the coffee-pots, a huge machine, and about two-thirds full of clear water, close by the edge of the glowing coal-pit, that its contents may become gradually warm while other operations are in progress. He then takes a dirty knotted rag out of a niche in the wall close by, and having untied it, empties out of it three or four handfuls of unroasted coffee, the which he places on a little trencher of platted grass, and picks carefully out any blackened grains, or other non-homologous substances, commonly to be found intermixed with the berries when purchased in gross; then, after much cleansing and shaking, he pours the grain so cleansed into a large open iron ladle, and places it over the mouth of the funnel, at the same time blowing the bellows and stirring the grains gently round and round till they crackle, redden, and smoke a little, but carefully withdrawing them from the heat long before they turn black or charred, after the erroneous fashion of Turkey and Europe; after which he puts them to cool a moment on the grass platter.
He then sets the warm water in the large coffee-pot over the fire aperture, that it may be ready boiling at the right moment, and draws in close between his own trouserless legs a large stone mortar, with a narrow pit in the middle, just enough to admit the large stone pestle of a foot long and an inch and a half thick, which he now takes in hand. Next, pouring the half-roasted berries into the mortar, he proceeds to pound them, striking right into the narrow hollow with wonderful dexterity, nor ever missing his blow till the beans are smashed, but not reduced into powder. He then scoops them out, now reduced to a sort of coarse reddish grit, very unlike the fine charcoal dust which passes in some countries for coffee, and out of which every particle of real aroma has long since been burnt or ground.
After all these operations, each performed with as intense a seriousness and deliberate nicety as if the welfare of the entire Djowf depended on it, he takes a smaller coffee-pot in hand, fills it more than half with hot water from the larger vessel, and then shaking the pounded coffee into it, sets it on the fire to boil, occasionally stirring it with a small stick as the water rises to check the ebullition and prevent overflowing. Nor is the boiling stage to be long or vehement: on the contrary, it is and should be as light as possible. In the interim he takes out of another rag-knot a few aromatic seeds called heyl, an Indian product, but of whose scientific name I regret to be wholly ignorant, or a little saffron, and after slightly pounding these ingredients, throws them into the simmering coffee to improve its flavour, for such an additional spicing is held indispensable in Arabia though often omitted elsewhere in the East. Sugar would be a totally unheard of profanation. Last of all, he strains off the liquor through some fibres of the inner palm-bark placed for that purpose in the jug-spout, and gets ready the tray of delicate parti-coloured grass, and the small coffee cups ready for pouring out. All these preliminaries have taken up a good half-hour.
Meantime we have become engaged in active conversation with our host and his friends. But our Sherarat guide, Suleyman, like a true Bedouin, feels too awkward when among townsfolk to venture on the upper places, though repeatedly invited, and accordingly has squatted down on the sand near the entrance. Many of Ghāfil’s relations are present; their silver-decorated swords proclaim the importance of the family. Others, too, have come to receive us, for our arrival, announced beforehand by those we had met at the entrance pass, is a sort of event in the town; the dress of some betokens poverty, others are better clad, but all have a very polite and decorous manner. Many a question is asked about our native land and town, that is to say, Syria and Damascus, conformably to the disguise already adopted, and which it was highly important to keep well up; then follow enquiries regarding our journey, our business, what we have brought with us, about our medicines, our goods and wares, etc., etc. From the very first it is easy for us to perceive that patients and purchasers are likely to abound. Very few travelling merchants, if any, visit the Djowf at this time of year, for one must be mad, or next door to it, to rush into the vast desert around during the heats of June and July; I for one have certainly no intention of doing it again. Hence we had small danger of competitors, and found the market almost at our absolute disposal.
But before a quarter of an hour has passed, and while blacky is still roasting or pounding his coffee, a tall thin lad, Ghāfil’s eldest son, appears, charged with a large circular dish, grass-platted like the rest, and throws it with a graceful jerk on the sandy floor close before us. He then produces a large wooden bowl full of dates, bearing in the midst of the heap a cup full of melted butter; all this he places on the circular mat, and says, “Semmoo,” literally, “pronounce the Name”, of God, understood; this means “set to work at it.” Hereon the master of the house quits his place by the fireside and seats himself on the sand opposite to us; we draw nearer to the dish, and four or five others, after some respectful coyness, join the circle. Every one then picks out a date or two from the juicy half-amalgamated mass, dips them into the butter, and thus goes on eating till he has had enough, when he rises and washes his hands.
By this time the coffee is ready, and Soweylim begins his round, the coffee-pot in one hand; the tray and cups on the other. The first pouring out he must in etiquette drink himself, by way of a practical assurance that there is no “death in the pot;” the guests are next served, beginning with those next the honourable fireside; the master of the house receives his cup last of all. To refuse would be a positive and unpardonable insult; but one has not much to swallow at a time, for the coffee-cups, or finjans, are about the size of a large egg-shell at most, and are never more than half-filled. This is considered essential to good breeding, and a brimmer would here imply exactly the reverse of what it does in Europe; why it should be so I hardly know, unless perhaps the rareness of cup-stands or “zarfs” (see Lane’s “Modern Egyptians”) in Arabia, though these implements are universal in Egypt and Syria, might render an over-full cup inconveniently hot for the fingers that must grasp it without medium. Be that as it may, “fill the cup for your enemy” is an adage common to all, Bedouins or townsmen, throughout the Peninsula. The beverage itself is singularly aromatic and refreshing, a real tonic, and very different from the black mud sucked by the Levantine, or the watery roast-bean preparations of France. When the slave or freeman, according to circumstances, presents you with a cup, he never fails to accompany it with a “Semm’,” “say the name of God,” nor must you take it without answering “Bismillah.”
When all have been thus served, a second round is poured out, but in inverse order, for the host this time drinks first, and the guests last. On special occasions, a first reception, for instance, the ruddy liquor is a third time handed round; nay, a fourth cup is sometimes added. But all these put together do not come up to one-fourth of what a European imbibes in a single draught at breakfast.
For a more recent pen picture of coffee manners and customs in Arabia, we turn to Charles M. Daughty’s “Travels in Arabia Deserta“:
Hirfa ever demanded of her husband towards which part should “the house” be built. “Dress the face”. Zeyd would answer, “to this part”, showing her with his hands the south, for if his booth’s face be all day turned to the hot sun there will come in fewer young loitering and parasitical fellows that would be his coffee-drinkers. Since the sheukh, or heads, alone receive their tribes’surra, it is not much that they should be to the arms [of his] coffee-hosts. I have seen Zeyd avoid [them] as he saw them approach, or even rise ungraciously upon such men’s presenting themselves (the half of every booth, namely the men’s side, is at all times open, and any enter there that will, in the free[Pg 662] desert), and they murmuring he tells them, wellah, his affairs do call him forth, adieu; he must away to the mejlis; go they and seek the coffee elsewhere. But were there any sheykh with them, a coffee lord, Zeyd could not honestly choose but abide and serve them with coffee; and if he be absent himself, yet any sheykhly man coming to a sheykh’s tent, coffee must be made for him, except he gently protest “billah, he would not drink.” Hirfa, a sheykh’sdaughter and his nigh kinswoman, was a faithful mate to Zeyd in all his sparing policy.
Our menzil now standing, the men step over to Zeyd’s coffee-fire, if the sheykh be not gone forth to the mejlis to drink his mid-day cup there. A few gathered sticks are flung down beside the hearth; with flint and steel one stoops and strikes fire in tinder, he blows and cherishes those seeds of the cheerful flame in some dry camel-dung, sets the burning shred under dry straws, and powders over more dry camel-dung. As the fire kindles, the sheykh reaches for his dellàl, coffee pots, which are carried in thefatya, coffee-gear basket; this people of a nomad life bestow each thing of theirs in a proper beyt; it would otherwise be lost in their daily removings. One rises to go to fill up the pots at the water-skins, or a bowl of water is handed over the curtain from the woman’s side; the pot at the fire, Hirfa reaches over her little palm-ful of green coffee berries…. These are roasted and brayed; as all is boiling he sets out his little cups, fenjeyl (for fenjeyn). When, with a pleasant gravity, he has unbuckled his gutia or cup-box, we see the nomad has not above three or four fenjeyns, wrapt in a rusty clout, with which he scours them busily, as if this should make his cups clean. The roasted beans are pounded amongst Arabs with a magnanimous rattle—and (as all their labor) rhythmical—in brass of the town, or an old wooden mortar, gaily studded with nails, the work of some nomad smith. The water bubbling in the small dellàl, he casts in his fine coffee powder, el-bunn, and withdraws the pot to simmer a moment. From a knot in his kerchief he takes then a head of cloves, a piece of cinnamon or other spice, bahar, and braying these he casts their dust in after. Soon he pours out some hot drops to essay his coffee; if the taste be to his liking, making dexterously a nest of all the cups in his hand, with pleasant clattering, he is ready to pour out for all the company, and begins upon his right hand; and first, if such be present, to any considerable sheykh and principal persons. The fenjeyn kahwah is but four sips; to fill it up to a guest, as in the northern towns, were among Bedouins an injury, and of such bitter meaning, “This drink thou and depart.”
Then is often seen a contention in courtesy amongst them, especially in any greater assemblies, who shall drink first. Some man that receives the fenjeyn in his turn will not drink yet—he proffers it to one sitting in order under him, as to the more honourable; but the other putting off with his hand will answer ebbeden, “Nay, it shall never be, by Ullah! but do thou drink.” Thus licensed, the humble man is despatched in three sips, and hands up his empty fenjeyn. But if he have much insisted, by this he opens his willingness to be reconciled with one not his friend. That neighbor, seeing the company of coffee-drinkers watching him, may with an honest grace receive the cup, and let it seem not willingly; but an hard man will sometimes rebut the other’s gentle proffer.
Some may have taken lower seats than becoming their sheykhly blood, of which the nomads are jealous; entering untimely, they sat down out of order, sooner than trouble all the company. A sheykh, coming late and any business going forward, will often sit far out in the assembly; and show himself a popular person in this kind of honourable humility. The more inward in the booth is the higher place; where also is, with the sheykhs, the seat of a stranger. To sit in the loose circuit without and before the tent, is for the common sort. A tribesman arriving presents himself at that part or a little lower, where in the eyes of all men his pretension will be well allowed; and in such observances of good nurture, is a nomad man’s honour among his tribesmen. And this is nigh all that serves the nomad for a conscience, namely, that which men will hold of him. A poor person, approaching from behind, stands obscurely, wrapped in his tattered mantle, with grave ceremonial, until those sitting indolently before him in the sand shall vouchsafe to take notice of him; then they rise unwillingly, and giving back[Pg 663] enlarge the coffee-circle to receive him. But if there arrive a sheykh, a coffee-host, a richard amongst them of a few cattle, all the coxcomb companions within will hail him with their pleasant adulation taad henneyi, “Step thou up hither.”
The astute Fukara sheukh surpass all men in their coffee-drinking courtesy, and Zeyd himself was more than any large of this gentlemen-like imposture: he was full of swaggering complacence and compliments to an humbler person. With what suavity could he encourage, and gently too compel a man, and rising himself yield him parcel of another man’s room! In such fashions Zeyd showed himself a bountiful great man, who indeed was the greatest niggard. The cups are drunk twice about, each one sipping after other’s lips without misliking; to the great coffee sheykhs the cup may be filled more times, but this is an adulation of the coffee-server. There are some of the Fukara sheukh so delicate Sybarites that of those three bitter sips, to draw out all their joyance, twisting, turning, and tossing again the cup, they could make ten. The coffee-service ended, the grounds are poured out from the small into the great store-pot that is reserved full of warm water; with the bitter lye the nomads will make their next bever, and think they spare coffee.
Here is an Arabian recipe for making coffee as given by Kadhi Hodhat, the best informed man of his time:
Tadj-Eddin-Aid-Almaknab-ben-Yacoub-Mekki Molki, chief of all the cantons of Hedjaz, (May God have mercy on him!) I learned it when once in his company at the time of the Holy Feasts…. He informed me that nothing is more beneficial than to drink cold water before coffee, because it lessens the dryness of the coffee and thus taken it does not cause insomnia to the same degree. The poet did not forget to explain this manner of taking coffee:
As with art ’tis prepared, one should drink it with art.
The mere commonplace drinks one absorbs with free heart;
But this—once with care from the bright flame removed,
And the lime set aside that its value has proved—
Take it first in deep draughts, meditative and slow,
Quit it now, now resume, thus imbibe with gusto;
While charming the palate it burns yet enchants,
In the hour of its triumph the virtue it grants
Penetrates every tissue; its powers condense.
Circulate cheering warmths, bring new life to each sense.
From the cauldron profound spiced aromas unseen
Mount to tease and delight your olfactories keen,
The while you inhale with felicity fraught,
The enchanting perfume that a zephyr has brought.
Gone are the “luxurious and magnificent” coffee houses of Constantinople (if they ever existed—at least as we understand luxury and magnificence) which first brought the beverage world-wide fame; such caffinets as the one pictured by Thomas Allom and described by the Rev. Robert Walsh, in Constantinople, Illustrated:
The caffinet, or coffee-house, is something more splendid, and the Turk expends all his notions of finery and elegance on this, his favorite place of indulgence. The edifice is generally decorated in a very gorgeous manner, supported on pillars, and open in front. It is surrounded on the inside by a raised platform, covered with mats or cushions, on which the Turks sit cross-legged. On one side are musicians, generally Greeks, with mandolins and tambourines, accompanying singers, whose melody consists in vociferation; and the loud and obstreperous concert forms a strong contrast to the stillness and taciturnity of Turkish meetings. On the opposite side are men, generally of a respectable class, some of whom are found here every day, and all day long, dozing under the double influence of coffee and tobacco. The coffee is served in very small cups, not larger than egg-cups, grounds and all, without cream or sugar, and so black, thick, and bitter that it has been aptly compared to “stewed soot”. Besides the ordinary chibouk for tobacco, there is another implement, called narghillai, used for smoking[Pg 664] in a caffinet, of a more elaborate construction. It consists of a glass vase, filled with water, and often scented with distilled rose or other flowers. This is surmounted with a silver or brazen head, from which issues a long flexible tube; a pipe-bowl is placed on the top, and so constructed that the smoke is drawn, and comes bubbling up through the water, cool and fragrant to the mouth. A peculiar kind of tobacco, grown at Shiraz in Persia, and resembling small pieces of cut leather, is used with this instrument.
Certainly there never was any such thing as a coffee-house architecture. It may be that up to the time of Abdul Hamid, when money was more plentiful than it has been for the past fifty years, there were coffee houses more comfortably appointed than now exist.
The coffee house in a modernized form is, however, quite as numerous in Turkey as in the days of Amurath III and the notorious Kuprili.
H.G. Dwight writing on the present day Turkish coffee house, says:
There are thoroughfares in any Turkish city that carry on almost no other form of traffic. There is no quarter so miserable or so remote as to be without one or two. They are the clubs of the poorer classes. Men of a street, a trade, a province, or a nationality—for a Turkish coffee-house may also be Albanian, Armenian, Greek, Hebrew, Kurd, almost anything you please—meet regularly when their work is done, at coffee-houses kept by their own people. So much are the humbler coffee-houses frequented by a fixed clientèle that a student of types or dialects may realize for himself how truly they used to be called Schools of Knowledge.
The arrangement of a Turkish coffee-house is of the simplest. The essential is that the place should provide the beverage for which it exists and room for enjoying the same. A sketch of a coffee-shop may often be seen on the street, in a scrap of shade or sunshine according to the season, where a stool or two invite the passer-by to a moment of contemplation. Larger establishments, though they are rarely very large, are most often installed in a room longer than it is wide, having as many windows as possible at the street end and what we would call the bar at the other. It is a bar that always makes me regret I do not etch, with its pleasing curves, its high lights of brass and porcelain striking out of deep shadow, and its usually picturesque kahvehji.
You do not stand at it. You sit on one of the benches running down the sides of the room. They are more or less comfortably cushioned, though sometimes higher and broader than a foreigner finds to his taste. In that case you slip off your shoes, if you would do as the Romans do, and tuck your feet up under you. A table stands in front of you to hold your coffee—and often in summer an aromatic pot of basil to keep the flies away. Chairs or stools are scattered about. Decorative Arabic texts, sometimes wonderful prints, adorn the walls. There may even be hanging rugs and china to entertain your eyes. And there you are.
The habit of the coffee-house is one that requires a certain leisure. You must not bolt coffee as you bolt the fire-waters of the West, without ceremony, in retreats withdrawn from the public eye. Being a less violent and a less shameful passion, I suppose, it is indulged in with more of the humanities. The etiquette of the coffee-house, of those coffee-houses which have not been too much infected by Europe, is one of their most characteristic features. Something like it prevails in Italy, where you tip your hat on entering and leaving a caffè. In Turkey, however, I have seen a new-comer salute one after another each person in a crowded coffee-room, once on entering the door and again after taking his seat, and be so saluted in return—either by putting the right hand to the heart and uttering the greeting Merhabah, or by making the temennah, that triple sweep of the hand which is the most graceful of salutes. I have also seen an entire company rise upon the entrance of an old man, and yield him the corner of honor.
Such courtesies take time. Then you must wait for your coffee to be made. To this end coffee, roasted fresh as required by turning in an[Pg 665] iron cylinder over a fire of sticks and ground to the fineness of powder in a brass mill, is put into a small uncovered brass pot with a long handle. There it is boiled to a froth three times on a charcoal brazier, with or without sugar as you prefer. But to desecrate it by the admixture of milk is an unheard of sacrilege. Some kahvehjis replace the pot in the embers with a smart rap in order to settle the grounds. You in the meanwhile smoke. That also takes time, particularly if you “drink” a narguileh, as the Turks say. This is familiar enough in the West to require no great description. It is a big carafe with a metal top for holding tobacco and a long coil of leather tube for inhaling the water-cooled fumes thereof. The effect is wonderfully soothing and innocent at first, though wonderfully deadly in the end to the novice. The tobacco used is not the ordinary weed, but a much coarser and stronger one called tunbeki, which comes from Persia. The same sort of tobacco used to be smoked a great deal in shallow red earthenware pipes with long mouthpieces. They are now chiefly seen in antiquity shops.
When your coffee is ready it is poured into an after-dinner coffee-cup or into a miniature bowl, and brought to you on a tray with a glass of water. A foreigner can almost always be spotted by the manner in which he finally partakes of these refreshments. A Turk sips his water first, partly to prepare the way for the coffee, but also because he is a connoisseur of the former liquid as other men are of stronger ones. And he lifts his coffee-cup by the saucer, whether it possess a handle or no, managing the two together in a dexterous way of his own. The current price for all this, not including the water-pipe, is ten paras—a trifle over a cent—for which the kahvehji will cry you “Blessing”. More pretentious establishments charge twenty paras, while a giddy few rise to a piaster—not quite five cents—or a piaster and a half. That, however, begins to look like extortion. And mark that you do not tip the waiter. I have often been surprised to be charged no more than the tariff, although I gave a larger piece to be changed and it was perfectly evident that I was a foreigner. That is an experience which rarely befalls a traveller among his own coreligionaries. It has even happened to me, which is rarer still, to be charged nothing at all, nay, to be steadfastly refused when I persisted in attempting to pay, simply because I was a foreigner, and therefore a guest.
There is no reason, however, why you should go away when you have had your coffee—or your glass of tea—and your smoke. On the contrary, there are reasons why you should stay, particularly if you happen into the coffee-house not too long after sunset. Then coffee-houses of the most local color are at their best. Earlier in the day their clients are likely to be at work. Later they will have disappeared altogether. For Constantinople has not quite forgotten the habits of the tent. Stamboul, except during the holy month of Ramazan, is a deserted city at night. But just after dark it is full of a life which an outsider is often content simply to watch through the lighted windows of coffee-rooms. These are also barber-shops, where men have shaved not only their chins, but different parts of their heads according to their “countries”. In them likewise[Pg 666] checkers, the Persian backgammon, and various games of long narrow cards are played. They say that Bridge came from Constantinople. Indeed, I believe a club of Pera claims the honor of having communicated that passion to the Western World. But I must confess that I have yet to see an open hand in a coffee-house of the people.
One of the pleasantest forms of amusement to be obtained in coffee-houses is unfortunately getting to be one of the rarest. It is that afforded by itinerant story-tellers, who still carry on in the East the tradition of the troubadours. The stories they tell are more or less on the order of the Arabian Nights, though perhaps even less suitable for mixed companies—which for the rest are never found in coffee-shops. These men are sometimes wonderfully clever at character monologue or dialogue. They collect their pay at a crucial moment of the action, refusing to continue until the audience has testified to the sincerity of its interest by some token more substantial.
Music is much more common. There are those, to be sure, who find no music in the sounds poured forth oftenest by a gramophone, often by a pair of gypsies with a flaring pipe and two small gourd drums, and sometimes by an orchestra so-called of the fine lute—a company of musicians on a railed dais who sing long songs while they play on stringed instruments of strange curves. For myself I know too little of music to tell what relation the recurrent cadences of those songs and their broken rhythms may bear to the antique modes. But I can listen, as long as musicians will perform, to those infinite repetitions, that insistent sounding of the minor key. It pleases me to fancy there a music come from far away—from unknown river gorges, from camp-fires glimmering on great plains. Does not such darkness breathe through it, such melancholy, such haunting of elusive airs? There are flashes too of light, of song, the playing of shepherd’s pipes, the swoop of horsemen and sudden outcries of savagery. But the note to which it all comes back is the monotone of a primitive life, like the day-long beat of camel bells. And more than all, it is the mood of Asia, so rarely penetrated, which is neither lightness or despair.
There are seasons in the year when these various forms of entertainment abound more than at others, as Ramazan and the two Bairams. Throughout the month of Ramazan the purely Turkish coffee-houses are closed in the daytime, since the pleasures which they minister may not then be indulged in; but they are open all night. It is during that one month of the year that Karaghieuz, the Turkish shadow-show, may be seen in a few of the larger coffee-shops. The Bairams are two festivals of three and four days respectively, the former of which celebrates the close of Ramazan, while the latter corresponds in certain respects to the Jewish Passover. Dancing is a particular feature of the coffee-houses in Bairam. The Kurds, who carry the burdens of Constantinople on their backs, are above all other men given to this form of exercise—though the Lazzes, the boatmen, vie with them.[Pg 667] One of these dark tribesmen plays a little violin like a pochelle, or two of them perform on a pipe and a big drum, while the others dance round them in a circle, sometimes till they drop from fatigue. The weird music and the picturesque costumes and movements of the dancers make the spectacle one to be remembered.
Christian coffee-houses also have their own festal seasons. These coincide in general with the festivals of the church. But every quarter has its patron saint, the saint of the local church or of the local holy well, whose feast is celebrated by a three-day panayiri. The street is dressed with flags and strings of colored paper, tables and chairs line the sidewalk, and libations are poured forth in honor of the holy person commemorated. For this reason, and because of the more volatile character of the Greek, the general note of his merrymaking is louder than that of the Turk. One may even see the scandalous spectacle of men and women dancing together at a Greek panayiri. The instrument which sets the key of these orgies is the lanterna, a species of hand-organ peculiar to Constantinople. It is a hand-piano rather, of a loud and cheerful voice, whose Eurasian harmonies are enlivened by a frequent clash of bells.
What first made coffee-houses suspicious to those in authority, however, is their true resource—the advantages they offer for meeting one’s kind, for social converse and the contemplation of life. Hence it must be that they have so happy a tact for locality. They seek shade, pleasant corners, open squares, the prospect of water or wide landscapes. In Constantinople they enjoy an infinite choice of site, so huge is the extent of that city, so broken by hill and sea, so varied in its spectacle of life. The commonest type of city coffee-room looks out upon the passing world from under a grape-vine or a climbing wistaria.
Coffee-houses of distinction are to be found also in the Place of the Pines overlooking the Marble Sea, on Giant’s Mountain, in the Landing Place of the Man-slayer, and along the rivers that flow into the Golden Horn.
Originally the Turkish method of preparing coffee was the Arabian method, and it is so described by Mr. Fellows in his Excursions through Asia Minor:
Each cup is made separately, the little saucepan or ladle in which it is prepared being about an inch wide and two deep; this is more than half filled with coffee, finely pounded with a pestle and mortar, and then filled up with water; after being placed for a few seconds on the fire, the contents are poured, or rather shaken, out (being much thicker than chocolate) without the addition of cream or sugar, into a china cup of the size and shape of half an egg-shell, which is inclosed in one of ornamented metal for convenience of holding in the hand.
Later, the Turks sought to improve the method by adding sugar (a concession to the European sweet tooth) during the boiling process. The improved Turkish recipe is as follows:
First boil the water. For two cups of the beverage add three lumps of sugar and return the boiler to the fire. Add two teaspoonfuls of powdered coffee, stirring well and let the pot[Pg 668] boil up four times. Between each boiling the pot is to be removed from the fire and the bottom tapped gently until the froth on the top subsides. After the last boiling pour the coffee first into one cup and then the other, so as to evenly divide the froth.
In Syria and Palestine the Turkish-Arabian methods are followed. The brazen dippers, or ibriks, are used for boiling.
In the Near East, coffee manners and customs are much the same today as they were fifty or even one hundred years ago. Witness Damascus. The following pen picture of the cafés in this ancient city was written in 1836 to accompany the drawing by Bartlett and Purser, which is reproduced here; but it might have been written in 1922, so slight have been the changes in the setting or the spirit of the original coffee house that Shemsi first brought to Constantinople from Damascus in 1554.
The Cafés of the kind represented in the plate are, perhaps, the greatest luxury that a stranger finds in Damascus. Gardens, kiosques, fountains, and groves are abundant around every Eastern capital: but Cafés on the very bosom of a rapid river, and bathed by its waves, are peculiar to this ancient city: they are formed so as to exclude the rays of the sun, while they admit the breeze; the light roof is supported by slender rows of pillars, and the building is quite open on every side.
A few of these houses are situated in the skirts of the town, on one of the streams, where the eye rests on the luxuriant vegetation of garden and wood: others are in the heart of the city: a flight of steps conducts to them from the sultry street, and it is delightful to pass in a few moments from the noisy, shadeless thoroughfare, where you see only mean gateways and the gable-ends of edifices, to a cool, grateful, calm place of rest and refreshment, where you can muse and meditate in ease and luxury, and feel at every moment the rich breeze from the river. In two or three instances, a light wooden bridge leads to the platform, close to which, and almost out of it, one or two large and noble trees lift the canopy of their spreading branches and leaves, more welcome at noonday than the roofs of fretted gold in the “Arabian Nights.” The high pavilion roof and the pillars are all constructed of wood: the floor is of wood, and sometimes of earth, and is regularly watered, and raised only a few inches above the level of the stream, which rushes by at the feet of the customer, which it almost bathes, as he sips his coffee or sherbet. Innumerable small seats cover the floor, and you take one of these, and place it in the position you like best.
Perhaps you wish to sit apart from the crowd, just under the shadow of the tree, or in some favourite corner where you can smoke, and contemplate the motley guests, formed into calm and solemn groups, who wish to hold no communion with the Giaour. There is ample food here for the observer of character, costume and pretension: the tradesman, the mechanic, the soldier, the gentleman, the dandy, the grave old man, looking wise on the past and dimly on the future: the hadge, in his green turban, vain of his journey to Mecca, and drawing a long bow in his tales and adventures: the long straight pipe, the hookah with its soft curling tube and glass vase, are in request: but the poorer argille is most commonly used.
From sunrise to set, these houses are never empty: we were accustomed to visit one of them early every morning, before breakfast, and very many persons were already there: yet this “balmy hour of prime” was the most silent and solitary of the whole day; it was the coolest also: the rising sun was glancing redly on the[Pg 669] waters: there was as yet no heat in the air, and the little cup of Mocha coffee and the pipe were handed by an attendant as soon as the stranger was seated. His favourite Café was the one represented in the plate: the river is the Barrada, the ancient Pharpar. Never was the sound of many waters so pleasant to the ear as in Damascus: the air is filled with the sound, with which no clash of tongues, rolling of wheels, march of footman or horsemen, mingle: the numerous groups who love to resort here are silent half the time; and when they do converse, their voice is often “low, like that of a familiar spirit,” or in short grave sentences that pass quickly from the ear.
Yet much, very much of the excitement of the life of the Turk in this city, is absorbed in these coffee-houses: they are his opera, his theatre, his conversazione: soon after his eyes are unclosed from sleep, he thinks of his Café, and forthwith bends his way there: during the day he looks forward to pass the evening on the loved floor, to look on the waters, on the stars above, and on the faces of his friends; and at the moonlight falling on all. Mahomet committed a grievous error in the omission of coffee-houses, in a future state: had he ever seen those of Damascus, he would surely have given them a place on his rivers of Paradise, persuaded that true believers must feel a melancholy void without them.
There is no ornament or richness about these houses: no sofas, mirrors, or drapery, save that afforded by a few evergreens and creepers: the famous silks and damasks of Damascus have no place here; all is plain and homely; yet no Parisian Café, with its beautiful mirrors, gilding, and luxuriousness, is so welcome to the imagination and senses of the traveller. After wandering many days over dry, and stony, and desert places, where the lip thirsted for the stream, is it not delicious to sit at the brink of a wild, impetuous torrent, to gaze on its white foam and breaking waves, till you can almost feel their gush in every nerve and fibre, and can bathe your very soul in them. And while you slowly smoke your pipe of purest tobacco, the sands of the desert, and their burning sun, rise again before you, when you prayed for even the shadow of a cloud on your way. The banks are in some parts covered with wood, whose soft green verdure contrasts beautifully with the clear torrent, and almost droops into its bosom.
Near the coffee-houses are one or two cataracts several feet high, and the perpetual sound of their fall, and the coolness they spread around, are exquisite luxuries—in the heat of day, or in the dimness of evening. There are two or three Cafés constructed somewhat differently from those just described: a low gallery divides the platform from the tide; fountains play on the floor, which is furnished with very plain sofas and cushions; and music and dancing always abound, of the most unrefined description.
The only intellectual gratification in these places is afforded by the Arab story-tellers,[Pg 670] among whom are a few eminent and clever men: soon after his entrance, a group begins to form around the gifted man, who, after a suitable pause, to collect hearers or whet their expectations, begins his story. It is a picturesque sight—of the Arab with his wild and graceful gestures, and his auditory, hushed into deep and child-like attention, seated at the edge of the rushing tide, while the narrator moves from side to side, and each accent of his distinct and musical voice is heard throughout the Café. The building directly opposite is another house, of a similar kind in every respect There are a few small Cafés, more select as to company, where the Turkish gentlemen often go, form dinner parties, and spend the day.
Night is the propitious season to visit these places: the glare of the sun, glancing on the waters, is passed away; the company is then most numerous, for it is their favourite hour; the lamps, suspended from the slender pillars, are lighted; the Turks, in the various and brilliant colours of their costume, crowd the platform, some standing moveless as the pillars beside them, their long pipe in their hand—noble specimens of humanity, if intellect breathed within: some reclining against the rails, others seated in groups, or solitary as if buried in “lonely thoughts sublime”; while the rush of the falling waters is sweeter music than that of the pipe and the guitar, that faintly strive to be heard. The cataract in the plate is a very fine one; on its foam the moonlight was lovely: we passed many an hour here on such a night, the clear waters of the Pharpar, as they rolled on, reflecting each pillar, each Damascene slowly moving by in his waving garments. The glare of the lamps mingled strangely with the moonlight, that rested with a soft and vivid glory on the waters, and fell beneath pillar and roof on the picturesque groups within.
The slender brass coffee grinders sometimes serve as a combination utensil in the equipment of the Turkish officer. Frequently they are made of silver. They might be called collapsible, convertible coffee kits, as they are made to serve as a combination coffee pot, mill, can, and cup. The green or roasted beans are kept in the lower section. It takes but a minute to unscrew the apparatus. To make a cup of coffee, the beans are dumped out and three or four of them are put in the middle section. The steel crank is fitted over the squared rod projecting from the middle section, which revolves, setting in motion the grinding apparatus inside. The ground coffee falls into the bottom section, and water is added. The pot is placed on the fire, and the contents brought to a boil. The coffee pot serves as a cup. The process requires but a few minutes. The cup is rinsed out, the beans replaced, the utensils put together, the whole thing is slipped into the officer’s tunic, and he goes on, refreshed.
In Persia, where tea is mostly drunk, the Turkish-Arabian methods of making coffee are followed. In Ceylon and India, the same applies to the native population, but the whites follow the European practise. In India, many people look upon coffee as just a bonne bouche—a “chaser.” A well known English tea firm has had some success in India with a tinned “French coffee”, which is a blend of Indian coffee and chicory.
European methods obtain in making coffee in China and Japan, and in the French and Dutch colonies. When traveling in the Far East one of the greatest hardships the coffee lover is called upon to endure is the European bottled coffee extract, which so often supplies lazy chefs with the makings of a most forbidding cup of coffee.
In Java, a favorite method is to make a strong extract by the French drip process and then to use a spoonful of the extract to a cup of hot milk—a good drink when the extract is freshly made for each service.
Coffee Making in Europe
In Europe, the coffee drink was first sold by lemonade venders. In Florence those who sold coffee, chocolate, and other beverages were not called caffetiéri(coffee sellers) but limonáji (lemonade venders). Pascal’s first Paris coffee shop served other drinks as well as coffee; and Procope’s café began as a lemonade shop. It was only when coffee, which was an afterthought, began to lead the other beverages, that he gave the name café to his whole refreshment place.
Today, nearly every country in Europe can supply the two extremes of coffee making. In Paris and Vienna, one may find it brewed and served in its highest perfection; but here too it is frequently found as badly done as in England, and that is saying a good deal. The principal difficulty seems to be in the chicory flavor, for which long years of use has cultivated a taste, with most people. Now coffee-and-chicory is not at all a bad drink; indeed the author confesses to have developed a certain liking for it after a time in France—but it is not coffee. In Europe, chicory is not regarded as an adulterant—it is an addition, or modifier, if you please. And so many people have acquired a coffee-and-chicory taste, that it is doubtful if they would appreciate a real cup of coffee should[Pg 671] they ever meet it. This, of course, is a generalization; and like all generalizations, is dangerous, for it is possible to obtain good coffee, properly made, in any European country, even England, in the homes of the people, but seldom in the hotels or restaurants.
Austria. Coffee is made in Austria after the French style, usually by the drip method or in the pumping percolator device, commonly called the Vienna coffee machine. The restaurants employ a large-size urn fitted with a combination metal sieve and cloth sack. After the ground coffee has infused for about six minutes, a screw device raises the metal sieve, the pressure forcing the liquid through the cloth sack containing the ground coffee.
Vienna cafés are famous, but the World War has dimmed their glory. It used to be said that their equal could not be found for general excellence and moderate prices. From half-past eight to ten in the morning, large numbers of people were wont to breakfast in them on a cup of coffee or tea, with a roll and butter. Mélangé is with milk; “brown” coffee is darker, and a schwarzer is without milk. In all the cafés the visitor may obtain coffee, tea, liqueurs, ices, bottled beer, ham, eggs, etc. The Café Schrangl in the Graben is typical. Then there are the dairies, with coffee, a unique institution. In the Prater (public park) there are many interesting cafés.
Charles J. Rosebault says in the New York Times:
The café of Vienna has been imitated all over the world—but the result has never failed to be an imitation. The nearest approach to the genuine in my experience was the upstairs room of the old Fleischman Café in New York. That was because the average New Yorker knew it not and it remained sacred to the internationalists: the musicians, artists, writers, and other Bohemians to whom had been intrusted the secret of its existence. It is the spirit that counts, and it was the spirit of its frequenters that made the Vienna café. It was everyman’s club, and everywoman’s, too, where one went to relax and forget all the worries of existence, to look over papers and magazines from all parts of the world and printed in every known language, to play chess or skat or taracq, to chat with friends and to drink the inimitable Viennese coffee, the fragrance of which can no more be described than the perfume of last year’s violets.
The café was filled after the noon meal, when busy men took their coffee and smoked; again around five o’clock, when all the world and his wife paraded along the Graben and the Karntner Strasse, and then dropped into a[Pg 672] favorite café for coffee or chocolate and cakes—horns and crescents of delicious dough filled with jam or, possibly, the wonderful Kugelhupf, in comparison with which our sponge is like unto lead; finally in the evening, when there were family parties and those returning from theatres and concerts and opera.
The Café Schrangl in the Graben, Vienna, the City That Coffee Made Famous
Photograph by Burton Holmes
While the café life of Vienna has been nearly killed by the World War, it is to be hoped that time will restore at least something of its former glory. In spite of the stories of plundering bands of Bolshevists that in the latter part of 1921 wrecked some of the better known places, we read that Oscar Straus, composer of The Chocolate Soldier, is living in comparative luxury in Vienna, and spends most of his time in the cafés, where he is to be found usually from two until five in the afternoon and from eleven o’clock at night until some early hour of the morning “surrounded by musicians of lesser note and wealth, whom, to a degree, he supports; also with him being many of the leading composers, librettists, actors, actresses, and singers of Vienna.”
For Vienna coffee, the liquor is usually made in a pumping percolator or by the drip process. In normal times it is served two parts coffee to one of hot milk topped with whipped cream. During 1914–18 and the recent post-war period, however, the sparkling crown of delicious whipped cream gave way to condensed milk, and saccharine took the place of sugar.
Belgium. In Belgium, the French drip method is most generally employed. Chicory is freely used as a modifier. The greatest coffee drinker among reigning monarchs is said to be the King of the Belgians. His majesty takes a cup of coffee before breakfast, after breakfast, at his noonday meal, in the afternoon, after dinner, and again in the evening.
British Isles. In the British Isles coffee is still being boiled; although the infusion, true percolation (drip), and filtration methods have many advocates. A favorite device is the earthenware jug with or without the cotton sack that makes it a coffee biggin. When used without the sack, the best practise is first to warm the jug. For each pint of liquor, one ounce (three dessert-spoonfuls) of freshly ground coffee is put in the pot. Upon it is poured freshly boiling water—three-fourths of the amount required. After stirring with a wooden spoon, the remainder of the water is poured in, and the pot is returned to the “hob” to infuse, and to settle for from three to five minutes. Some stir it a second time before the final settling.
The best trade authorities stress home-grinding, and are opposed to boiling the beverage. They advocate also its use as a breakfast beverage, after lunch, and after the evening meal.
From an American point of view, the principal defects in the English method of making coffee lie in the roasting, handling, and brewing. It has been charged that the beans are not properly cooked in the first place, and that they are too often stale before being ground. The English run to a light or cinnamon roast, whereas the best American practise requires a medium, high, or city roast. A fairly high shade of brown is favored on the South Downs with a light shade for Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, and the south of Scotland. The trade demands, for the most part, a ripe chestnut brown. Wholesale roasting is done by gas and coke machines; while retail dealers use mostly a small type of inner-heated gas machine. The large gas machines (with capacities running from twenty-five to seven hundred pounds) have external air-blast burners, direct and indirect burners, sliding burners, etc. The best known are the Faulder and Moorewood machines. In the Uno, a popular retail machine, roasting seven to fourteen pounds at a time, the coffee beans are placed in the space between outer and inner concentric cylinders, one made of perforated steel, and the other of wire gauze, revolving together. A gas flame of the Bunsen type burns inside the inner cylinder, its heat traversing the outer, or coffee cylinder, while the fumes are driven off through the open ends. The roasting coffee may be viewed through a mica or wire-gauze panel inserted in the wall of the outer cylinder. The Faulder machine has an external flame, a capacity of from seven to fourteen pounds; and there are quick gas machines, with capacities ranging from three pounds to two hundred and twenty-four pounds, for the retail trade.
In recent years there has been a marked improvement in English coffee roasting, due to the intelligent study brought to bear upon the subject by leaders of the trade’s thought, and by the retail distributer, who, in the person of the retail grocer, is, generally speaking, better educated to his business than the retail grocer in any other country. Years ago, it was the practise to use butter or lard to improve the appearance of the bean in roasting; but this is not so common as formerly.
The British consumer, however, will need much instruction before the national character of the beverage shows a uniform improvement. While the coffee may be more carefully roasted, better “cooked” than it was formerly, it is still remaining too long unsold after roasting, or else it is being ground too long a time before making. These abuses are, however, being corrected; and the consumer is everywhere being urged to buy his coffee freshly roasted and to have it freshly ground. Another factor has undoubtedly contributed to give England a bad name among lovers of good coffee, and that is certain tinned “coffees,” composed of ground coffee and chicory, mixtures that attained some vogue for a time as “French” coffee. They found favor, perhaps, because they were easily handled. Package coffees have not been developed in England as in America; but there is a more or less limited field for them, and there are several good brands of absolutely pure coffee on the market.
The demi-tasse is a popular drink after luncheon, after dinner, and even during the day, especially in the cities. In London, there are cafés that make a specialty of it; places like Peel’s, Groom’s, and the Café Nero in the city; also the shops of the London Café Co., and Ye Mecca Co.
While, in the home, it is customary to steep the coffee; in hotels and restaurants some form of percolating apparatus, extractor, or steam machine is employed. There are the Criterion (employing a drip tray for making coffee in the Etzenberger style); Fountain; Platow; Syphon (Napier); and Verithing extractors, put out by Sumerling & Co. of London; and the well-known J. & S. rapid coffee-making machine, having an infuser, and producing coffee by steam pressure, manufactured by W.M. Still & Sons, Ltd., London.
American visitors complain that coffee in England is too thick and syrupy for their liking. Coffee in restaurants is served “white” (with milk), or black, in earthen, stoneware, or silver pots. In chain restaurants, like Lyons’ or the A.B.C., there is to be found on the tariff, “hot milk with a dash of coffee.”
As to the boiling method, this is already generally discredited in the countries of western Europe. The steeping method so much favored in England may be responsible for some of the unkind things said about English coffee; because it undoubtedly leads to the abuse of over-infusion, so that the net result is as bad as boiling.
The vast majority of the English people are, however, confirmed tea drinkers, and it is extremely doubtful if this national habit, ingrained through centuries of use of “the cup that cheers” at breakfast and at tea time in the afternoon can ever be changed.
As already mentioned in this work, the London coffee houses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries gave way to a type of coffee house whose mainstay was its food rather than its drink. In time, these too began to yield to the changing influences of a civilization that demanded modern hotels, luxurious tea lounges, smart restaurants, chain shops, tea rooms, and cafés with and without coffee. A certain type of “coffee shop,” with rough boarded stalls, sanded floors and “private rooms,” frequented by lower class workingmen, were to be found in England for a time; but because of their doubtful character, they were closed up by the police.
Among other places in London where coffee may be had in English or continental style, mention should be made of the Café[Pg 675] Monico, a good place to drop in for a coffee and liqueur, and one of the pioneers of the modern restaurant; Gatti’s, where café filtré, or coffee produced by the filtration method, is a specialty; the cosmopolitan Savoy with its popular tea lounge (teas, sixty cents); the Piccadilly Hotel, with its Louis XIV restaurant catering to refined and luxurious tastes; the Waldorf Hotel, with its American clientèle and its palm court (teas, thirty-six cents); the Cecil, with its palm court and tea balcony, also having a special attraction for Americans; Lyons’ Popular Café (iced coffee, twelve cents); the Trocadero with its special Indian curries prepared by native cooks once each week; the Temple Bar restaurant, an attractive refectory owned by the semi-philanthropic Trust-Houses, Ltd., which runs some two hundred similar establishments throughout the country, serving alcoholic drinks but stressing non-intoxicating beverages, among them special Mocha at six and eight cents a cup; Slater’s, Ltd., catering mostly to business folk in the city, there being about a score of restaurants and tea rooms under this name with retail shops attached; the British Tea Table Association, like Slater’s, a grown-up sister of the olden bun shop of Queen Victoria’s day; and the Kardomah chain of cafés, where one is reasonably sure to get a satisfying cup of coffee and a cake.
Supplementing the above, Charles Cooper, some time editor of the Epicure and The Table, has prepared for this work some notes on the evolution of the old-time London coffee houses into the present-day tea rooms, tea lounges, cafés, and restaurants for all comers. Mr. Cooper says of the transformation:
The old-fashioned London coffee-house that flourished forty to fifty years ago has within the past thirty years been completely extinguished by the modern tea rooms. These old-fashioned establishments were mainly situated in and about the Strand and Fleet Street, the neighborhood of the Inns of Court, etc. They did not sacrifice much to outside show and decoration. They were divided into boxes or pews, and were generally speaking clean and well ordered; the prices were moderate, and the fare simple but superlatively good. There is nothing to equal it now. Chops were cooked in the grill. The tea and coffee were of the best; the hams were York hams and the bacon the best Wiltshire; they were the last places where real buttered toast was made. The art is now lost. They catered exclusively to men; and their clientèle consisted of journalists, artists, actors, men from the Inns of Court, students, et al. A man living in chambers could breakfast comfortably at one of these places, and read all the morning papers at his ease. The most westerly perhaps of the old houses was Stone’s in Panton Street, Haymarket, which has recently been sold. Groom’s in Fleet Street, where a good cup of coffee may still be had, is principally frequented by barristers about the luncheon hour. They are usually men who lunch lightly.
The tea rooms, as I have said, have killed the coffee houses. At the time the latter flourished, there were no facilities in London for a woman, unattended by a man, to obtain refreshment beyond a weak cup of tea at a few confectioners’. It mattered the less in the days when the girl clerk had not come into being. When the field of women’s employment widened, fresh requirements were created which the coffee shops did not meet.
Palm Court in the Waldorf Hotel—A Popular Resort for American Travelers
TWO POPULAR PLACES FOR COFFEE IN LONDON
The tea room pioneers in London were the Aërated Bread Company, familiarly known as the A.B.C. I think that coffee palaces in provincial industrial centers had been started; but as part of a temperance propaganda, to counteract the attractions of the public house. The Aërated Bread Company was founded about the middle of the past century for the manufacture and sale of bread made under the patent aërated process of Dr. Daugleish. The shops were opened for the sale of bread to the public for home consumption; but to give people an opportunity of testing it, facilities were provided for obtaining a cup of tea, and bread and butter, on the premises. This subsidiary object became in a short time the most important part of the company’s business. It multiplied its shops, enlarged its bill of fare to include cooked foods; and while, nowadays, the A.B.C. and its rivals cater to many thousands daily, I doubt if anybody ever buys a loaf to take home.
The A.B.C. has many competitors, similar shops having been started by Lyons, Lipton, Slaters. Express Dairy Company, Cabin, Pioneer Cafés, and others. Ex uno disce omnes.
The fare in all these places is much alike, as are the general equipment, prices, and class of customers. They cater for a cheap class of business. In the busy centers they are frequented mostly by young men and girl clerks and shop assistants, by women in town, shopping, and such-like custom. Young employees can get a modest mid-day meal at a price to suit a shallow pocket. Before the war, the ruling price for a cup of tea, and a roll and butter, was fourpence, and the general tariff in proportion. Nowadays, the war has run up prices at least fifty percent. During the worst times of food control the fare was very scanty and very unappetizing. As a rule, it is plain and wholesome, with no pretense of being recherché. Tea is almost always very good; coffee not on the same level. Their tea rooms are all places designed for small, quick meals; and are in no sense lounges.
Lyons have refreshment-houses of different grades. The Popular Café is a cut above the tea rooms, and so are the Corner Houses. Two years ago, the A.B.C. amalgamated with Buzard’s, an old established confectioner’s in Oxford Street—a famous cake-house.
The Monico and Gatti’s appeal to a quite different class from that catered to by the tea shops, although perhaps not to what Mrs. Boffin would call “the highfliers of fashion” who frequent the lounges of the fashionable hotels. Gatti’s original café was under the arches of Charing Cross station.
I may add about the Savoy that it was an outcome of the successful Gilbert and Sullivan[Pg 678] operas of the seventies, D’Oyly Carte having expended some of his profits on building the hotel on a piece of waste ground by the Savoy Theatre. He brought over M. Ritz from Monte Carlo to manage the hotel and restaurant, and Escoffier, the greatest chef of the day, to preside over the cuisine. They made the Savoy famous for its dinners, and it has always maintained a high reputation, although Escoffier, who has now retired, ruled later at the Carlton; and Ritz, at the hotel in Piccadilly which bears his name.
Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, Arabian-Turkish methods of making coffee prevail. The accompanying illustration shows a group in a caravan of the faithful on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The venerable Moslem, who is ambitious of becoming a hadji, is attended by his guards, distinguished by their fantastic dress; their glittering golden-hafted hanjars, stuck in their shawl girdles; and their silver-mounted pistols; the grave turban replaced by a many-tasseled cap. Their accommodation is the stable of a khan, or serai, shared with their camel. Their refreshment is coffee, thick, black and bitter, served by the khanji in tiny egg-shaped cups.
In Denmark and Finland coffee is made and served after the French and German fashion.
France. Were it not for the almost inevitable high roast and frequently the disconcerting chicory addition, coffee in France might be an unalloyed delight—at least this is how it appears to American eyes. One seldom, if ever, finds coffee improperly brewed in France—it is never boiled.
Second only to the United States, France consumes about two million bags of coffee annually. The varieties include coffee from the East Indies; Mocha; Haitian (a great favorite); Central American; Colombian; and Brazils.
Although there are many wholesale and retail coffee roasters in France, home roasting persists, particularly in the country districts. The little sheet-iron cylinder roasters, that are hand-turned over an iron box holding the charcoal fire, find a ready sale even in the modern department stores of the big cities. In any village or city in France it is a common sight on a pleasant day to find the householder turning his[Pg 679] roaster on the curb in front of his home. Emmet G. Beeson, in The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal gives us this vignette of rural coffee roasting in the south of France:
In a certain town in the south of France I saw an old man with an outfit a little larger than the home variety, a machine with a capacity of about ten pounds. Instead of a cylinder in which to roast his coffee, he had perched on a sheet-iron frame a hollow round ball made of sheet iron. In the top of this ball there was a little slide which was opened by the means of a metal tool. In the sheet-iron frame he had kindled his charcoal fire. Directly in front of his roaster was a home-made cooling pan, the sides of which were of wood, the bottom covered with a fine grade of wire screening.
On this particular afternoon, the old man had taken up his place on the curb; and a big black cat had taken advantage of the warmth offered by the charcoal fire and was curled up, sleeping peacefully in the pan nearest the fire. The old man paid no attention to the cat, but went on rotating his ball of coffee and puffing away pensively on his cigarette. When his coffee had become blackened and burned, and blackened and burned it was, he stopped rotating the ball, opened the slide in the top, turned it over, and the hot, burned coffee rolled out, and much to his delight, on the sleeping cat, which leaped out of the pan and scampered up the street and into a hole under an old building.
I afterward learned that this old fellow made a business of going about the town gathering up coffee from the houses along the way and roasting it at a few sous per kilo, much the same fashion as a scissors grinder plies his trade in an American town.
Quite a few grocers roast their own coffee in crude devices much like those described above; but the large coffee roasters are gradually eliminating this sort of procedure. There are at Havre several roasters, but only two of importance; one does a business of about two hundred and fifty bags a day, and the next largest has a capacity of about one hundred and sixty bags a day. In Paris, there are many coffee roasters, some quite large, comparatively speaking, one having a capacity of about seven hundred and fifty bags a day. Shop-keepers in Paris and other large cities roast their coffee fresh daily. The machines used are of the ball or cylinder type, employing gas fuel and turned by electric power. Invariably they stand where they may be seen from the street.
Sample-roasters, or testing tables, in France are conspicuous by their absence. Inquiry regarding this subject discloses that coffee is sold on description; and when the French trader is asked, “How do you know your delivery is up to description so far as cup quality is concerned?” he answers that this is arrived at from the general appearance and the smell of the coffee in the green. Perhaps one reason for the laxity in buying cup quality may[Pg 680] be explained by the fact that coffee is roasted very high, in fact it is burned almost to a charred state; and unless the coffee is unusually bad in character, the burned taste eliminates any foreign flavor it may have.
The fact that coffee was, and still is, quite generally sold to the consumer green, accounts for Central American coffees taking first place. Style takes preference over everything else when it comes to selling to a Frenchman.
To the American coffee merchant it seems that the French are carrying their artistic tastes to an unreasonable extreme when they apply them to coffee; for coffee is grown to drink and not to look at.
Since the coming of the large coffee roaster, who delivers roasted coffee right down the line to the consumer, Santos has come in for its share of the business. The roasters are getting good results out of Santos blends, up to fifty percent and sixty percent with West Indian and Central American coffees. Rio is as much in disfavor in France as it is in the United States, perhaps more so.
In Brittany the demand is for peaberry coffee, no matter of what variety. This comes about from the fact that the people of this section of the country still do a great deal of their roasting at home, and have become accustomed to the use of peaberry coffee because they do not have the improved hand roasters, and still do a great deal of their roasting in pans in the ovens of their stoves. The peaberry coffee rolls about so nicely in the pan that they get a much more uniform roast.
Nearly all the coffee is ground at home, which is not a bad practise for the consumer; but perhaps works hardship on the dealer, who can mix some grade grinders into his blends without doing them any material harm. Where coffee mills are used in the stores, they are of the Strong-Arm family and of an ancient heritage. To get a growl out of the grocer in France, buy a kilo of coffee and ask him to grind it.
Package coffee and proprietary brands have not come into their own to the extent that they have in the United States, although there are at present two firms in Paris which have started in this business and are advertising extensively on billboards, in street cars, and in the subways. However, most coffee is still sold in bulk. The butter, egg, and cheese stores of France do a very large business in coffee. Prior to the war and high prices, there were some very large firms doing a premium business in coffee, tea, spices, etc. They[Pg 681] still exist, and have a very fine trade; but since the high prices of coffees and premiums, the business has gone down very materially. They operate by the wagon-route and solicitor method, just as some of our American companies do. One very large firm in Paris has been in this business for more than thirty years, operating branches and wagons in every town, village, and hamlet in France.
The consumption of coffee is increasing very materially in France; some say, on account of the high price of wine, others hold that coffee is simply growing in favor with the people. Among the masses, French breakfast consists of a bowl or cup of café au lait, or half a cup or bowl of strong black coffee and chicory, and half a cup of hot milk, and a yard of bread. The workingman turns his bread on end and inserts it into his bowl of coffee, allowing it to soak up as much of the liquid as possible. Then he proceeds to suck this concoction into his system. His approval is demonstrated by the amount of noise he makes in the operation.
Among the better classes, the breakfast is the same, café au lait, with rolls and butter, and sometimes fruit. The brew is prepared by the drip, or true percolator, method or by filtration. Boiling milk is poured into the cup from a pot held in one hand together with the brewed coffee from a pot held in the other, providing a simultaneous mixture. The proportions vary from half-and-half to one part coffee and three parts milk. Sometimes, the service is by pouring into the cup a little coffee then the same quantity of milk and alternating in this way until the cup is filled.
Coffee is never drunk with any meal but breakfast, but is invariably served en demi-tasse after the noon and the evening meals. In the home, the usual thing after luncheon or dinner is to go into the salon and have your demi-tasse and liqueur and cigarettes before a cosy grate fire. A Frenchman’s idea of after-dinner coffee is a brew that is unusually thick and black, and he invariably takes with it his liqueur, no matter if he has had a cocktail for an appetizer, a bottle of red wine with his meat course, and a bottle of white wine with the salad and dessert course. When the demi-tasse comes along, with it must be served his cordial in the shape of cognac, benedictine, or crème de menthe. He can not conceive of a man not taking a little alcohol with his after-dinner coffee, as an aid, he says, to digestion.
In Normandy, there prevails a custom in connection with coffee drinking that is unique. They produce in this province[Pg 682] great quantities of what is known as cidre, made from a particular variety of apple grown there—in other words, just plain hard cider. However, they distil this hard cider, and from the distillation they get a drink called calvados.
The man from Normandy takes half a cup of coffee, and fills the cup with calvados, sweetened with sugar, and drinks it with seeming relish. Ice-cold coffee will almost sizzle when calvados is poured into it. It tastes like a corkscrew, and one drink has the same effect as a crack on the head with a hammer. From the toddling age up, the Norman takes his calvados and coffee.
In the south of France they make a concoction from the residue of grapes. They boil the residue down in water, and get a drink called marc; and it is used in much the same way as the Norman in the north uses calvados. Then there is also the very popular summertime drink known as mazagran, which in that region means seltzer water and cold coffee, or what Americans might call a coffee highball.
Making coffee in France has been, and always will be, by the drip and the filtration methods. The large hotels and cafés follow these methods almost entirely, and so does the housewife. When company comes, and something unusual in coffee is to be served, Mr. Beeson says he has known the cook to drip the coffee, using a spoonful of hot water at a time, pouring it over tightly packed, finely ground coffee, allowing the water to percolate through to extract every particle of oil. They use more ground coffee in bulk than they get liquid in the cup, and sometimes spend an hour producing four or five demi-tasses. It is needless to say that it is more like molasses than coffee when ready for drinking.
It is not unusual in some parts of France to save the coffee grounds for a second or even a third infusion, but this is not considered good practise.
Von Liebig’s idea of correct coffee making has been adapted to French practise in some instances after this fashion: put used coffee grounds in the bottom chamber of a drip coffee pot. Put freshly ground coffee in the upper chamber. Pour on boiling water. The theory is that the old coffee furnishes body and strength, and the fresh coffee the aroma.
The cafés that line the boulevards of Paris and the larger cities of France all serve coffee, either plain or with milk, and almost always with liqueur. The coffee house in France may be said to be the wine house; or the wine house may be said to be the coffee house. They are inseparable. In the smallest or the largest of these establishments coffee can be had at any time of day or night. The proprietor of a very large café in Paris says his coffee sales during the day almost equal his wine sales.
The French, young or old, take a great deal of pleasure in sitting out on the sidewalk in front of a café, sipping coffee or liqueur. Here they love to idle away the time just watching the passing show.
In Paris, there are hundreds of these cafés lining the boulevards, where one may sit for hours before the small tables reading the newspapers, writing letters, or merely idling. In the morning, from eight to eleven, employees, men-about-town, tourists, and provincials throng the cafés for café au lait. The waiters are coldly polite. They bring the papers, and brush the table—twice for café créme (milk), and three times for café complet (with bread and butter).
In the afternoon, café means a small cup or glass of café noir, or café nature. It is double the usual amount of coffee dripped by percolator or filtration device, the process consuming eight to ten minutes. Some understand café noir to mean equal parts of coffee and brandy with sugar and vanilla to taste. When café noir is mixed with an equal quantity of cognac alone it becomes café gloria. Café mazagran is also much in demand in the summertime. The coffee base is made as for café noir, and it is served in a tall glass with water to dilute it to one’s taste.
Few of the cafés that made Paris famous in the eighteenth century survive. Among those that are notable for their coffee service are the Café de la Paix; the Café de la Régence, founded in 1718; and the Café Prévost, noted also for chocolate after the theater.
Germany. Germany originated the afternoon coffee function known as the kaffee-klatsch. Even today, the German family’s reunion takes place around the coffee table on Sunday afternoons. In summer, when weather permits, the family will take a walk into the suburbs, and stop at a garden where coffee is sold in pots. The proprietor furnishes the coffee, the cups, the spoons and, in normal times, the sugar, two pieces to each cup; and the patrons bring their own cake. They put one piece of sugar into each cup and take the other pieces home to the “canary bird,” meaning the sugar bowl in the pantry.
Cheaper coffee is served in some gardens, which conspicuously display large signs at the entrance, saying: “Families may cook their own coffee in this place.” In such a garden, the patron merely buys the hot water from the proprietor, furnishing the ground coffee and cake himself.
While waiting for the coffee to brew, he may listen to the band and watch the children play under the trees. French or Vienna drip pots are used for brewing.
Every city in Germany has its cafés, spacious places where patrons sit around small tables, drinking coffee, “with or without” turned or unturned, steaming or iced, sweetened or unsweetened, depending on the sugar supply; nibble, at the same time, a piece of cake or pastry, selected from a glass pyramid; talk, flirt, malign, yawn, read, and smoke. Cafés are, in fact,[Pg 684] public reading rooms. Some places keep hundreds of daily and weekly newspapers and magazines on file for the use of patrons. If the customer buys only one cup of coffee, he may keep his seat for hours, and read one newspaper after another.
Three of the four corners of Berlin’s most important street crossing are occupied by cafés. This is where Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse meet. On the southwest corner there is Kranzler’s staid old café, a very respectable place, where the lower hall is even reserved for non-smokers. On the southeast corner is Café Bauer, known the world over. However, it has seen better days. It has been outdistanced by competitors. On the northeast corner is the Victoria, a new-style place, very bright, and less staid. There no room is reserved for non-smokers, for most of the ladies, if they do not themselves smoke, will light the cigars for their escorts.
Around the Potsdamer Platz there is a number of cafés. Josty’s is perhaps the most frequented in Berlin. It is the best liked on account of the trees and terraces in front. Farther to the west, on Kuerfuerstendamm, there are dozens of large cafés.
Some of the cafés are meeting-places for certain professions and trades. The Admiral’s café, in Friedrichstrasse, for instance, is the “artistes'” exchange. All the stage folk and stars of the tanbark meet there every day. Chorus girls, tumblers, ladies of the flying trapeze, contortionists, and bareback riders are to be found there, discussing their grievances, denouncing their managers, swapping their diamonds, and recounting former triumphs. Cinema-makers come also to pick out a cast for a new film play. There one can pick out a full cast every minute.
Then there is the Café des Westens in Kuerfuerstendamm, the old one, where dreamers and poets congregate. It is called also Café Groessenwahn, which means that persons suffering from an exaggerated ego are conspicuous by their presence and their long hair.
At almost every table one may find a poet who has written a play that is bound to enrich its author and any man of means who will put up the money to build a new theater in which to produce it.
Saxony and Thuringia are proverbial hotbeds of coffee lovers. It is said that in Saxony there are more coffee drinkers to the square inch and more cups to the single coffee bean than anywhere else upon earth. The Saxons like their coffee, but seem to be afraid it may be too strong for them. So, when over their cups, they always make certain they can see bottom before raising the steaming bowl to the lip.
Von Liebig’s method of making coffee, whereby three-fourths of the quantity to be used is first boiled for ten or fifteen minutes, and the remainder added for a six-minute steeping or infusion, is religiously followed by some housekeepers.[Pg 685] Von Liebig advocated coating the bean with sugar. In some families, fats, eggs, and egg-shells are used to settle and to clarify the beverage.
Coffee in Germany is better cooked (roasted) and more scientifically prepared than in many other European countries. In recent years, during the World War and since, however, there has been an amazing increase in the use of coffee substitutes, so that the German cup of coffee is not the pure delight it was once.
Greece. Coffee is the most popular and most extensively used non-alcoholic beverage in Greece, as it is throughout the Near East. Its annual per capita consumption there is about two pounds, two-thirds of the supply coming via Austria and France, Brazil furnishing direct the bulk of the remaining third.
Coffee is given a high or city roast, and is used almost entirely in powdered form. It is prepared for consumption principally in the Turkish demi-tasse way. Finely ground coffee is used even in making ordinary table, or breakfast, coffee. In private houses the cylindrical brass hand-grinders, manufactured in Constantinople, are mostly used. In many of the coffee houses in the villages and country towns throughout Greece and the Levant, a heavy iron pestle, wielded by a strong man, is employed to pulverize the grains in a heavy stone or marble mortar; while the poorer homes use a small brass pestle and mortar, also manufactured in Turkey.
In his The Greeks of the Present Day, Edmond François Valentin About says:
The coffee which is drunk in all the Greek houses rather astonishes the travellers who have neither seen Turkey nor Algeria. One is surprised at finding food in a cup in which one expected drink. Yet you get accustomed to this coffee-broth and end by finding it more savoury, lighter, more perfumed, and especially more wholesome, than the extract of coffee you drink in France.
Then About gives the recipe of his servant Petros, who is “the first man in Athens for coffee”:
The grain is roasted without burning it; it is reduced to an impalpable powder, either in a mortar or in a very close-grained mill. Water is set on the fire till it boils up; it is taken off to throw in a spoonful of coffee, and a spoonful of pounded sugar for each cup it is intended to make; it is carefully mixed; the coffee pot is replaced on the fire until the contents seem ready to boil over; it is taken off, and set on again; lastly it is quickly poured into the cups. Some coffee drinkers have this preparation boiled as many as five times. Petros makes a rule of not putting his coffee more than three times on the fire. He takes care in filling the cups to divide impartially the coloured froth which rises above the coffee pot; it is the kaimaki of the coffee. A cup without kaimaki is disgraced.
When the coffee is poured out you are at liberty to drink it boiling and muddy, or cold and clear. Real amateurs drink it without waiting. Those who allow the sediment to settle down, do not do so from contempt, for they afterwards collect it with the little finger and eat it carefully.
Thus prepared, coffee may be taken without inconvenience ten times a day: five cups of French coffee could not be drunk with impunity every day. It is because the coffee of the Turks and the Greeks is a diluted tonic, and ours is a concentrated tonic.
I have met at Paris many people who took their coffee without sugar, to imitate the Orientals. I think I ought to give them notice, between ourselves, that in the great coffee-houses of Athens, sugar is always presented with the coffee; in the khans and second-rate coffee-houses, it is served already sugared; and that at Smyrna and Constantinople, it has everywhere been brought to me sugared.
Italy. In Italy coffee is roasted in a wholesale and retail way as well as in the home. French, German, Dutch, and Italian machines are used. The full city, or Italian, roast is favored. There are cafés as in France and other continental countries, and the drink is prepared in the French fashion. For restaurants and hotels, rapid filtering machines, first developed by the French and Italians, are used. In the homes, percolators and filtration devices are employed.
The De Mattia Brothers have a process designed to conserve the aroma in roasting. The Italians pay particular attention to the temperature in roasting and in the cooling operation. There is considerable glazing, and many coffee additions are used.
Like the French, the Italians make much of café au lait for breakfast. At dinner, the café noir is served.
Cafés of the French school are to be found along the Corso in Rome, the Toledo in Naples, in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel and the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, and in the arcades surrounding the Piazza de San Marco in Venice, where Florian’s still flourishes.
Netherlands. In the Netherlands, too, the French café is a delightful feature of the life of the larger cities. The Dutch roast coffee properly, and make it well. The service is in individual pots, or in demi-tasses on a silver, nickle, or brass tray, and accompanied by a miniature pitcher containing just enough cream (usually whipped), a small dish about the size of an individual butter plate holding three squares of sugar, and a slender glass of water. This service is universal; the glass of water always goes with the coffee. It is the one sure way for Americans to get a drink of water. It is the custom in Holland to repair to some open-air café or indoor coffee house for the after-dinner cup of coffee. One seldom takes his coffee in the place where he has his dinner. These cafés are many, and some are elaborately designed and furnished. One of the most interesting is the St. Joris at the Hague, furnished in the old Dutch style. The approved way of making coffee in Holland is the French drip method.
Norway and Sweden. French and German influences mark the roasting, grinding, preparing, and serving of coffee in Norway and Sweden. Generally speaking, not so much chicory is used, and a great deal of whipped cream is employed. In Norway, the boiling method has many followers. A big (open) copper kettle is used. This is filled with water, and the coffee is dumped in and boiled. In the poorer-class country homes, the copper kettle is brought to the table and set upon a wooden plate. The coffee is served directly from the kettle in cups. In better-class homes, the coffee is poured from the kettle into silver coffee pots in the kitchen, and the silver coffee pots are brought to the table. The only thing approaching coffee houses are the “coffee rooms” which are to be found in Christiania. These are small one-room affairs in which the plainer sorts of foods, such as porridge, may be purchased with the coffee. They are cheap, and are largely frequented by the poorer class of students, who use them as places in which to study while they drink their coffee.
In Russia and Switzerland, French and German methods obtain. Russia, however, drinks more tea than coffee, which by the masses is prepared in Turkish fashion, when obtainable. Usually, the coffee is only a cheap “substitute.” The so-called café à la Russe of the aristocracy, is strong black coffee flavored with lemon. Another Russian recipe calls for the coffee to be placed in a large punch bowl, and covered with a layer of finely chopped apples and pears; then cognac is poured over the mass, and a match applied.
Roumania and Servia drink coffee prepared after either the Turkish or the French style, depending on the class of the drinker and where it is served. Substitutes are numerous.
In Spain and Portugal the French type of café flourishes as in Italy. In Madrid, some delightful cafés are to be found around the Puerto del Sol, where coffee and chocolate are the favorite drinks. The coffee is made by the drip process, and is served in French fashion.
Coffee Manners and Customs in North America
The introduction of coffee and tea into North America effected a great change in the meal-time beverages of the people. Malt beverages had been succeeded by alcoholic spirits and by cider. These in turn were supplanted by tea and coffee.
Canada. In Canada, we find both French and English influences at work in the preparation and serving of the beverage;[Pg 687] “Yankee” ideas also have entered from across the border. Some years back (about 1910) A. McGill, chief chemist of the Canadian Inland Revenue Department, suggested an improvement upon Baron von Liebig’s method, whereby Canadians might obtain an ideal cup of coffee. It was to combine two well-known methods. One was to boil a quantity of ground coffee to get a maximum of body or soluble matter. The other was to percolate a similar quantity to get the needed caffeol. By combining the decoction and the infusion, a finished beverage rich in body and aroma might be had. Most Canadians continue to drink tea, however, although coffee consumption is increasing.
Mexico. In Mexico, the natives have a custom peculiarly their own. The roasted beans are pounded to a powder in a cloth bag which is then immersed in a pot of boiling water and milk. The vaquero, however, pours boiling water on the powdered coffee in his drinking cup, and sweetens it with a brown sugar stick.
Among the upper classes in Mexico the following interesting method obtains for making coffee:
Roast one pound until the beans are brown inside. Mix with the roasted coffee one teaspoonful of butter, one of sugar, and a little brandy. Cover with a thick cloth. Cool for one hour; then grind. Boil one quart of water. When boiling, put in the coffee and remove from fire immediately. Let it stand a few hours, and strain through a flannel bag, and keep in a stone jar until required for use; then heat quantity required.
United States. In no country has there been so marked an improvement in coffee making as in the United States. Although in many parts, the national beverage is still indifferently prepared, the progress made in recent years has been so great that the friends of coffee are hopeful that before long it may be said truly that coffee making in America is a national honor and no longer the national disgrace that it was in the past.
Left, copper pot with wooden handle and iron legs designed to stand in the coals—Center, glass-globe pot, for stove use, enclosed in felt-lined brass cosey—Right, hand-made hammered-brass kettle for stove use]
Already, in the more progressive homes, and in the best hotels and restaurants, the coffee is uniformly good, and the service all that it should be. The American breakfast cup is a food-beverage because of the additions of milk or cream and sugar; and unlike Europe, this same generous cup serves again as a necessary part of the noonday and evening meals for most people.
Day-and-Night Coffee Room, Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas
HOTEL BARS REPLACED BY COFFEE ROOMS IN THE UNITED STATES
One effect of prohibition has been to lead many hotels to feature their coffee service, bringing back the modern type of coffee room illustrated above]
The important and indispensable part that sugar plays in the make-up of the American cup of coffee was ably set forth by Fred Mason, vice-president of the American Sugar Refining Co., when he said:
The coffee cup and the sugar bowl are inseparable table companions. Most of us did not realize this until the war came, with its attendant restrictions on everything we did, and we found that the sugar bowl had disappeared from all public eating places. No longer could we make an unlimited number of trips to the sugar bowl to sweeten our coffee; but we had to be content with what was doled out to us with scrupulous care—a quantity so small at times that it gave only a hint of sweetness to our national beverage.
Then it was that we really appreciated how indispensable the proper amount of sugar was to a good, savory cup of coffee, and we missed it as much as we would seasoning from certain cooked foods. Secretly we consoled ourselves with the promise that if the day ever came when sugar bowls made their appearance once more, filled temptingly with the sweet granules that were “gone but not forgotten,” we should put an extra lump or an additional spoonful of sugar into our coffee to help us forget the joyless war days.
Since sugar is so necessary to our enjoyment of this popular beverage, it is obvious that a considerable part of all the sugar we consume must find its way into the national coffee cup. The stupendous amount of 40,000,000,000 cups of coffee is consumed in this country each year. Taking two teaspoonfuls or two lumps as a fair average per cup, we find that about 800,000,000 pounds of sugar, almost one-tenth of our total annual consumption, are required to sweeten Uncle Sam’s coffee cup. This is specially significant when one considers that, with the single exception of Australia, the United States consumes more sugar per capita than any country on earth.
Sugar adds high food value to the stimulative virtues of coffee. The beverage itself stimulates the mental and physical powers, while the sugar it contains is fuel for the body and furnishes it with energy. Sugar is such a concentrated food that the amount used by the average person in two cups of coffee is enough to furnish the system with more energy than could be derived from 40 oysters on the half-shell.
Since prohibition, the average citizen is drinking one hundred more cups of coffee a year than he did in the old days; and a good part of the increase is attributed to newly formed habits of drinking coffee between meals, at soda fountains, in tea and coffee shops, at hotels, and even in the homes. In other words, the increase is due to coffee drinking that directly takes the place of malt and spirituous liquors. There have come into being the hotel coffee room; the custom of afternoon coffee drinking; and free coffee-service in many factories, stores, and offices.
In colonial days, must or ale first gave way to tea, and then to coffee as a breakfast beverage. The Boston “tea party” clinched the case for coffee; but in the meantime, coffee was more or less of an after-dinner function, or a between-meals drink, as in Europe. In Washington’s time, dinner was usually served at three o’clock in the afternoon, and at informal dinner parties the company “sat till sunset—then coffee.”
In the early part of the nineteenth century, coffee became firmly intrenched as the one great American breakfast beverage; and its security in this position would seem to be unassailable for all time.
Today, all classes in the United States begin and end the day with coffee. In the home, it is prepared by boiling, infusion or steeping, percolation, and filtration; in the hotels and restaurants, by infusion, percolation, and filtration. The best practise favors true percolation (French drip), or filtration.
Steeping coffee in American homes (an English heirloom) is usually performed in a china or earthenware jug. The ground coffee has boiling water poured upon it until the jug is half full. The infusion is stirred briskly. Next, the jug is filled by pouring in the remainder of the boiling water, the infusion is again stirred, then permitted to settle, and finally is poured through a strainer or filter cloth before serving.
When a pumping percolator or a double glass filtration device is used, the water may be cold or boiling at the beginning as the maker prefers. Some wet the coffee with cold water before starting the brewing process.
For genuine percolator, or drip coffee, French and Austrian china drip pots are mostly employed. The latest filtration devices are described in chapter XXXIV.
The Creole, or French market, coffee for which New Orleans has long been famous is made from a concentrated coffee extract prepared in a drip pot. First, the ground coffee has poured over it sufficient boiling water thoroughly to dampen it, after which further additions of boiling water, a tablespoonful at a time, are poured upon it at[Pg 690] five minute intervals. The resulting extract is kept in a tightly corked bottle for making café au lait or café noir as required. A variant of the Creole method is to brown three tablespoonfuls of sugar in a pan, to add a cup of water, and to allow it to simmer until the sugar is dissolved; to pour this liquid over ground coffee in a drip pot, to add boiling water as required, and to serve black or with cream or hot milk, as desired.
In New Orleans, coffee is often served at the bedside upon waking, as a kind of early breakfast function.
The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 served to introduce the Vienna café to America. Fleischmann’s Vienna Café and Bakery was a feature of our first international exposition. Afterward, it was transferred to Broadway, New York, where for many years it continued to serve excellent coffee in Vienna style next door to Grace Church.
The opportunity is still waiting for the courageous soul who will bring back to our larger cities this Vienna café or some Americanized form of the continental or sidewalk café, making a specialty of tea, coffee, and chocolate.
The old Astor House was famous for its coffee for many years, as was also Dorlon’s from 1840 to 1922.
Members of the family of the late Colonel Roosevelt began to promote a Brazil coffee-house enterprise in New York in 1919. It was first called Café Paulista, but it is now known as the Double R coffee house, or Club of South America, with a Brazil branch in the 40’s and an Argentine branch on Lexington Avenue. Coffee is made and served in Brazilian style; that is, full city roast, pulverized grind, filtration made; service, black or with hot milk. Sandwiches, cakes, and crullers are also to be had.
One of New York’s newest clubs is known as the Coffee House. It is in West Forty-fifth Street, and has been in existence since December, 1915, when it was opened with an informal dinner, at which the late Joseph H. Choate, one of the original members, outlined the purpose and policies of the club.
The founders of the Coffee House were convinced—as the result of the high dues and constantly increasing formality and discipline in the social clubs in New York—that there was need here for a moderate-priced eating and meeting place, which should be run in the simplest possible way and with the least possible expense.
At the beginning of its career, the club framed, adopted, and has since lived up to, a most informal constitution: “No officers, no liveries, no tips, no set speeches, no charge accounts, no RULES.”
The membership is made up, for the most part, of painters, writers, sculptors, architects, actors, and members of other professions. Members are expected to pay cash for all orders. There are no proposals of candidates for membership. The club invites to join it those whom it believes to be in sympathy with the ideals of its founders.
The method of preparing coffee for individual service in the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, which has been adopted by many first-class hotels and restaurants that do not serve urn-made coffee exclusively, is the French drip plus careful attention to all the contributing factors for making coffee in perfection, and is thus described by the hotel’s steward:
Its story is told on page 614
A French china drip coffee pot is used. It is kept in a warm heater; and when the coffee is ordered, this pot is scalded with hot water. A level tablespoonful of coffee, ground to about the consistency of granulated sugar, is put into the upper and percolator part of the coffee pot. Fresh boiling water is then poured through the coffee and allowed to percolate into the lower part of the pot. The secret of success, according to our experience, lies in having the coffee freshly ground, and the water as near the boiling[Pg 691] point as possible, all during the process. For this reason, the coffee pot should be placed on a gas stove or range. The quantity of coffee can be varied to suit individual taste. We use about ten percent more ground coffee for after dinner cups than we do for breakfast. Our coffee is a mixture of Old Government Java and Bogota.
C. Scotty, chef at the Hotel Ambassador, New York, thus describes the method of making coffee in that hostelry:
In the first place, it is essential that the coffee be of the finest quality obtainable; secondly, better results are obtained by using the French filterer, or coffee bag.
Twelve ounces of coffee to one gallon of water for breakfast.
Sixteen ounces of coffee to one gallon of water for dinner.
Boiling water should be poured over the coffee, sifoned, and put back several times. We do not allow the coffee grounds to remain in the urn for more than fifteen to twenty minutes at any time.
The coffee service at the best hotels is usually in silver pots and pitchers, and includes the freshly made coffee, hot milk or cream (sometimes both), and domino sugar.
Within the last year (1921) many of the leading hotels, and some of the big railway systems, have adopted the custom of serving free a demi-tasse of coffee as soon as the guest-traveler seats himself at the breakfast table or in the dining car. “Small blacks,” the waiters call them, or “coffee cocktails,” according to their fancy.
At the Pequot coffee house, 91 Water Street, New York, a noonday restaurant in the heart of the coffee trade, an attempt has been made to introduce something of the old-time coffee house atmosphere.
The Childs chain of restaurants recently began printing on its menus, in brackets before each item, the number of calories as computed by an expert in nutrition. Coffee with a mixture of milk and cream is credited with eighty-five calories, a well known coffee substitute with seventy calories, and tea with eighteen calories. The Childs chain of 92 restaurants serves 40,000,000 cups of coffee a year, made from 375 tons of ground coffee, and figuring an average of 53 cups to the pound.
The Thompson chain of one hundred restaurants serves 160,000 cups of coffee per day, or more than 58,000,000 cups per year.
Coffee Customs in South America
Argentine. Coffee is very popular as a beverage in Argentina. Café con léche—coffee with milk, in which the proportion of coffee may vary from one-fourth to two-thirds—is the usual Argentine breakfast beverage. A small cup of coffee is generally taken after meals, and it is also consumed to a considerable extent in cafés.
Brazil. In Brazil every one drinks coffee and at all hours. Cafés making a specialty of the beverage, and modeled after continental originals, are to be found a-plenty in Rio de Janeiro, Santos, and other large cities. The custom prevails of roasting the beans high, almost to carbonization, grinding them fine, and then boiling after the Turkish fashion, percolating in French drip pots, steeping in cold water for several hours, straining and heating the liquid for use as needed, or filtering by means of conical linen sacks suspended from wire rings.
The Brazilian loves to frequent the cafés and to sip his coffee at his ease. He is very continental in this respect. The wide-open doors, and the round-topped marble tables, with their small cups and saucers set around a sugar basin, make inviting pictures. The customer pulls toward him one of the cups and immediately a waiter comes and fills it with coffee, the charge for which is about three cents. It is a common thing for a Brazilian to consume one dozen to two dozen cups of black coffee a day. If one pays a social visit, calls upon the president of the Republic, or any lesser official, or on a business acquaintance, it is a signal for an attendant to serve coffee. Café au lait is popular in the morning; but except for this service, milk or cream is never used. In Brazil, as in the Orient, coffee is a symbol of hospitality.
In Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, very much the same customs prevail of making and serving the beverage.
Coffee Drinking in Other Countries
In Australia and New Zealand, English methods for roasting, grinding, and making coffee are standard. The beverage usually contains thirty to forty percent chicory. In the bush, the water is boiled in a billy can. Then the powdered coffee is added; and when the liquid comes again to a boil, the coffee is done. In the cities, practically the same method is followed. The general rule in the antipodes seems to be to “let it come to a boil”, and then to remove it from the fire.
In Cuba the custom is to grind the coffee fine, to put it in a flannel sack suspended over a receiving vessel, and to pour cold water on it. This is repeated many times, until the coffee mass is well saturated. The first drippings are repoured over the bag. The final result is a highly concentrated extract, which serves for making café au lait, or café noir, as desired.
In Martinique, coffee is made after the French fashion. In Panama, French and American methods obtain; as also in the Philippines.