A World Tour of Coffee Culture: Exploring the Unique Coffee Traditions of Different Countries

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A World Tour of Coffee Culture: Exploring the Unique Coffee Traditions of Different Countries

A comprehensive guide exploring the rich coffee cultures and traditions across the globe, from Ethiopia to Italy to Japan and beyond.
A World Tour of Coffee Culture: Exploring the Unique Coffee Traditions of Different Countries

 Coffee is enjoyed around the world, but coffee culture varies greatly between countries. From different brewing methods to unique coffee shop experiences, the traditions surrounding coffee are as rich and diverse as the brew itself.

Join us on a world tour of coffee culture to discover the myriad ways different nations have made this beloved beverage their own.

Table of Contents

  • Ethiopia: The Birthplace of Coffee
  • Italy: Espresso and the Coffee Bar
  • France: Café au Lait and the Sidewalk Cafe
  • Cuba: Café Cubano and Coffee Growing
  • Japan: The Way of Tea Meets Coffee
  • Australia: The Flat White
  • Scandinavia: Coffee, Hygge and Fika
  • Vietnam: Strong Coffee with Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Brazil: Coffee Agriculture Giant
  • Colombia: Coffee Regions and Quality
  • Indonesia: Coffee Plantations and Kopi Luwak
  • United States: Coffee Shops and Coffee to Go
  • Conclusion
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Ethiopia: The Birthplace of Coffee

As the legend goes, coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia by a goat herder named Kaldi in the 9th century. Kaldi noticed his goats became energetic after eating the berries from a certain bush. Curious, he tried the berries himself and experienced the same effect.

The coffee plant is native to Ethiopia, and the country remains a major producer of Arabica beans today. Ethiopian coffee ceremonies are an important part of the culture. It's customary to wash green coffee beans before roasting them over an open flame. The roasted coffee is then ground with a mortar and pestle and slowly brewed in a jebena pot. Sharing coffee with neighbors represents friendship and connection.

Italy: Espresso and the Coffee Bar

Italy has one of the most distinctive coffee cultures in the world. Espresso, which originated in Italy in the early 20th century, forms the foundation. An espresso shot is just 1 oz., brewed at high pressure to produce a concentrated coffee with a thick crema on top.

The Italian coffee bar is a cultural institution, a gathering place for friends and neighbors to stand at the bar for a quick espresso shot. Coffee drinks like cappuccino and caffe latte are popular menu items. Unique regional variations include the caffè corretto, an espresso "corrected" with a splash of grappa or other liquor.

France: Café au Lait and the Sidewalk Cafe

The French café culture is iconic. Crowded Parisian cafés with small round tables are often shown with patrons sipping café au lait (coffee with steamed milk) or café crème. Coffee in France is strong and bold, often roasted until very dark and oily.

The sidewalk café scene is a pillar of French culture. Locals and tourists alike watch the world go by from the classic green chairs facing out to the street. France also produces many distinctive coffee drinks, like a café noisette, an espresso served with just a splash of warm milk.

Cuba: Café Cubano and Coffee Growing

Coffee has been grown in Cuba since the late 18th century. After the Haitian Revolution disrupted the coffee supply from that island, Cuba ramped up production to meet demand. Much of the Spanish colonial architecture in Cuban cities like Havana and Trinidad was financed by the coffee trade.

Cuban coffee culture centers around the café Cubano, also known as cafecito. To make this strong, sweet espresso, sugar is added to the espresso before it finishes brewing. Shots of café Cubano are frequently accompanied by sandwiches or croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes).

Japan: The Way of Tea Meets Coffee

The Japanese tea ceremony has influenced the growth of coffee culture in Japan. Attention to subtle flavors, hospitality, and beautiful presentation are hallmarks of the Japanese approach to coffee. Espresso-based coffee drinks have grown in popularity since the mid-1900s.

Kissaten are unique Japanese coffee shop with a tranquil atmosphere. Coffee breaks in Japan will often include small sandwiches or pastries, paired nicely with a cup of coffee. Japanese iced coffee, made by cold brewing, is a popular summer drink.

Australia: The Flat White

Australia has a vibrant, growing coffee scene centered around the flat white - a coffee made with two shots of espresso topped with velvety steamed milk. Though its exact origins are debated, the flat white arose in Australia or New Zealand in the 1980s. It has since spread around the world.

Independent cafés featuring quality, locally roasted beans are popular hangout spots in Australia. The coffee shop culture encourages lingering over a cup with friends or plugging in a laptop to work for hours. Brunch cafés, many with outdoor seating, are also popular.

Scandinavia: Coffee, Hygge and Fika

Scandinavian countries have the highest per capita coffee consumption in the world. Coffee is integral to the cultural concept of hygiene - a feeling of coziness, comfort, and well-being. Hygge is often experienced over coffee shared with friends and family.

Swedes call coffee break fika. More than just drinking coffee, fika is about taking time to slow down, appreciate life's small joys, and connect with others. The Swedish coffee break includes coffee or tea along with baked goods like cinnamon rolls, cardamom rolls, or coffee bread.

Vietnam: Strong Coffee with Sweetened Condensed Milk

Vietnam has a bustling café culture all its own. Vietnamese coffee is almost always served strong, slow-brewed through individual phin filters right at the table. The signature style is cà phê sữa đá, or iced coffee with condensed milk.

Sipping the dark coffee against the backdrop of Hanoi's leafy streets is a quintessential Vietnamese experience. At cafés, beers or other drinks are frequently ordered alongside coffee to balance the sweetness. Vietnamese-style coffee is also widely available in Vietnamese immigrant communities overseas.

Brazil: Coffee Agriculture Giant

Brazil produces around 35% of the world's coffee beans, more than any other country. Coffee cultivation took off there in the 1800s after the development of hearty hybrid coffee plants suitable for Brazil's climate.

Traditional Brazilian coffee is prepared using a cloth filter, brewing a full-bodied, low-acidity coffee. Adding sugar is optional. Café com leite is coffee with hot milk, the Brazilian version of a latte. Little espresso is consumed in Brazil - slow-brewed coffee is king.

Colombia: Coffee Regions and Quality

Colombia is another coffee giant, second only to Brazil in production. The different coffee-growing regions each produce beans with distinct characteristics. Colombian coffee labels will often indicate the origin.

Colombians take pride in their coffee. Juan Valdez, the fictional Colombian coffee farmer and his mule Conchita, was created as a national marketing symbol in 1959. Going to a café is part of the daily social ritual. Locals order tinto, straight black coffee, or Mesa, which comes with small bread rolls.

Indonesia: Coffee Plantations and Kopi Luwak

The volcanic soil and tropical climate of Indonesia is well-suited for coffee agriculture. Dutch colonists began coffee cultivation there in the 17th century. Many plantations opened in the late 1800s.

An intriguing Indonesian coffee is kopi luwak, or civet coffee, made from partially digested coffee cherries eaten and excreted by the Asian palm civet. The enzymes in the civet's digestive process affect the bean. Kopi luwak is prized for its smooth, earthy flavor.

United States: Coffee Shops and Coffee to Go

The US coffee scene is dominated by chains like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Peet's Coffee. But there are many regional specialties too. New Orleans is known for café au lait and chicory coffee. San Francisco has pioneered high-end, specialized coffee houses since the 1900s.

The US coffee culture is fast-paced, and always on the go. Iced coffee, cold brew, and Frappuccinos are popular, as are drive-through windows and coffee trucks. Coffee is more of a grab-and-go beverage rather than an occasion to linger over.


Our tour around the world revealed the incredible diversity of coffee culture across different nations. From the thick, sweet Vietnamese-style brew to the 1-oz Italian espresso shot, coffee lovers can enjoy the drink in many forms.

More than a beverage, coffee is intricately woven into the social fabric and daily life of countries and regions worldwide. Though coffee may look and taste quite different from place to place, its power to bring people together remains the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did coffee originally come from?

Coffee originated in Ethiopia, where the coffee plant grows wild. According to legend, coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia by a goat herder around the 9th century.

Which countries produce the most coffee today?

Brazil and Vietnam are the top two coffee-producing nations today. Other major producers include Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, India, Honduras, Uganda, and Mexico.

What are some classic coffee drinks from around the world?

Iconic global coffee drinks include espresso and cappuccino from Italy, café au lait from France, café Cubano from Cuba, flat white from Australia and New Zealand, and cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk) from Vietnam.

Where was the espresso machine invented?

The first patented espresso machine was created by Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy in 1884. The espresso brewing process was later perfected in Milan in the early 20th century.

How is cold brew coffee made?

Cold brew coffee is brewed by steeping ground coffee in room temperature or cold water for an extended time, usually 12 hours or longer. This low-temperature steeping avoids the bitterness from hot extraction while producing a smooth, highly concentrated coffee.

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