Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages, but everyone seems to have their own version of it. Ensure your travels are caffeinated the proper way with our guide to terminology and ordering etiquette wherever you are in the world.
Take yourself on a coffee adventure
Instead of torturing some barista in Hawaii with your take on a flat white, try getting with the local grind. After all, with art (yes - coffee is art), a poor replica is never as good as a fresh new original. So next time you’re on holiday ditch your regular fix, have a taste of the local brew and go on a coffee adventure.
Spain: Sweet & hot
Ask for “Café Bombón”
Like it short, strong and sweet? How about an equal measure of espresso and sweetened condensed milk? This sweet treat originated in Valencia, but can be found throughout Spain.
Best time to enjoy: as a dessert.
Turkey: Strong & rich
Ask for “Türk kahvesi”
All you need to know is that it’s strong and if you take sugar - ask for “orta şekerli” (pronounced orr-ta sheh-kerr-li) before brewing. Adding sugar or milk at the table will ruin the deep earthy flavours.
Best time to enjoy: after a meal and with a glass of water.
Vietnam: Cold & Sweet
Ask for “Cà phê sữa đá”
What better way to beat the heat of Hanoi than with an iced coffee? However if you're in doubt about whether the water used is safe, have a can of cola instead.
Best time to enjoy: when you know the ice/water is safe to drink.
Japan: Canned & convenient
Ask for “Kan kohi”
Ready-to-drink coffee in a can has been popular in Japan since the late 60’s. It comes in a variety of options - with sugar, milk, or decaffeinated. Even better, it’s served all over Japan directly from vending machines - hot in winter and cold in summer.
Best time to enjoy: any time you like - just not on a train, that’s frowned upon.
Finland: Rich &...cheesy?
Ask for “Kaffeost”
A hard cheese (think halloumi) made from cow, goat or reindeer milk called “Leipäjuusto” is added to a cup of black coffee. Once you’ve finished your espresso, eat the cheese - which will have soaked up the coffee and softened.
Best time to enjoy: when you need to come in from the cold.
Austria: Smooth & sweet
Ask for “Kaisermelange”
Egg yolk and honey is beaten together until smooth, then strong espresso poured over the top. This coffee originated in Vienna and translates in English to the King’s coffee.
Best time to enjoy: when you’re feeling a bit fancy.
Indonesia: Flaming hot!
Ask for “Kopi joss”
A piece of flaming hot charcoal is added to a large glass of sweet black coffee. Served boiling - let the coal cool, then remove. Make sure you let the glass cool before taking a sip! The coal is said to soften the coffee, making it easier on your stomach.
Best time to enjoy: whenever you need a sweet pick me up.
USA: Rich & clean
Ask for “siphon coffee”
Some connoisseur coffee shops in New York are reintroducing this complex brewing process that was abandoned by the French in the 1840s. The flavours are rich, clean and subtle. However, it’s renewed popularity may have as much to do with the brewing apparatus as the coffee itself, which looks like a mad scientist’s lab - and makes for great viewing!
Best time to enjoy: when you’re after entertainment with your caffeine.
Top coffee tips
- Coffee is a diuretic, so in warmer climates remember to drink plenty of water as well.
- Stay sharp - there’s no substitute for sleep. If you’re driving don’t rely on coffee to keep you alert.
- If it’s unsafe to drink the local water you should also avoid cold drinks that aren’t prepared in a factory, including iced tea and coffee.
- Of course, use common sense and be careful with hot pots, cups and open flames. You can burn more than just your mouth!
Finally, if these exotic coffees sound a little too far out of your comfort zone, don’t forget that Starbucks is everywhere…and they make flat whites.