On a recent trip to Greece, I sat huddled in the back of a small coffee handler while my guide explained how Greeks came to drink coffee. I was on the island of Crete, which has changed hands several times. In fact, this is the story of most places in Greece. Yet, despite this history, the people on the island are simply Greek, as if to suggest that once a cultural group no longer occupied the place, they simply packed up and went home. However, even if the groups physically left Greece, things inevitably did get left behind. Coffee is one of those things.
In that small coffee supplier’s shop, I heard a story about how coffee turned into the beverage it is today. Legend credits its discovery with an Abyssinian (a place in Ancient Arabia) who noticed that his goats had plenty of energy after eating a particular plant, a unique evergreen shrub. The goats seemed most concerned with the seeds, and the man decided to try the plan out for himself. At first, he didn’t like it – the plant tasted badly and made him feel a little sick. Upon throwing the pods in the fire, he noticed that it emitted a pleasing aroma. Intrigued, he began consuming the roasted seeds. Our modern day coffee beverage evolved from this simple discovery.
The journey this bean took before it got to Greece was rather extensive. Over time, the Persians discovered its merits and while traveling across the world, they brought this beverage with them. It wasn’t until the 9th Century, however, that the Persians began making it as a beverage. They introduced this beverage to the Ottoman Turks, who then brought it with them wherever they conquered.
This road, however, wasn’t easy for the Ottomans. Muslims disapproved of coffee drinking because their religion’s founder,Mohammad, had never tried it (it hadn’t been invented during his time). Despite that, the first coffee shop opened in Constantinople in 1475. In fact, this was the world’s first coffee shop, and it was a phenomenon that spread throughout the world. Eventually, the beverage trickled to nearby Greece, where it was embraced and become an integral part of the culture. Today, coffee is served throughout the world, including in Greece.
However, visit any country and you’ll notice that everyone has a different way of preparing it. In Greece, the most traditional method for making coffee is by using the traditional briki, a small, long handled pot that bowls finely ground coffee in a certain way so that it creates a delicious beverage. In fact, these pots do come in a variety of sizes, and each family has at least one pot. There are plenty of coffee shops throughout Greece and people drink it on a regular basis in their homes. It’s also an integral part of entertaining.
When was the last time you had a Greek coffee? If you never have, it’s worth it to invest in your own briki and learn how to do make it properly by boiling the ground coffee and water together until the coffee is absolutely perfect.