Within global culture, coffee is a beverage linking even the most distant and the most diverse civilisations. Once discovered, it remained forever a privileged beverage for every human being in the world to create their own ritual around.Even when it seems all the stories about coffee have already been told, it is not quite so. The history of a beverage that represents a mandatory part of the day in the lives of millions of people in the world is well known, but coffee remains a source of inspiration, as its flavour and recipes, in which it features as the key ingredient, are constantly experimented with. We say “part of day” because consuming coffee is something everyone approaches in their own way, designs it around their needs and way of life. Coffee is the beverage that kickstarts the day, it goes without saying during a break at work, coffee is at the centre of the modern human’s social life as “meeting for coffee” means meeting friends, colleagues, talk, make a deal, bare your soul.
Turning drinking coffee into a ritual is an individual matter, as shown by the biographies of genius minds, eccentric artist and creators. For example, Truman Capote, author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” would never start writing without coffee, which he consumed during the early hours of his working day; later in the day, he would switch to mint tea. The author of “The Human Comedy”, a man who wrote over a hundred novels, Honoré de Balzac, the most important literary artist of the French realism and an experienced hedonist, drank several litres of coffee per day. Some biographers even put it at fifty cups per day. This is understandable, having in mind the time he spent working, which made him one of the most prolific authors of all times. Beethoven composed drinking a cup of coffee made from exactly sixty ground beans, and Sartre and Proust cared not for time of day, when it came to black coffee.
Coffee came into the lives of European citizens via the merchant roads in the 16th century, first through the Republic of Venice, while Arabica, one of the two best known varieties of coffee, was cultivated in the Arabic peninsula for two centuries prior. The plant itself was discovered far earlier and the discovery is weaved into many legends. In Serbia, thanks to historic circumstances, coffee was discovered earlier than in the European metropolises like Paris and Vienna. According to historical sources, the first pub serving coffee was opened in Dorćol. Even though the Serbian word for “pub”, kafana, came into use later, in the 18th century, coffee had already been sold in khans and meyhanes for centuries. The expression “Turkish coffee”, marking the original manner of preparation, which is still typical of the Orient, never went out of use.
Obsession with coffee that arose in 17th century Europe, both because of its flavour and because of caffeine, the magic ingredient with several effects that makes coffee what it is, caused numerous experiments and techniques of coffee brewing. Italy claimed global renown with its famous espresso and other recipes, even though the first apparatus for the preparation of this type of coffee – now the most popular type in the world – was designed in France. Today, there are four types of coffee in mass use: instant coffee, espresso, filter and black (domestic or Turkish). Numerous peoples designed their own manner of brewing and serving coffee, so we see the most diverse habits in Cuba, in Britain, in the Maghreb countries, in Middle East…
All types of coffee are served in Belgrade. Espresso is the most widely served, as a whole culture of coffee-bars was built around it, standing witness to the changes in the way of life brought about in the second half of the 20th century. Few places serve Turkish coffee, but this type is the dominant type enjoyed at home. Coffee specialties and desserts are also very popular and “coffee to go” has been a must in cafes, restaurants, roaster shops and even markets, for years. What is the most interesting side of all this, in cultural terms? The way we consume coffee always signalizes the changes in our cultural code and our way of life. It is always closely related to new habits, life dynamics, tempo of the daily grind, interpersonal relationships. One ritual replaces another. Only the coffee remains. The undisputed ruler of human habits throughout centuries and a privileged beverage.