“Bruderschaft der Kaffeesider,”
(Brotherhood of the Coffee Maker)
Perhaps the best Coffeehouse in the world resides in Vienna. Incredibly roasted beans, well trained and personable staff serving up the finest drinks the world can find. And that Coffeehouse is
OK…so now let’s move to that “other” Vienna.
When speaking of coffee in Austria, one starts and stops with Vienna.
Legend has it that a native of Poland, a former interpreter for the Turkish army named Franz George Kolschitzky saved the city and Christendom in Europe and thus became a national hero and the first Vienna coffee entrepreneur.
Mohammed IV sent an army of 300,00 men to Europe to destroy Christendom and eventually conquer all of Europe. They reached Vienna on July 7, 1683 and quickly took over the city and cut it off from the rest of the world. The Austrians had been promised by Poland’s King John Sobieski that they would send troops to relieve the siege. But they would need someone to pass through enemy lines to carry the word that rescue was needed. Enter Franz George Kolschitzky who had lived for many years among the Turks and knew their language and customs.
On August 13, 1683, Kolschitzky, dressed as a Turkish soldier, passed through enemy lines to reach the Polish army. This was a journey he made several times, passing along information and bringing back hope to the besieged troops and residents. It’s said that he had to swim the four intervening arms of the Danube on each trip. In time, the Polish army arrived and joined forces with the Austrian defenders on the summit of Mount Kahlenberg and readied the troops for what would be one of the most dramatic moments in history. Kolschitzky crossed through lines one more time to coordinate the signals that would be given to initiate the attack.
On September 12, the Turks were routed and the invaders fled leaving tents, oxen camels, grain and many bags of curious green beans. As the bounty was being distributed, no one wanted the bags filled with coffee….no one, that is, but Kolschitzy who, given his Turkish experience, knew the “gold” he had scored. Kolschitzky soon was teaching the Viennese the art of preparing coffee and later set up the first public Turkish Coffee booth in the city.
The hero Kolscihitzky was presented a house by the grateful government and there, at the sign of the Blue Bottle, he became a coffee house keeper for many years. This is a nice story…happy ending. However there is a little more to it.
It’s said that after receiving his sacks of green coffee, he began selling it door to door in little cups served on a wooden platter. After renting a shop in Bischof-hof he began to petition the council that for his valor and bravery he should receive a house with “good will” attached; a shop in a growing business district.
M. Bermann wrote in 1880 the “His petitions to the municipal council are amazing examples of measureless self-conceit and the boldest greed. He seemed determined to get the utmost out of his own self sacrifice. He insisted upon the most highly deserved reward, such as the Romans bestowed upon their Curtius, the Lacedaemonians upon their Pompilius, the Athenians upon Seneca, with whom he modestly compared himself.”
After much haggling back and forth, the municipal council decreed that Kolschitzky and his wife, Maria Ursula, would receive a house at the time known as 30 (now 8) Haidgasse.
Bruderschaft der Kaffeesider (Brotherhood of the Coffee Maker) was what early coffeehouses in Europe were called, and some of the earliest were those in Vienna, Austria.
Initially, these early coffeehouses were dark, and dirty and often involved gambling. However, with the rising middle class, coffeehouses became more comfortable.; luxurious even, with music playing, public readings, artists, intellectuals – all gathering for stimulating conversation. Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt and Theodor Herzl could all be found at their local coffeehouse. Mozart even wrote to his wife in 1701 about calling his assistant to “bring a black coffee.” It was during this time that a tradition was started that is carried on today: a small cup of water is delivered with every cup of coffee.
The coffee culture is still very much alive in Vienna with a curious mix of old and new. Waiters oftentimes still wear tuxedos and the drinks (and pastries) are served in grand fashion as you relax on your velvet chair. The “new wave” of coffeeshops that has slowly emerged are smaller with baristas likely in denim aprons and they actually concentrate more on the coffee. The old shops are curious throwbacks with (often) rude service, waiters in ties and grand, open spaces. These shops are worth a visit if for nothing but to feel the history and elegance of days gone by.
One cannot just order “COFFEE” in Austria. You’ll get (at best) a confused or haughty look. At worst, you might get slapped!
Here’s some of the coffee variations you can order
Kleiner Brauner and Grober Brauner: This means “Little brown one” or “large brown one.” This is a black coffee with a little bit of milk. However, it’s typically not filtered; more likely espresso.
Melange: The king of coffee. A mix of frothed milk and steamed coffee similar to the Italian cappuccino. But this one can be consumed any time of day (without glances and grimaces)
Milchkaffee or Café Latte: A large coffee with frothed milk.
Einspanner: Strong black coffee typically served in a high glass with a dash of whipped cream.
Fiaker: Named after horse and carriages. This is a not common drink but it’s coffee with a shot of Austrian rum and whipped cream.
Mazagran: A cold Fiaker variation. Coffee, ice, a shot of rum and possibly a bit of sugar. Hot and tired from your walking tour? This might be the drink for you!
Verlangerter: Diluted and thus weaker, but larger version of the Grober Brauner, typically served with milk. Means “extended one.”
Schwarzer or Mokka: Strong black coffee, normally consumed with a lot of sugar, but served without.
Kurzer or Espresso: The international term “espresso” is more commonly used than the traditional “Kurzer” (meaning “short one”)
Turkisher: Meaning “Turkish one.” Finely ground coffee boiled with a little water and served very hot with grounds still in the cup.
Eiskaffe: Cold coffee traditionally served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and whipped cream.
Cappuccino: Traditionally, what is sold under this name is NOT the cappuccino as we know it but rather a regional variation made from coffee and whipped cream. The “new wave” coffee shops might serve the traditional cappuccino.
FUN FACTS: Per Capita Coffee Consumption in Austria is among the highest in the world. Higher even than Italy! Even more surprising, are the countries that actually drink MORE! They include Finnish, Danish and Germans.
As one goes north to south in Europe, the desired roast level seems to get darker and darker. Coffee beans in Austria are typically roasted to a very dark color. This is also called a Southern Italian or French roast.