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We’re traveling in Germany and are looking for something to drink. Perhaps we should have that most popular of German beverages….
That’s right, not beer and not even water. Germans are huge fans of coffee with 86% of them drinking it on a regular basis.
When I think of coffee in Europe, my mind thinks “Italy” with it rich espressos or France – A café au lait with a croissant anyone? But Germany is steeped (haha…steeped…get it?) in coffee history.
Who would guess that Europe’s first knowledge of coffee came from an Augsburg “official” physician and botanist, Leonhard Rauwolf who travelled to Aleppo in the early to mid 1570’s. The first printed reference to coffee (Chaube) was in his Rauwolf’s Travels….
If you have a mind to eat something or to drink other liquors, there is commonly an open shopt near it, where you sit down upon the ground or carpets. Among the rest they have a very good drink by them called Chaube that is almost as black as ink, and very good in illness, chiefly that of the stomach; of this they drink in the morning early in open places before everybody, without any fear or regard, out of China cups , as hot as they can; they put it often to their lips but drink but little at a time, and let it go round as they sit.
A German Orientalist and Secretary to the German Embassy published an account of his 1633-36 travels through Turkey and Persia in which he says:
They drink with their tobacco a certain black, water which they call cahwa, made of a fruit brought out of Egypt, and which is in colour like ordinary wheat, and in taste like Turkish wheat, and is of the bigness of a little bean… The Persians think it allays the natural heat.
I can’t imagine a coffee today pointing out THOSE flavor notes!
The first coffee periodical, “The New and Curios Coffee House” was issued in Leipsic in 1707 by Theophilo Georgi. It gave a “different” set of coffeehouse rules…..
I know that the gentlemen here speak French, Italian and other languages. I know also that in many coffee and tea meetings it is considered requisite that French be spoken. May I ask, however, that he who calls upon me should use no other language but German. We are all Germans, we are in Germany; shall we not conduct ourselves like true Germans?
Coffee drinking itself was introduced into Germany about 1670 with drinks appearing at the court of the great elector of Brandenburg in 1675. An English merchant opened the first coffee house in Hamburg in 1679-80 followed by Regensburg in 1689, Leipsic in 1694, Nuremberg in 1696, Stuttgart in 1712 Augsburg in 1713 and Berlin in 1721. This Berlin coffeehouse was opened by a foreigner and was granted its license to open, free of all rental charges, by King Frederick William I. It was known as the English coffeehouse. For many years, English merchants supplied the coffees consumed in northern Germany, while Italy supplied southern Germany.
During the time of Frederick the Great (1712-86) there were at least a dozen coffeehouses in the metropolitan district of Berlin. On the outskirts of town, coffee was served in tents.
But trouble was “brewing” (did it again!) in Prussia and Hanover. Frederick the Great, seeing how much money was being paid to foreign coffee agents for green beans, tried to restrict its use by making coffee a drink of the “quality.” Soon, all the German courts had their own coffee roasters, pots and cups. The wealthy class followed suit, sipping their coffee in beautiful porcelain cups and saucers made in Meissen.
But the poor grumbled. Why should they be denied this wonderful nectar? They were told to just “Leave it alone.” Besides, they were told, it’s bad for you and causes sterility! Many doctors of the day (themselves privileged enough to be allowed to drink coffee) lent themselves to a campaign against coffee with one of their favorite arguments being that women using the beverage must forego child bearing.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed his Kaffee Kantate (Coffee Cantata) in Leipzig in 1732 partly as an ode to coffee and partly as a stab at the movement in Germany to keep women from drinking coffee. In the Cantata, a young woman, Lieschen, pleads with her disapproving father to accept her devotion to drinking coffee….
(Oh! How sweet coffee does taste,
Better than a thousand kisses,
Milder than muscat wine.
Coffee, coffee, I've got to have it,
And if someone wants to perk me up, *
Oh, just give me a cup of coffee!)
On September 13, 1777, Frederick issued a Coffee and Beer Manifesto that stated:
It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country in consequence. Everybody is using coffee. If possible, this must be prevented. My people must drink beer. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were his ancestors, and his officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer; and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be depended upon to endure hardship or to beat his enemies in case of the occurrence of another war.
And thus, beer was restored to its honored place in Germany and coffee continued to be an item that could be afforded only by the exclusive court circles, the nobility and the officers of his army. But one can’t just pass a decree and stop everyone from drinking coffee, can one? It was found that even the Prussian military could not enforce coffee prohibition so Frederick had another idea…Might as well make some money! Frederick created a royal monopoly in coffee with his coffee ordinance known as "Déclaration du Roi concernant la vente du café brûlé" which forbade the roasting of coffee except in royal roasting establishments. With this decree, he made exceptions in the cases of the nobility, the clergy and government officials, but rejected all applications for coffee roasting licenses from the common folk. To the highest of the high of Prussian society, the king issued special licenses permitting them to do their own roasting, purchasing their supplies, of course, from the government at greatly increased prices. Frederick raked in tremendous revenue from the sale of these supplies and licenses became a kind of badge of membership in the upper class. The poorer classes? They had to get their coffee in the underground markets or were forced to fall back to drinking hot brews made of barley, wheat, corn, chicory and dried-fig.
Having the law was great, but collecting taxes and enforcement was incredibly difficult. Discharged wounded soldiers were employed with a primary duty of sniffing out roasting coffee to find those roasting without permits. The spies were given one-fourth of the fine collected. These “coffee smellers” as they were know became a great nuisance and were generally greatly disliked by people who just wanted their cup of coffee!
The Duke of Wurttemberg had his own idea. He sold exclusive Wurttemberg coffeehouse rights to financier Joseph Suess-Oppenheimer who, in turn, sold individual coffeehouse licenses to the highest bidder. Thus becoming the first coffeehouse king.
But as the years went by, these and other efforts to keep coffee exclusive to the rich and powerful failed and the beverage gradually took its place as one of Germanys favorite drinks.
Germany also has the distinction of introducing two icons to the coffee drinking world.
In 1908 German Housewife Melitta Bentz was tired of the over brewed coffee that came from her percolator and tried espresso instead. But the espresso makers of the day left grounds in the coffee. What’s an enterprising entrepreneur to do? She took some sheets from her son’s school book and used them to filter the espresso coffee. Voila! Not only were there no grounds, but the coffee tasted great! Thus was born of the Germany’s biggest companies – Melitta.
In 1954, Gottlob Widmann, who was also tired of the over extracted coffee brewed in a percolator, invented the first electronic drip coffee brewer.
Where will you find coffee in Germany?
A German Café – but they are not just about the coffee. You will often find groups relaxing at tables and on couches drinking coffee AND beer. As the evening progresses, the beer starts to flow a bit more and the party begins.
Another place to get coffee in Germany would be in a bakery – which are abundant and, although you might not have quite the variety of coffee drinks, less expensive than a café. And you can get an incredible sweet to go with your coffee as well!
Enjoy the tradition of Kaffee and Kutchen where locals sit in the afternoon and enjoy a slice of cake with a cup of steaming hot coffee.
But now, what (and how) to order?
First, greet your Verkäufer(in) (cashier) with a: Guten Morgen! / Guten Tag!
Good morning! / Good day!
Then you can place your order. Something like…Einen Kaffee, bitte.
A coffee, please
Want it to go? Add zum mitnehmen onto your sentence.
Want your coffee with milk? Don’t order a Milchkaffee (half cup of filter coffee topped with hot milk) but rather a Kaffee mit Milch in which case you should be served a cup of black coffee and you can add the “Milch” or Sahne (cream) yourself. Want a Latte? Well, a Latte Macchiato is a “bigger” drink (like a Latte in the US) with milk, espresso and foam. A Café Latte is smaller with about half the amount of milk. Same espresso, same foam. An Espresso Macchiato and Americano is the same as you would receive at Caffè Amouri.
If you just want a cup of coffee, just ask for Filterkaffee (filter coffee).
Other things you might want to ask for?
Coffee beans - Die Kaffeebohnen
Decaf Coffee – Der entkoffeinierter Kaffee
Soy Milk – Die Sojamilch
Almond Milk – Die Mandelmilch
Lactose free milk – Die laktosefreie milch
Cream – Die Sahne
Sugar – Der Zuker
Glass of water – Ein Glas Wasser
And, of course….
Where are the bathrooms, please? - Wo sind die Toiletten, bitte?
So, enjoy your FILTERKAFFEE, perhaps with DER ZUKER and DIE SAHNE while you enjoy your KUCHEN. Just be glad you don’t have to deal with any “coffee sniffers!”