Café Culture and the Continent

What warms a cold winters day than that of the promise of a hot beverage?
If you’re more comfortable at home with your tea, out and about with your coffee on the go or taking a break from it all in your favourite café, hot drinks are a pinnacle of our culture and we can’t escape it.

The liberalisation of the workplace with more and more jobs becoming work from home, and the increased amount of students, café’s have arisen in great numbers to accommodate this new phenomenon. Only a few decades ago, coffee and tea were classified as exotic drinks, with only the higher tier of society having them as a normal day-to-day beverage. Snap to 2016 and the global brands of Starbucks, Lavazza and Costa dominating the international coffee scene, and the newer chains branching across the UK it’s easy to see that today, coffee and tea are a staple to our culture.

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Café Allongé

As an avid tea and coffee drinker myself I can not complain with the new expansion of hot drinks with new and exciting flavourings and creations appearing almost weekly. Yet i can’t help notice how tea and coffee are no longer valued for their original tastes and pleasures. It’s only when I go back to France I realise how commercialised our British Coffee and Tea tastes have become. Along with the “normalities” of italian coffee, the lattes, cappuccino and americanos, we seem to forget the humble filter coffee and builder’s tea that our projected culture roots us Brits as.

We are now swamped with the choices of extra syrups to cover the coffee flavour, caramel macchiatos, vanilla cappuccinos and various toppings of cinnamon, vanilla and chopped nuts, whipped cream and sauces. Let’s not forget the whole, semi skimmed, skimmed, soya, almond milk that gives “Freedom” to the coffee drinker. Do not get me wrong, I do love a vanilla cappuccino every so often, but the recent years has taken coffee to new extremes, drowning it in hot milk and sugar, taking anything good of the coffee away and replace it with sweet fatness that appeals to everyone and not the real coffee enthusiast.

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Usual French Hot Chocolate

Cafés in Britain are open to everyone in society, with a self-service feel. One forms an orderly line and queues at the counter to request the desired beverage, pays and either stays or leaves. The slow shuffle and wait of these lines is almost chore like, laborious for a once luxury occasion. You receive a cup of the drink and that is that.

On the continent, cafés operate differently. In France particularly you rarely find a chain coffee store as the streets are dotted with bars that function as cafés. It’s easy to compare the two cultures, the French still traditional on waiting tables, bringing over your order usually with a couple of sugars and a sweet treat and then on request “l’addition.” There is no need for queue, it’s instantaneous finding a seating area and being served by the waiter. In most of my café – bar experiences it’s been quicker than any lumbering British Queue.

The coffee culture is different in France, the usual order being coffee at its best as an espresso. Theses are usually quick pick me ups throughout the busy morning. On the opposite end, orders of a grand café or allongé, means that the coffee will last for almost hours on end, an excuse to stay in residence of the café and have a catch up.
At home there is more focus on coffee than tea, with supermarkets stocking more coffee and coffee products than that of tea. Regardless of this, French supermarkets have a remarkable selection of tea, much larger in size and variety than any British supermarkets. Shame on the tea drinking nation we are!

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Espresso

Tea has become increasingly popular over the last few years as well with the demand for flavoured and herbal teas on the rise putting companies like PG tips and typhoo under pressure for more than just black tea. Green tea has been proven to be good for your health, but so has black tea and coffee, but the green tea fad is the one that health bloggers and writers favour.

Tea and coffee as a social lubricant means the demand for all things hot drinks has increased hence the rapid expansion of flavours and establishment for teas and coffees. Both have become a staple personalities, with being a tea drinker a point almost worth writing on your CV.

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Whatever the world of Café’s throws at us next, I’ll be waiting, but for now I think it’s time for us to revisit the basics and get back knowing the proper tea and coffee and appreciating them for what they’ve become. And definitely throw more tea parties. As who doesn’t like a good party?!

Thanks for reading and have a great Holiday Season!

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2 Comments

  1. Good words on the difference in cultures, which spans not just in coffee drinking as you have highlighted, but all food experiences. Our coffee drinking habits have far more followed the American pattern of competing for kids taste-buds, prising them away from soft drinks, than accommodating an adults educated palate of tastes and flavours in your cup of JOE.

    Liked by 1 person

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