Food & Drink

Global Coffee Cultures: One Drink’s Important Social Role

by Dani Howell January 09, 2019
ReadGlobal Coffee Cultures: One Drink’s Important Social Role Photo courtesy of HARIO

In the United States, coffee culture is quickly growing in popularity. Local third-wave (even fourth-wave) shops have been popping up everywhere over the last several years. Often, people either go in before work and grab a brew to-go or set up their laptop for a (several-hour-long) school study session. The atmosphere may change, but you’ll find a fairly similar scene at shops across the country whether you’re in Austin, Texas, or Seattle, Washington.

Like the U.S., countries around the world have their own distinct coffee traditions and cultures—and even special drinks, too. Many of these rituals use coffee as a reason to get together with friends and family, and some have even spread far beyond the country where they originated. While the drinks may differ, coffee plays an undeniable role in cultures across the globe.


Here, coffee is an important tradition that’s connected to ideas of friendship and hospitality, often enjoyed with those you care about. This drink is known for its strong taste and is thicker than the coffee you typically find in America. It’s made with finely ground coffee beans, water, and sugar and served in a cezve—a copper pot with a long handle—with a glass of water and a sweet candy on the side. You may even get your future told from the sediment at the bottom of the cup after.


Italian’s often start their day with a cappuccino, a drink reserved solely for the morning. Typically, the standard drink, though, is espresso. Given the espresso’s strong brew, it’s served in small cups, which is the perfect size since Italians usually drink espresso in the café while standing. Unlike cappuccinos, espresso is enjoyed throughout the day and even after dinner. And, it’s usually served with a glass of water to cleanse the palate.


The Senegalese city of Touba is the eponym for the country’s traditional drink, Café Touba. It gained popularity in the country thanks to spiritual leader Ahmadou Bamba. The coffee is mixed with djar and ground cloves for an added spice, and you can find it throughout Senegal.


Cafecito or Café Cubano is one of Cuba’s most popular coffee drinks. It’s made by brewing espresso and mixing it with a bit of sugar and then pouring it all into a small cup to create the drink’s famous espumita. It’s more than just a morning pick-me-up. In Cuba, coffee plays an important social role as friends and neighbors get together to share a drink and chat.


Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee (or buna, as they call the drink), so it makes sense that it’s an important part of their culture. Making coffee here is a long process—one that can take several hours. Hosts will roast coffee beans in a pan, grind them, and finally boil them in water. To add some additional flavor, some add spices, like cinnamon and cloves. When the brew is ready, it’s often served with butter or salt and shared with family and friends.


Swedish coffee traditions aren’t based so much around the drink as they are around fika. What’s fika? It’s a common coffee break during the workday. It’s daily time to get together with friends and co-workers, relax with a cup of coffee, and enjoy a pastry. And, they sometimes take a fika multiple times in a day. More than the caffeine buzz, this tradition is about taking time to slow down and be in the moment.

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