Our morning confidant…
That magical liquid that lifts our spirits on the most sluggish of days…
An aroma that fills the home with the smell of productivity….
Yes, I am talking about coffee. It comes in many forms, and each person (and culture) has his or her own way of taking it. Derek is an iced coffee guy, and I’m all about the soy lattes. But in the morning, all I need is a little cafe con leche to kickstart my day! I’ve noticed that in every place we visit, the culture surrounding coffee is immensely different, so I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast a few for you. But as I started writing this post, I quickly realized I’d have to separate into different posts. So today, we have the USA and the UAE.
Coffee: (kɒfi) noun | synonyms: joe, java
- a hot drink made from the roasted and ground bean-like seeds of a tropical shrub “a cup of coffee”
- the shrub which yields coffee seeds, native to the Old World tropics
United States of America
The US is interesting, because I have noticed two separate cultures growing here. The first being the fast-paced, need-to-have-it-now lifestyle. The to-go cup has almost become a fashion accessory in modern American culture, as you can’t go a full scroll through a social media page without seeing one paired beautifully with a fitting hashtag (#butfirstcoffee, #coffeecoffeecoffee). Also, these popular coffeehouse chains, from Starbucks to Tim Hortons, have become the perfect place for a quick, informal meeting or quick get-together with a friend. The drive-thru ease of these chains make getting your coffee easy, and you don’t really need to slow your pace to do so.
The second fits more with the creative force that is dominating the US right now. These are the coffeehouses, or shops, that treat coffee beans as an artisanal ingredient. They may or may not have a drive-thru window, but that isn’t the reason people frequent them. These are the places you go to see a poetry slam, open mic night, or to meet up with a study group and savor the flavors in the cup. They are the places where just getting your cup of coffee (and seeing what design the barista created in it) is an exciting experience. Some look like chem labs, while others have a fresh air of eclectic charm. They are almost always locally owned, most have an emphasis on organic or free-trade products, and each offers a different experience unique to their location and clientele.
^photo from one of my favorites: Coffea Roasterie^
United Arab Emirates
My trip to the UAE was too short. I loved every minute and enjoyed immersing myself in a culture so foreign to my own. Not only was the culture different, but the coffee was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. It was spicy and reminded me more of tea than coffee. However, as the weeks went on, I started looking forward to my afternoon cup. Yes, I said afternoon. It was not a common thing to enjoy coffee in the morning in the UAE. Coffee was more of a social thing. People gather together after work or school in the late afternoon to enjoy tiny cups of Arabic coffee. It is a time to catch up and reflect on the day. The vessels are beautiful, and I could not wait to get my hands on my own set. The coffee was always served with dates. The sweetness from the fruit was a nice combination with the spicy coffee. I’ll be sharing this recipe with you next week!
The coffee culture in the UAE started with the bedouin lifestyle in the deserts. People would boil the coffee (which they still do today!) over the campfire and sit under the stars or in large tents enjoying the drink and conversations. I quickly learned the etiquette of Arabic coffee drinking. It is considered extremely rude to decline the cup of coffee. You should always take at least one cup, and when you are finished, you shake the cup from side to side in your right hand. As I usually use my left hand for eating and drinking, I had to retrain myself while in the UAE.
Check back for part 2 of this post tomorrow! What is the coffee culture like in your country or city?