19 votes

Local coffee/tea cultures?

@cadadr's Turkey AMA coffee commentary got me curious about what coffee consumption and cultures look like among Tilders.

If your principal national beverage is tea instead of coffee, feel free to comment on why you think that might have arisen.

I spent a bit of time chasing one of @cadadr's mentions about tasseomancy, and it's fascinating, so please describe if your coffee culture has any comparable rituals.

I grew up with my mother's Montreal Canadian coffee-drinking standards: starting around age 8 or so, a half-cup of stovetop percolated coffee with a half-cup of milk added, eventually graduating to full cups of strong black coffee by my teenage years. For most of my life, the commonest means of consuming coffee was via the Bunn restaurant coffee maker - a drip coffee maker with an electric burner that held the brew scalding hot, near-burnt.

The commonest U.S. home coffee preparation still uses a drip coffee maker. "Pod" coffee makers that use prefilled cartridges and a pressure boiler (lower pressure than espresso, but similar) are increasingly popular.

Practically all coffee in the U.S. is made from imported beans, with robust global supply chains. There's minimal boutique coffee production in the states of Hawaii and California, but the territory of Puerto Rico grows coffee for local use and premium export. Coffee is taxed at the same rates as other food products, and no import duties are levied, so it's incredibly cheap - usually $5 - 10 per 450g.

In the U.S., at least, there are now widespread corporate coffee shop chains - Starbucks, Peet's, Caribou, and others, which produce very standardized, uniform coffee, in pressure-expressed, brewed, and cold-process variations. They're often prepared with flavored syrups, and typically have dairy added, either as plain or steam-heated and frothed milk. Average cost for the fancier variations is around 5 USD, though a cup of plain brewed coffee is usually $1.50 - $2.00.

Even tiny villages have neighborhood coffee shops that serve plain brewed coffee and espresso drinks, teas, baked goods, and simple sandwiches. Local coffee roasters are relatively common, too. The coffee shops may feature their products, or the roaster may have its own cafe'. Most of the larger bookstores also serve coffee, teas, and espresso drinks in their own cafe's.

We usually drink our coffee relatively strong, around 10 - 15g of ground coffee per 200 ml of water for brewing, and dark roasts are preferred over mild ones.

Most U.S. cities support thriving international food and beverage cultures, so we get to try coffee variations from around the world. My personal favorites (aside from the obvious Italian espresso culture) are Turkish-style with cardamom, Ethiopian, and Cuban colada.

There isn't much of a national tea tradition here, though there's a common practice of herbal tisane use for health purposes.

I've visited around 43 of the 50 U.S. states and haven't noticed really distinctive regional variations, except for New Orleans chicory-flavored and New Mexico piñon-flavored coffee. My spouse adds chicory to coffee at home, and piñon coffee is delicious. We'll treat ourselves to shipments a couple of times a year. Hawaiian Kona variety beans are boutique-premium and there's some fakes, so we don't go out of our way to get it when fair-trade Ethiopian or Guatemalan varieties are better and cheaper. I try very hard not to think of the carbon footprint of any of this...

26 comments

  1. [12]
    NaraVara
    Link
    So India has some coffee traditions and a strong tea tradition, but I don’t feel like talking about those right now. What I want to talk about is church basement egg coffee, which is apparently a...

    So India has some coffee traditions and a strong tea tradition, but I don’t feel like talking about those right now. What I want to talk about is church basement egg coffee, which is apparently a thing is midwestern Lutheran communities.

    Basically you grew coffee by putting a bunch of grounds in a saucepan or giant pot and then you’d crack an egg into it and mix it up into a big ball of cake batter consistency. Then you just boil some water over it.

    Instead of needing to filter, the egg protein sort of suspends the coffee grounds so you can just scoop it away and the coffee is perfectly clear. If you’re down with giving up an egg, it’s a great way to make a whole buttload of coffee (hence it’s popularity with church events) really quickly. And the coffee weirdly seems less bitter despite being directly boiled.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Midwesterner or not, I never ran across that. I have a vague recollection of my mother using egg shells with the coffee grounds, but then she gave it all up and started making coffee from instant...

      Midwesterner or not, I never ran across that. I have a vague recollection of my mother using egg shells with the coffee grounds, but then she gave it all up and started making coffee from instant powder.

      2 votes
      1. Enoch
        Link Parent
        I wish people went back to that wholesale. Freshly ground coffee is just delicious. Or it could be the lingering smell from the grinding, I don't know.

        I wish people went back to that wholesale. Freshly ground coffee is just delicious. Or it could be the lingering smell from the grinding, I don't know.

        2 votes
    2. Nmg
      Link Parent
      I think having egg in coffee dates to the 19th century, when merchants would add whatever to coffee, basically to thin it out and sell more of it. I vaguely remember reading such in a history book...

      I think having egg in coffee dates to the 19th century, when merchants would add whatever to coffee, basically to thin it out and sell more of it.

      I vaguely remember reading such in a history book of coffee.

      1 vote
    3. [8]
      Chopincakes
      Link Parent
      The coffee is clear?? I'm no expert, but if it's taking away the bitterness, it might be that the grounds aren't releasing tannins, which also might explain why it's not brown. Your description...

      The coffee is clear??

      I'm no expert, but if it's taking away the bitterness, it might be that the grounds aren't releasing tannins, which also might explain why it's not brown. Your description sounds more like 'coffee flavored water' than 'coffee' to me. I'm intrigued, curious, and upset all at the same time.

      Edit: but also, I'd love to hear your personal experience with tea from India. As a tea enthusiast, there are so many beautiful and rich stories and recipes that are all widely different from each person I hear it from!

      1. [3]
        patience_limited
        Link Parent
        The culinary technique for making consomme' (clarified meat or poultry stock) uses egg whites. As they congeal in hot liquid, egg whites form a web of albumin protein strands that traps fine,...

        The culinary technique for making consomme' (clarified meat or poultry stock) uses egg whites. As they congeal in hot liquid, egg whites form a web of albumin protein strands that traps fine, suspended insoluble particles. If you do it correctly, and keep the stock from boiling, a solid raft of foam floats to the top so you can skim off the solids, leaving a perfectly transparent (not colorless) broth.

        I suppose the same principle would work for coffee, but the church basement method sounds less fussy. I'd wonder about the sulfur taste from whole eggs, though.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          Chopincakes
          Link Parent
          Yeah, that absolutely makes sense now! In my head I just read it as colorless, which I think just confused me.

          Yeah, that absolutely makes sense now! In my head I just read it as colorless, which I think just confused me.

          1. patience_limited
            Link Parent
            You got me curious - there are actually methods to decolorize tea and coffee, but I think it's for improving color of emissions to water sources, not for drinking. Why that much coffee or tea...

            You got me curious - there are actually methods to decolorize tea and coffee, but I think it's for improving color of emissions to water sources, not for drinking.

            Why that much coffee or tea would go down the drain... I shudder to think.

            2 votes
      2. [4]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        Not clear like water, but clear as in doesn't have undissolved solids in it. Flavor and texture-wise I think it's most like making coffee with a Chemex filter in contrast to something like a...

        Not clear like water, but clear as in doesn't have undissolved solids in it. Flavor and texture-wise I think it's most like making coffee with a Chemex filter in contrast to something like a French press, which is what I expected when I realized I was boiling the grounds straight in the water with nothing to strain it out.

        Edit: but also, I'd love to hear your personal experience with tea from India. As a tea enthusiast, there are so many beautiful and rich stories and recipes that are all widely different from each person I hear it from!

        Not surprising. Every family makes it differently, mostly based on what's typically available in their local region. I actually find most family recipes to be too cloyingly sweet. Our grandparents were of the post-independence generation when processed sugar first became cheap and widely available so they tended to go nuts with it and the habit stuck. My personal recipe is basically my mother's but with the sugar turned down by 50% and the addition of cloves. We tend to go much more cardamom heavy and lighter on ginger. If you use full fat milk, the fat tends to cut the bitterness so all that sugar isn't really necessary.

        I think the big difference between Indian tea traditions compared to China and Japan is that tea is much more of a "working man's" drink in India and there isn't as much of a "single origin" type of culture around where you get it. The leaves themselves are just the base to build something out of with spices and milk and other things that orthodox tea cultures might consider "adulterants." But you serve it any time someone comes to your house so everyone has their particular spice mix ready at hand.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          Chopincakes
          Link Parent
          Fantastic -- thanks for sharing that! Although you said the base differs by local region, do you have a preference on what type of tea leaf used (ex. assam, darjeeling, etc.)?

          Fantastic -- thanks for sharing that! Although you said the base differs by local region, do you have a preference on what type of tea leaf used (ex. assam, darjeeling, etc.)?

          1. [2]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            Honestly nowadays people are mostly just buying what they find at the grocery stores, so it'll be the standard Tetley or Brooke Bond blends among Indians or Wagh Bakri among Pakistanis. I think...

            Honestly nowadays people are mostly just buying what they find at the grocery stores, so it'll be the standard Tetley or Brooke Bond blends among Indians or Wagh Bakri among Pakistanis. I think they usually advise Assamese blends for chai just because the flavors are bolder and stand up to having stuff put in them better.

            2 votes
            1. Chopincakes
              Link Parent
              My go-to is typically assam, sometimes people will bring me back grocery store bags, but other times I'll buy nicer first-flush leaves. Do you typically use whole-leaf or CTC?

              My go-to is typically assam, sometimes people will bring me back grocery store bags, but other times I'll buy nicer first-flush leaves. Do you typically use whole-leaf or CTC?

  2. junya
    Link
    I'm in the pacific northwest so I have a lot of coffee options. However, coffee is way too bitter for me. I drink tea. At home I have a temperature adjustable electric kettle so I can make the...

    I'm in the pacific northwest so I have a lot of coffee options. However, coffee is way too bitter for me. I drink tea.

    At home I have a temperature adjustable electric kettle so I can make the right temperature water for whatever tea I feel like drinking that day. At work, I typically start the day with a black tea with milk and sugar. Then throughout the day I keep oolong at my desk and sip that.

    5 votes
  3. vegai
    (edited )
    Link
    In Finland we go for quantity over quality, as witnessed here: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-10-coffee-consuming-nations.html Most people use filtered drip makers, but Aeropresses,...

    In Finland we go for quantity over quality, as witnessed here: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-10-coffee-consuming-nations.html

    Most people use filtered drip makers, but Aeropresses, french presses and moka pots are gaining popularity among the more elitist coffee drinkers. Every office has at least one massive coffee maker that pumps out the magic black poison by the litres every hour.

    Typical roasts are very light, but again, darker roasts are gaining popularity.

    3 votes
  4. [2]
    culturedleftfoot
    Link
    I don't really touch the stuff myself, although I was a dealer barista at one point. I did have one experience drinking coffee with an Ethiopian family though where I had it made with some type of...

    I don't really touch the stuff myself, although I was a dealer barista at one point. I did have one experience drinking coffee with an Ethiopian family though where I had it made with some type of honey ginger tea added, and that was lovely. I thought they'd have been the last people to tamper with the purity of their coffee like that, so that was a surprise. I think they also mentioned taking it with butter as well, and this was years before Bulletproof Coffee became trendy.

    2 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      I don't know how you managed to avoid the habit. One of the best (?) things about my years working in a bakery cafe' was constant access to the espresso machine - I'm not sure how the owner made...

      I don't know how you managed to avoid the habit.
      One of the best (?) things about my years working in a bakery cafe' was constant access to the espresso machine - I'm not sure how the owner made any profit at all given the number of cups I pulled for myself each day. We made genuine tiramisu, with the biscuits dipped in freshly made espresso, not coffee.

      The owner bought from a great local roaster, and their espresso roast was amazing. We sold their beans, too, and were regularly taking 100 lb. deliveries of espresso every week. Talk about getting high on your own supply...

      Both Ethiopian coffee and tea are lovely, though I don't think the tea contains any Camellia at all. It's naturally sweet from a combination of cinnamon, orange peel, and other spices and herbs. The spouse is playing with green Ethiopian Yergacheffe beans from Maria's Coffee, but I don't think he has the roast right yet.

      2 votes
  5. FriesGuy
    Link
    I live in a small midwestern town so coffee isn’t seen as a thing for relaxation more as a “pick up on your way to work” kind of thing. In the city near us though they have a Starbucks and thus...

    I live in a small midwestern town so coffee isn’t seen as a thing for relaxation more as a “pick up on your way to work” kind of thing. In the city near us though they have a Starbucks and thus it’s more of a drink than a pick me up.

    2 votes
  6. [4]
    krg
    Link
    My "coffee culture" involves drinking a crappy cup at work nearly every morning. I'll also occasionally post up in a Starbucks and order a large iced coffee (black) and read. There are no...

    My "coffee culture" involves drinking a crappy cup at work nearly every morning. I'll also occasionally post up in a Starbucks and order a large iced coffee (black) and read.

    There are no shortages of gourmet coffee spots around my area, but I'm too damn cheap to spend $5 on a cup.

    I've wanted to invest in a nice kettle, grinder, and decanter so I can do my own pour-over at home, though.

    1 vote
    1. [3]
      patience_limited
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Oh, do I ever not miss crappy work coffee - the Bunn and the packets of Folgers. Whatever the policy was, there was a secret resistance of people brewing in their cubes. Our Security team got a...

      Oh, do I ever not miss crappy work coffee - the Bunn and the packets of Folgers. Whatever the policy was, there was a secret resistance of people brewing in their cubes. Our Security team got a lot of love because they managed to rig a colada brewer (mostly Cuban guys, for whom it's some kind of social sacrament) and handed out those thimbles of rocket fuel to anyone who visited.

      You can get a cheap ceramic burr grinder for around $25. That plus a French press, hot water, and decent beans makes you a very good cup of coffee.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        krg
        Link Parent
        Spot on. But it doesn't bother me much. I just need something hot and caffeinated to sip on and dip my pan dulce in. Plus, I get to enjoy decent-to-good coffee that much more when I do come around...

        Bunn and the packets of Folgers.

        Spot on. But it doesn't bother me much. I just need something hot and caffeinated to sip on and dip my pan dulce in. Plus, I get to enjoy decent-to-good coffee that much more when I do come around to drinking it.

        As far as coffee grinders go, I was looking into this one. Though, it'll probably be a minute before I dive into the coffee goods.

        1 vote
        1. patience_limited
          Link Parent
          Looks like the Amazon product page has a nice combo with that hand grinder, an Aeropress kit, and a metal filter - not a bad deal if you want a durable, compact pour-over set.

          Looks like the Amazon product page has a nice combo with that hand grinder, an Aeropress kit, and a metal filter - not a bad deal if you want a durable, compact pour-over set.

          1 vote
  7. [3]
    arghdos
    Link
    I just moved to Austin, and there is a wonderful tea shop (plug: https://guanyinteahouse.com/) / community center down here. They have the absolute best selection of Chinese teas I've ever seen,...

    I just moved to Austin, and there is a wonderful tea shop (plug: https://guanyinteahouse.com/) / community center down here. They have the absolute best selection of Chinese teas I've ever seen, particularly their Sheng / Shou pu-erh's, and the best smelling thing in the universe, Snow Jasmine.

    There are also a number of local tea producers that use Yaupon, which is the only plant native to N.A. that contains caffeine -- it's somewhat similar to a Yerba Mate in taste. The best producer around IMO is Local Leaf; their bottles make for a perfect iced tea in the heat!

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      patience_limited
      Link Parent
      TIL there's a native caffeine source! [Interesting that yaupon has theobromine in it, too. I'll try it, but will need to warn off the spouse, who gets tachycardia from chocolate. So do dogs... but...

      TIL there's a native caffeine source! [Interesting that yaupon has theobromine in it, too. I'll try it, but will need to warn off the spouse, who gets tachycardia from chocolate. So do dogs... but I've never said that to his face because it seemed gauche in the ER waiting room.]

      I've had Yerba Mate, served in the cute gourd cup with the little metal straw, but can't say I loved the taste - it's very herbal.

      1 vote
      1. arghdos
        Link Parent
        Yaupon is definitely dialed down in this respect though it has it's own distinct taste, closer to a dark green tea.

        I've had Yerba Mate, served in the cute gourd cup with the little metal straw, but can't say I loved the taste - it's very herbal.

        Yaupon is definitely dialed down in this respect though it has it's own distinct taste, closer to a dark green tea.

        1 vote
  8. [2]
    aymm
    Link
    I live in Germany and I'd say that coffee is sighlty more widely spread, both are quite popular

    I live in Germany and I'd say that coffee is sighlty more widely spread, both are quite popular

    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      I'd say that in terms of preparation and serving care, the U.S. is mainly a coffee nation. You can get a variety of tea bags and a cup of hot water in most restaurants and cafe's, but it's rare...

      I'd say that in terms of preparation and serving care, the U.S. is mainly a coffee nation. You can get a variety of tea bags and a cup of hot water in most restaurants and cafe's, but it's rare that you'll see British-style with a properly brewed pot of loose-leaf tea brought to the table.

      1 vote