Why Do Greeks Boil Their Coffee?

There’s no doubt that Greek coffee remains one of the country’s best known culinary traditions but — in these days of instant coffee and Nespresso machines — why do Greeks stick with this early method?

Coffee first entered Asia Minor from the Middle East, particularly Yemen, in the 15th century — indeed the word ‘coffee’ is derived from Arabic.

By the mid-16th century, it had reached the heart of the then Ottoman empire and began to spread across its provinces, including Greece.

The method of preparing Greek coffee is the simplest, which perhaps explains its longevity. Finely ground coffee beans, with sugar to taste, are boiled gently in a special pot called a briki in Greek.

This requires time, a close eye and patience — one cannot leave a full briki to do other things as the coffee can be overcooked very easily.

It is the cultural life of Greek coffee which explains why the method is still popular here. The care, skill and meticulous preparation needed to coax the perfect cup of coffee into life lends itself well to social settings.

Making a guest feel welcome with a painstakingly prepared cup of Greek coffee speaks volumes about their friendship, rather than whipping up a hurried cup of instant.

Although Greek coffee is served in small amounts, the conversation that goes with it can be long. Add in the small confectioneries that often accompany a cup of coffee — such as spoon sweets or loukoumi — then a mere coffee becomes a social occasion.

Of course, there is also the tradition of reading the cup, scrutinizing the leftover grounds at the bottom to try and tell someone’s fortune.

In today’s fast-paced world, it is the care and time devoted to creating the perfect cup of Greek coffee that explains why most people here still like to boil their coffee, keeping a living link with a gastronomic tradition going back centuries.