“What do you have to do at the cafe? Just be. You are allowed to do almost anything, but there is almost nothing you have to. The cafe is a place of freedom. The Mocha is just the price of admission.” (Hans Weigel, Viennese writer and theater critic in 1908 – 1991)
Austria: One of the great coffee cultures
The Italian style of drinking coffee is standing at the bar counter between meals or after dinner. The Austrian coffehouse culture is quite different. It is aimed on lingering. Locals spend hours enjoying the soothing atmosphere. The accessories also fit in the picture. Daily papers, strained on newspaper holders, invite you to stay a while, slow down and read.
The typical coffee house experience
Coffee is served together with a glass of water which will be refilled for free as often as you want. This may sound trivial to you, but it´s not a usual service in the German-speaking area. The purpose of this coffehouse tradition is to enable collegians to study there. If your coffee house is frequented by tourists, you possibly have to pay a small amount for a refill. The typical coffehouse furniture consists of comfortable seat benches and upholstered chairs, a lot of wood, darkened by the years, ancient chandeliers, heavy mirrors, ornate clothes racks, marble-topped tables and wall decorations with playful details. All these things signal the opposite of hectic.
The Empire of the Oberkellner
Even the charming phrases of the traditionally somewhat formally dressed Oberkellner (headwaiter) need some time. You do not simply select cake from the menu. Most varieties are not listed on it. They are presented in a glass case. After you have taken your time for a decision, just inform the “Herr Ober”.
Apropos “Herr Ober”. Apart from this correct form of address for the waiter, it’s useful to know a few other Austrian terms. As in any other country people will appreciate your concerns with the specific local characteristics. A “Gespritzter”, for example, is wine mixed with soda or mineral water. Marillen are apricots, “Schlagobers” means “whipped cream” and the Trafik – the kiosk – is the place where you get the travel ticket to your favorite Kaffeehaus.
Enjoyment without hurry
For me personally, the best time for a cafe-stay is breakfast time. You should plan on staying till lunch time – enjoying, relaxing and observing. If you prefer a visit at lunch time: They offer a small selection of food in every coffee house. This tradition dates back to the year 1813. Austria joined Napoleon’s embargo against England and in return lost its access to coffee deliveries. In order to survive, the coffee houses began to offer wine and food. When the embargo had been lifted, the offering of wine and food remained. Naturally, coffee and cake play a more important role in the coffeehouse.
Land of countless coffee specialties
In Austria lots of different coffee types are available, even if you count out the special creations of the individual coffee houses. Of course, a coffehouse worth its salt offers at least one caffeinated beverage named after the house. Therefore the gallery below is far from being complete. But we work on completing it step by step – of course only with coffee types we tasted ourselves.
Move the mouse on an image and learn about the specific type of Austrian coffee!
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Text: Christian Hollweg
Fotos: Ricarda Hollweg