Though small in size, Austria is a country that offers much interest to the visitor: A rich, complex, multi-faceted history, a strong vibrant culture and some of the most exquisite works of art in existence can all be within its borders.
Vienna Coffeehouses: A Timeless Tradition
The Austrian capital, Vienna, is famous not only for its classical music, but also for its coffeehouses, orkaffeehaus as they are locally-known as. These coffeehouses have been a part of Vienna’s culture for centuries, providing a place to not just relax with friends and family in an ambient atmosphere while enjoying a good cup of coffee, but also as a point at which to socialize with people from all walks of life.
Coffeehouses had started to become part of the cultivated leisure industry in the 19th century. In addition to serving coffee, these coffeehouses had also started providing newspapers, as well as games such as billiard and chess. Soon after, people in Vienna came to coffeehouses not only to quench their thirst, but also to meet friends, close business deals and discuss cultural and political matters. They became the preferred meeting place for journalists and literary men, politicians, professionals and the middle classes in general. In intellectual circles, coffee-drinking was regarded as an aid for clearer thinking and better discussion. Each coffeehouse catered for its subgroup of regular customers and developed individual styles of coffee preparation. It became a `home away from home’ for many of its patrons. A key factor in the typical Viennese coffeehouse experience is its unique traditional furnishings and service, where no one is in any hurry to finish up their drink and leave.
The Viennese would never dream of ordering merely a plain cup of coffee. Viennese coffees are some of the fanciest coffee in the world – with additional ingredients such as frothy milk, whipped cream and honey, amongst others. Coffeehouses can offer hundreds of variations on the plain old coffee, with varying proportions of milk, coffee, liqueurs and toppings, each having its own name. By a long- standing tradition, the coffee is served in an elegant cup with matching saucer on a silver tray. Alongside is a serving of water, with a spoon balanced on the glass. If you want something to eat- from a light snack to an apple strudel to a complete meal, they are also available with your coffee at most coffeehouses. Listed below are some of the terms that are used in your average Vienna coffeehouse, which might come in handy when placing your orders.
- Schwarzer – Strong black coffee.
- Kleiner Schwarzer – the equivalent of an espresso
- Brauner – Coffee with a dash of milk or cream.
- Goldener – Coffee with milk; similar to latte in New York.
- Mélange – Equal amounts of milk and coffee with froth.
- Kaffee Crème – Coffee with a miniature pitcher of milk on the side.
- Kapuziner – Cappucino.
- Kurz – A single shot of espresso.
- Verlängter – Coffee with hot water added; a good choice for North American and English visitors who like their coffee weak.
- Einspänner – Coffee in a glass with a hefty dollop of Schlagobers or Schlag (whipped cream).
- Fiaker – Espresso in a glass with sugar and Kirschwasser (a dry cherry brandy), topped with whipped cream and a cherry.
- Pharisäer – Espresso in a glass with sugar, whipped cream, cocoa, and a shot of rum.
Many coffeehouses also serve other variations on the coffee theme, such as Eiskaffee (coffee, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream) and alcoholic combinations. You can also usually count on a tasty assortment of pastries, especially in the afternoon, such as Strudel sweet flaky pastry with apple, nut or sweet cheese filling, Golatschen puff pastry with sweet cheese or jam filling and Zimtschnecke spiral-shaped pastry with nut filling and sugar coating.
Visitors to the city are just as eager to enjoy the Viennese coffeehouse experience as they are to spend an evening at the opera or to explore the Imperial palaces and museums. The furnishing of a Viennese café can vary from traditional plush and comfy to coldly modern and stylish. Despite the rise of modern establishments such as espresso bars and Starbucks, Kaffeehaus remain the soul of Vienna, and is definitely not to be missed if one wants to experience the true essence of Vienna when visiting the city.
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