A study by the University of Athens has found a connection between Greek coffee and cardiovascular health. The dark roasting of Arabica beans lessens the caffeine content with higher concentrations of cafestol and kahweol, molecules rich in antioxidants. Along with a natural Mediterranean diet, enjoying this rich, strong beverage may hold a key to Greek longevity – average life expectancy is 81.
The Flegra Palace Hotel, located on the Halkidiki peninsula of Kassandra with its beautiful beaches, azure clear water and warm sun certainly adds to this rejuvenating formula for extending one’s life. Although coffee traveled from its native east African mountainsides after the 10th century, its preparation varied widely since being introduced to the Middle East and Europe after the 14th century. Under Ottoman rule, Greece embraced coffee, becoming a major player in an emerging café society.
Unfortunately in the 21st century the convenience of fast food has led to a popularization of instant coffee especially in the form of Café Frappe, a frothy iced coffee and milk combination gaining increasing popularity on sultry summer Greek days. Yet genuine hot traditional Greek coffee slowly sipped is more suitable to bringing the body to a comfortable resting temperature and certainly more flavorful. Renato, one of the Flegra’s friendly staff, graciously gave a lesson in the proper preparation of Greek coffee during a recent breakfast.
Greek coffee – one serving
• 2 teaspoons Greek (or Turkish) pulverized ground roast coffee
• hot, not boiling, water
• sugar to taste
• milk or cream optional after coffee is poured into the serving cup
1. Place the coffee into a briki – an individual Greek/Turkish brass coffee pot.
2. Add sugar to taste – as much as 2 teaspoons if you want it very sweet.
3. Fill the pot half way with very hot but not boiling water.
4. Place the pot into a heavy bottomed heatproof 2” deep pan that is filled half way with sand, preferably from the beach. Place the pan over a heat source such as the burner of a gas stove.
5. Heat, moving the pot gently several times around the sand, until the coffee foams, but do not allow it to boil over the briki. Lift the pot to let the foam subside and then replace into the hot sand and allow it to foam again. Repeat for a third time and then remove from the heat.
6. Pour into an espresso coffee cup and allow the coffee to rest for a couple minutes for the grinds to settle.
Greek coffee is traditionally served with a piece or two of loukoums, otherwise known as the candy Greek or Turkish delight. Greek or Turkish finely ground coffee, the briki and loukoums are widely available in larger grocery stores and markets selling international foods. If you don’t live near a beach, purchase some sand from a garden or craft store. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy it at a beautiful Greek resort such as the Flegra Palace Hotel, it will make you wonder why anyone ever wasted time inventing such an abomination as instant coffee.