When it comes to Albania, it is more often its history, beautiful beaches or breathtaking landscapes that come to our minds, but very rarely coffee. And yet this drink is an integral part of Albanian culture! With 654 coffeehouses per 100,000 inhabitants, Albania is the world leader in the number of coffeehouses per capita.
From Turkish coffee to macchiato, coffee in Albania is much more than a drink, it is a genuine tradition.
From the Ottoman Empire to the Balkans…
So, where does this Balkans’ love for coffee come from? Well it originates from the Ottoman Empire! Long story short, it all began in 1540 with the discovery of this black liquid by Ozdemir Pasa, the governor of Yemen. He first introduced it to Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who in turn introduced it to the rich and nobles of the Empire. Very quickly, coffee became everyone’s drink as the masses and the entire Ottoman Empire began to consume it. Thus Albania, under Ottoman rule, inherited this taste for coffee.
Named “kahve” in the 16th century, it is now called “Greek coffee”, “Bosnian coffee”, “Oriental coffee” and “Turkish coffee” here in Albania. Fun fact: since December 5, 2013, Turkish coffee is registered on the list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.
Turkish coffee, a taste of Albania
Turkish coffee is not a variety of coffee grown in Turkey, but a method of brewing coffee brought from Turkey. In fact, it is the oldest method. It is prepared in a cezve or ibrik – a very tiny copper pot in which coffee is decocted – and finely ground Arabica coffee beans. We make it by combining these beans with water that is brought to the boil and cooled up to three times to obtain a perfect foam. Between sweetness and bitterness, intensity and smoothness, Turkish coffee is an explosion of flavors.
If nowadays it is less consumed in favor of espresso, cappuccino and other variants, it is still findable in every coffeehouse and it remains a favorite of the locals and a tradition for the Albanians.
A part of the cultural identity
Here in Albania, coffee is not just a drink you get when you need a little boost. It is actually much more than that. It is a way to create relationships, a meeting point for any event, a way to slow down time, an expression of the Albanian community. Sounds like coffee is their answer to everything. In the country, coffee is a synonym for “connection”. Indeed, before going into the heart of any matter, we get together around a cup of coffee for a few hours. It’s a great way to break the ice, build trust and create or maintain bonds. By the way, if an Albanian invites you for a
coffee, the bill is his. On the other hand, it is yours. But beware, you should never pay behind their backs !
Student, worker, retired, there is no right age nor right time to enjoy a good coffee. Indeed, Albanians love coffee so much that you can find a coffee shop in every street corner, the number of coffeehouses is even estimated at 18 000.. that’s quite a lot! Fun fact: even though the coronavirus compelled Albania to close its cafes, imports of the product and espresso machines exploded! So really, nothing can separate the Albanians from their coffee, not even a global crisis.
A few recommendations:
Did you know? There is no Starbucks in Albania. Indeed, the competition is so strong and prices so low that the brand can not compete. But who says competition, also says a wide range of choices ! Among the addresses not to be missed are those three coffee chains:
– Mulliri Vjetër, which can be translated as “the old mill”, is the oldest coffee chain in Albania. It is a self-service coffee shop that we appreciate for its warm, comfortable and lively atmosphere.
– Mon Chéri, coffee shop with a rather young atmosphere, you will find it in every street corner of Tirana.
– Sophie Caffee, the coffee shop that makes it a point of honor to serve you a high quality product. It is the ideal place to relax with friends or family.
Want to discover Albania? Check all our tours in the country.
Article written by Julie Aubry.