[Brace yourselves because this article is not like any other. First thing you need to know that having a coffee in Zagreb is not something you do quickly or along the way. Zagreb coffee culture is sacred, so this will take time and some deep reading]
#THOU SHALL FIRST GRAB A COFFEE
If you are about to read this article, I want you to have a coffee while you do it. You will learn everything about Zagreb coffee culture and all it’s sacred and secret meanings (some of course, silly ). It’s time you learn the way we do it, but first, a little introduction…
The social character of coffee drinking has definitely been inherited from the old Ottoman practices. Even though brewing Turkish coffee follows some rules, its purpose has always been to connect people.
#ZAGREB COFFEE CULTURE CONNECTS PEOPLE
We meet for coffee for various reasons and occasions, but mostly just to socialize. Coffee in Zagreb is where we do everything. It’s where we meet with our friends, gossip, make deals, ask and being asked for favors, where we hire and get fired, introduced, married, divorce, get ready to go out, sober up, get our first kiss, reunite…
Even when we ask someone for coffee, it doesn’t necessarily mean we want coffee. What we really mean is: let’s go and spend some time together. You’ll almost never see us sitting alone! For me, it all started when I was in high school. I remember that one big break between classes when we had only 20 min to spare. We ran through the school gates straight to the closest and coolest Caffe bar, order our precious coffee and spend these 20 minutes hanging and chatting (most of the time we were late for the following class). I continued to do my ritual throughout college and to this day, it is something I can’t imagine my life without. Have in mind that this is how it happened to most people I have known in my life, it continues throughout new generations and it will continue. So, coffee is never just a coffee. Not even at home.
#COFFEE CULTURE AT HOME vs OUT
While espresso and kava s mlijekom (coffee with milk) may be the coffee of choice in a cafe bar, at home, we mostly still like to brew Turkish coffee. Sometimes there are other types to offer such as instant, but generally, we don’t give guests much choice 🙂 We make our coffee with finer grains and boil in a pot called džezva (long-handle kitchenware typical for Bosnia and Herzegovina, intended exclusively for cooking coffee).
Going for coffee doesn’t actually stop us from moving from espresso to an alcoholic drink. Even an afternoon may turn into a night to remember, which is followed by having a coffee the following morning in order to sober up. #ZAGREB COFFEE ŠPICA
Saturday mornings are special category. In Zagreb, this is called špica and it means being where the action is. Coffee on špica is basically about seeing everybody and everything, but mostly, being seen. The best place where you can experience this as a local is at Cvjetni Trg (Flower Square), or at Tkalčićeva Street. Those 2 locations are full of coffee bars one next to another.
#WE NEVER GO DUTCH WITH COFFEE
Ja ću! [It’s on me!] Somebody will always offer to pay, and there is an unwritten rule that the other person is considered to pay next time. This can go on for a lifetime with no one ever actually sure who’s turn it is, or who “owes” what.
#COFFEE IS MOSTLY ACCOMPANIED BY SMOKING (SORRY….)
It is wise to know in advance that Croatian cafes are still smokers-friendly. Coffee and cigarettes is a strong combo here, that will probably never get extinguished. Even non-smokers rarely complain and show tolerance.
#OTHER PHRASES NOT EXACTLY RELATED TO COFFEE
Nemam ni za kavu [I don’t have money even for coffee]. If times are hard and the money is short, we’ll express it in the coffee currency.
Nemam vremena ni za kavu [I don’t even have time to meet for coffee]. If we really lack of time for anything, we’ll express it in this way. It can be used both ways like Nemaš vremena ni za kavu [You don’t have time even for coffee]. If we can’t make time for coffee, something’s wrong with us.
Evo Vam za kavu [Here is some for the coffee] When it comes to tipping, we say it this way. For example if a repairman comes to your house to fix something, we like to give a little extra. The term coffee is used here mostly because we tip no less than 10kn, but no more than 20kn. However, this does not apply to waiters ( XD )
#HOW TO ORDER A COFFEE IN ZAGREB
Kava s mlijekom [Coffee with milk]
Mostly you don’t have to say with cold or warm milk. You will get with a warm one by default. However, sometimes a waiter will ask you S toplim ili hladnim? [With warm or cold?] so if you have a preference, make sure you order properly.
In Italy, it is supposed to be coffee with a spoon of milk cream. Here, of course, macchiato is done in every possible and impossible way: somewhere in a small espresso cup, elsewhere in a cappuccino cup, so it combines espresso with warm milk or cold milk…
This is probably the most extreme version of dry cappuccino in Croatia. Milk is often just foamed, while in fact the foam should be as creamy and glossy as in normal cappuccino.
Bijela kava [espresso, the rest is milk]
Produžena [similar to Americano]
#WHAT IS MISSING, THOUGH?
I have talked to one of my friends from Argentina about our coffee culture here. She said that she really likes the whole vibe, but preferred if she could order a coffee whenever. In a town where she lives, she can order coffee in any part of the day or night.The thing is, in Croatia (and Zagreb) most Caffe bars clean and turn off coffee machines at the end of the afternoon. Coffee is one of the cheapest beverages, so this way bars “make” customers order some more expensive ones X).
#AND WHAT ABOUT MYSELF?
Well…I consider myself not a typical coffee drinker outside. I like mine similar to Americano, but it is actually a prolonged espresso (this way I almost get a Turkish coffee just like home). Don’t use any flavors or milk, just plain…coffee. I do have to admit though, that I would like to have my coffee whenever, too, as my friend does 🙂
#SUMMARY OF ZAGREB COFFEE CULTURE
- spend at least 2 hours for coffee
- always have coffee in a company
- coffee does not have to be perfect
Zagreb is seriously one beautiful, charming and laid back city. People in Zagreb are mostly relaxed and chilled. So if you have a need to adapt, don’t worry. BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, THE COFFEE CULTURE WILL SOAK INTO YOUR DAILY HABITS EEEEASILY.
Now that you’ve thoroughly learned everything essential about our coffee culture, I strongly advise you to go and try it yourself… Remember: You have to make your coffee last.
PS: Have you noticed how many times I have mentioned the word coffee? Well, I have a challenge for you: count and send the exact number to our email: firstname.lastname@example.org and you shall get a free coffee-walking tour in Croatia capital, Zagreb.
Author: Ana Guberina