Exploring Greek Coffee Shop Culture – Greek Roasting Trends

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Greek Coffee

What interesting things does Greek coffee have? Greece has a long-standing and significant coffee culture, with records indicating that by the 17th century, Thessaloniki alone had more than 300 coffee houses. Over time, coffee has become deeply integrated into Greek society. Nowadays, traditional coffee houses are still a crucial part of daily life in Greece, and since the early 2000s, there has been a rise in specialty coffee shops.

This heightened emphasis on coffee quality has spurred innovations in roasting, brewing, and consumption, facilitated by products like Roastelier by Buondi Craft. To explore these advancements and how coffee shops are evolving, I interviewed two Greek coffee experts. Keep reading to learn about their insights.

An Overview of Coffee’s Journey in Greece

Greece’s long-standing relationship with coffee can be traced back to the 18th century, marking a significant period when coffee began to take root in Greek culture. Throughout the nation, the “kafeneio,” or traditional coffee house, has been a staple since the 1700s. These establishments were more than just places to enjoy a cup of coffee; they were hubs of intellectual activity where scholars, thinkers, and citizens gathered to engage in lively discussions and debates about the pressing issues of their time.

Over the past three centuries, the love for Greek coffee has only deepened. One notable aspect of Greek coffee culture is the ibrik or cezve, known locally as “ellinikó.” This method of brewing coffee became widely adopted towards the decline of the Ottoman Empire’s influence. Although it originated in Turkey, Greek people embraced this technique, and it remains popular for making Greek, Turkish, and Arabic coffee today.

In contemporary times, the traditional ibrik method continues to hold a special place in Greek households. The recognition of its significance was highlighted when Stavros Lamprinidis won the World Coffee Cezve/Ibrik Championship in 2014, after being a finalist in both 2012 and 2013. Stavros, who collaborates with Roastelier by Buondi Craft, emphasizes that traditional Greek ibrik coffee is still a beloved part of daily life, particularly at home.

Stavros explains that ibrik is a type of Greek coffee prepared in a special long-handled pot by combining finely ground coffee with water. Often, sugar is added to the mixture. This blend is then heated until it nearly boils, after which it is poured into small cups. The fine coffee grounds settle at the bottom, resulting in a brew with a rich, smoky flavor and a robust, thick texture.

Traditional Coffee Culture

Traditional kafeneia continue to be an integral part of the Greek coffee market, preserving a rich cultural heritage that spans centuries. Among the most notable are Dexameni and Panellinion, iconic coffee houses in Athens that have been serving customers since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These establishments have withstood the test of time and remain operational to this day, standing as testaments to the enduring appeal of traditional Greek coffee culture.

These kafeneia primarily attract local patrons, with a significant portion of their clientele being older generations who cherish the nostalgic ambiance and the slower pace of life they offer. Historically, these coffee houses have favored the use of darker roasted coffee, which, while not always of the highest quality, has become a defining characteristic of their offerings. This tradition plays a pivotal role in maintaining the unique flavor profile associated with Greek coffee.

A cornerstone of kafeneio culture has long been the preparation and consumption of ibrik coffee. This traditional brew was the most popular item on their menus up until the 1950s. However, the Greek coffee market has evolved considerably since then, embracing new trends and preferences.

As Stavros points out, “Greece is a country that mainly prefers cold coffee drinks over hot ones,” a preference influenced by the warm Mediterranean climate. Two notable Greek innovations in this domain are the frappé and the freddo, both of which have become staples of modern Greek coffee culture. The frappé, an instant coffee-based beverage, was serendipitously invented at the 1957 Thessaloniki International Trade Show by Nestlé employee Dimitris Vakondios. By shaking instant coffee, sugar, and cold water, he created a foamy and refreshing drink that quickly gained popularity.

The frappé’s unique texture, reminiscent of the modern frappuccino, was a novel experience for Greek coffee drinkers at the time. Its simplicity and convenience contributed to its widespread acceptance, making it a prominent feature of Greek coffee culture since the 1960s.

The 1990s marked another significant shift in Greek coffee culture with the widespread introduction of espresso machines. This new equipment began to reshape the coffee landscape in Greece, leading to the evolution of the beloved frappé into what is now known as the freddo. The freddo, which has become a staple in Greek coffee shops, is made by shaking two shots of espresso with ice, and sometimes sugar, to create a refreshing and frothy beverage that retains a texture similar to the frappé.

This versatile coffee drink serves as a foundation for a variety of other popular beverages. For instance, the freddo cappuccino takes this chilled espresso concoction and tops it with a generous layer of cold, foamy milk, adding a rich and creamy texture that complements the strong espresso base. This innovation has not only diversified the coffee offerings but also catered to the preferences of a climate that favors cooler drinks.

Stavros highlights the prominence of these beverages, noting, “These types of beverages are prevalent in specialty coffee shops, especially the freddo.” The freddo, along with its variations like the freddo cappuccino, has cemented its place in the modern Greek coffee scene, showcasing the country’s ability to adapt and innovate while preserving its rich coffee heritage.

The Rise of Artisan Coffee Special

After the frappé and freddo became staples in Greek coffee culture, another significant shift occurred with the rise of specialty coffee, which started to gain popularity in the early 2000s. This change was unexpected for traditional coffee drinkers who were accustomed to the classic Greek coffee experience.

Stavros explains: “Specialty coffee culture became more common in Greece during the early 2000s, which was a surprise to more traditional consumers.” As the specialty coffee scene continued to develop, new types of coffee shops, known as kafeteria, began to emerge. These modern establishments placed a strong emphasis on enhancing both the quality of coffee and customer service. As a result, kafeteria became popular, especially among the younger demographic.

“Over time, coffee quality improved, which allowed new trends in the specialty coffee market, such as single origins and 100% arabica coffees,” Stavros informs us. This focus on quality and innovation led to a steady increase in coffee consumption. By 2018, Greek consumers were estimated to have consumed around 40,000 tonnes of coffee, ranking them 17th globally in terms of coffee consumption.

Tatiani Cambioti, the Business Executive Officer for Nestlé Professional Greece, Albania, and Cyprus, notes: “Greek consumers are very knowledgeable about coffee, not only because of the variety of products and coffee shop concepts, but also because of the well-trained baristas in the market.” In Greece, the role of a barista is highly respected. Baristas are valued for their expertise and skills, viewing their work as a professional career rather than just a temporary job.

Tatiani further explains that Nestlé Professional has made significant investments in training the barista community, with over 5,000 baristas trained in the past six years. This dedication to education and skill development has contributed to Greece producing several World Coffee Championship winners, including Chris Loukakis, the 2011 World Latte Art Champion, and Stefanos Domatiotis, the 2014 World Brewers Cup Champion.

Greek coffee culture, rich with tradition, has also made room for the rise of specialty coffee in certain regions, resulting in a diverse range of roasting trends. When specialty coffee initially began to gain traction, roasters often favored lighter roast profiles, a departure from what traditional Greek coffee drinkers were accustomed to. “As specialty coffee started to emerge, roasters seemed to prefer lighter roast profiles, which traditional consumers were not used to,” Stavros explains. Over time, the spectrum has broadened, and light to medium roast profiles have become increasingly prevalent.

The Greek coffee sector’s popularity of various styles and trends necessitates that cafés remain adaptable to meet diverse consumer preferences. “Some cafés have their own roasting equipment and they produce and sell unique blends,” Stavros tells us. Nevertheless, commercial roasting equipment is a substantial investment for many coffee shops. Not only is consistent roasting challenging, but it also requires considerable space, which is often limited in cafés.

Tatiani notes that while many coffee shops have enhanced their offerings, only a select few can provide the distinctive experience of on-site roasting. “Although coffee shops have become more advanced in their offerings, only a selective number of shops can offer the unique experience of on-site roasting,” she says.

One way for coffee shops to distinguish themselves is through the Roastelier by Buondi Craft. Greece was the pioneering market for the launch of the Roastelier countertop roasting solution, designed to empower coffee shops by simplifying the roasting process and making it more accessible and customizable. Tatiani highlights, “It makes on-site roasting simple, accessible, and customizable, thus offering a unique competitive advantage.”

Compact countertop roasters enable café owners to roast smaller batches, ensuring maximum freshness for both blends and single origins. Stavros emphasizes the innovation of Roastelier: “Roastelier® by Buondi Craft is a revolutionary and original solution. By using it, cafés can roast coffee beans fresh for immediate consumption.” Unlike other micro roasters that typically wait seven to ten days before using roasted beans, the Roastelier allows for immediate use, making it easier to create unique blends with varying roast profiles, thereby helping brands stand out in the market.

Keeping up with changing consumer demands

The Greek coffee market is a fascinating blend of tradition and innovation. Although espresso-based beverages dominate, accounting for over 75% of all coffee drinks ordered in the country, traditional methods like frappé and ibrik remain popular, making up 21% of all out-of-home (OOH) consumption – a notable portion of the market.

Stavros explains that consumers have grown more open to innovations and higher quality coffee over time. “There are more and more better trained baristas, and consumers are still looking for superior quality coffees – in and out of home,” he says. This evolving landscape has also led to the emergence of coffee events. For instance, the Athens Coffee Festival, which began in 2015, attracted around 16,500 visitors in its 2021 edition, showcasing the country’s burgeoning coffee culture.

In Greek cafés, freshness is paramount. Tatiani elaborates on how the Roastelier process maximizes coffee quality. “Our solution offers a combination of top-grade arabica coffees from around the world,” she explains. “At our Inofyta factory in Greece, the beans undergo the first roasting step using our proprietary roaster and filter set, powered by INTELLIRoast technology. Our customers then utilize our services platform and unique in-store roaster to create a fresh coffee experience.”

Stavros adds that Roastelier® by Buondi Craft is pioneering a new trend and shaping the future of in-store roasting. “It empowers coffee shops to elevate their business by offering crafted coffee experiences with their signature roast,” he notes. This is particularly beneficial in a dynamic market like Greece, where trends are constantly shifting.

Countertop roasting solutions like Roastelier enable baristas to prioritize freshness and the art of roasting, tailoring profiles for various brewing methods and consumer preferences. “Thanks to Roastelier® by Buondi Craft, passionate baristas can now offer hassle-free, freshly roasted coffee – or even personalized blends – to satisfy customers,” concludes Tatiani.