Eastern Europe is where coffee has come to die. I considering the full definition of Europe here, so from the Ural mountains in Russia through to the Bosphorus. The western edge is Poland down to the Balkans. Although I’ve not had coffee in each of these countries the trend is not looking good.
It starts off with a menu that raises your hopes. This menu contains a hipster-attracting range of coffees from the simple espresso and it’s friend the doppio. It goes on to include less frequent items like the macchiato and finally the rarer finds that give you hope that someone knows what they are doing. Like the ristretto. The ristretto is like the espresso but pulled shorter. So you get even less liquid than an espresso. You do this because the flavour is fuller and smoother.
I ordered a ristretto once and received what was roughly equivalent to a mug of coffee. A mug of coffee is basically an Americano. Which is nothing like American coffee. But, that’s ok because an Americano everywhere else isn’t filtered coffee, it’s expresso based. Are you all keeping up?
"You are not a ristretto." I said to the coffee.
"Love me for who I am." It replied.
I tried, but we were both very bitter.
Sometimes I would just ask for an espresso. The espresso is a single shot of coffee. It’s black and it’s strong. It’s also a coffee with so little involved in it that it’s harder to fuck up: you can burn the coffee, you can get the grind wrong or you can let it run too long. If you ask for a cappuccino, latte or flat white then there is a chance someone will do the above and they can burn the milk or put in so much milk you can’t taste the coffee.
So I ask for an espresso and the waiter would say. Do you want milk in it?
"What do you mean: do I want milk in it?"
"Your espresso, do you want milk in it?"
"An espresso doesn’t have milk."
"O.K." She says and walks off bewildered at my statement that an espresso doesn’t have milk.
If you put milk in your espresso then what is the difference between an espresso and a latte?
So I ordered a cappuccino and it didn’t have any chocolate on the top. That is the best bit. If it doesn’t have chocolate on the top what is the difference between a cappuccino and a latte? I kid, you don't use the microbubbles in a latte and the best bit is the marshmallows.
If all these coffees are the same; why did you put two dozen different coffee arrangements on your menu? You should just have a menu item that says 'coffee -take it the only way we know how to make it'.
In another part of Russia I found a café that served a piccolo, 'the Australian coffee' it claimed. As an Australian, residing in the coffee capital of Melbourne, I found this strange as I have never hear much of people drinking the piccollo. I did some research it's a Sydney-based drink and the website I read suggested that Melbournians got close to the same thing with their long macchiato. Picture in your mind a baby latte.
I was served this vile-tasting creation:
Seriously. What the fuck did you do to it. It's bubbling like a science fair volcano. And who drinks a hot coffee through a straw?
In Romania and Bulgaria everyone drinks coffee from street side vending machines.
In Bulgaria I ordered an espresso once. Then I changed my mind and asked for a cappuccino as I decided on something sweeter. The "barista" took the ceramic cup off the espresso machine and put it away. She then picked up a plastic cup one might serve orange juice in at half time. She turned around and pressed a button on the Nescafé 3-in-1 machine. The machine spewed forth. She put it on the counter and I asked:
"Why didn’t you use the espresso machine?"
"Because you asked for a cappuccino, not an espresso."
"I don’t want this." I said pointing to the unpalatable swill on the bench. I will pay for it, but make me something from that machine.
The Nescafé 3-in-1 cost more than a shot of espresso. Oh how I hate that company and what it does to people, to the environment and to coffee. All through Eastern Europe your average restaurant coffee will be Nescafé 3-in-1.
I hope Turkish coffee is as good as everyone claims it is.