I've just spent 6 weeks travelling through Europe from Romania to Ireland and boy is there coffee crap. I found it almost impossible to get a latte and when I did they didn't know how to make it. One cafe called Costa, a chain like Starbucks, poured a full tall glass with foamed milk and added the shot after. The so called barista asked why I wasn't happy so I told him he'd just made a ridiculously extra foamy cappuccino and he got angry. In Switzerland most places use automatic machines so most cups were all foam and little flavour. A lot had a drink called Latte macchiato which ended up being another overly foamed cappuccino. Only once (and I really am a coffee snob) did I have real success. A small speciality shop in Prague actually made a proper latte with a rosetta on top. Even Italy's coffee weren't that great. There cappuccinos weren't bad but in general I found there drinks poorly made. Maybe I didn't look hard enough and others may have had more success but 2 or 3 bought coffees a day for 6 weeks, you'd think I'd have more than about 5 good cups. My wife got sick of me trying to find specialty cafes and when I did they weren't that good. We really are the lucky country from a coffee point of view. I couldn't wait to get home and hit the streets of Melbourne and of course my own home made coffees which are better than all the cups I had travelling.
My wife experienced the same as Yelta. High quality espresso, cappucino and caffe latte in Italy.
Elsewhere in Europe she stayed away from the chain stores as they are no better than GJ, Zaffas etc.
Funny thing, when tourists come to Australia, they say our coffee is too sour and head for Starbucks.
Each country has their own coffee culture and tastes. To say they need a lesson seems a bit harsh. I do agree with your analysis of espresso based beverages in certain countries, but that same experience can be found in many places in Australia.
Hope you enjoyed your trip.
Yes....each country has their own way, and when we travel, we need to be mindful of that. Also, I understand the so called "larteh" is a peculiarly Australian (or american) thing and a barista in another country should not be berated for not knowing what we are asking for, particularly as many of them know that the Italian word for milk is latte. I'd say you were lucky to have received a shot of coffee in it at all. The world does not revolve around the Oz interpretation of what we think coffee should be like.
When I travel (often enough) I wont go out of my way looking for coffee. I don't travel to go to cafes, I travel for work or to go site seeing. If its in front of me I try it (if it looks ok), if its not in front of me, I will not go out of my way looking, however I do understand that we are all different.
The coffee in Italy is a lot better than it used to be and I can usually get a reasonable cuppa in places like train stations and airport, in shops that are not "specialty". Just keep away from the big name brands, you know which ones, because you will get a cup full of of caffeine disguised as robusta and tasting very much like dirt. But they don't have the stronghold they used to and there are enough smaller brands out there that you will get a reasonable cuppa from. And instead of "forcing" them to make something they are not familiar with (larteh or Oz style capp which is not european style), just try what they drink. When I travel I am always asking them for their wine and their food because I want to experience that. Why not their coffee?
The coffee in Switzerland is still aweful for the most part, and their culture is to use expensive commercial size automatic machines that are invariably out of adjustment so will happily automatically reproduce the same awefulness over and over again. But that is their culture, and they obviously like it. If you stop in front of a place that has a regular (non auto) coffee machine, that is where you are more likely to get a good'un.
And as stated in the previous post, we are not immune to having bad coffee experiences in our own country.
I would ask travelers to have a bit of understanding about other people's cultures.
Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch, taking the "P" out of pommy tourists in Spain & Portugal, who go travelling, but then whinge about everything, especially the fact they can't get Pommy food, and want their, (and this is now a bit dated), "Watneys Red Barrel".
However having said that, I did find it safer (for my palette), to skip any milk based coffees in the UK. I stuck to straight Espresso shots. I generally found the coffee to my taste in Italy.
Last edited by GrahamK; 4th July 2014 at 02:27 PM.
I have spent quite a bit of time in Europe and generally the coffee is ok, Italy was quite good at nearly all places Espresso only. Even in Croatia I had good coffee at most places.
Paris was a let down and they struggled to make a decent milk based coffee again a shot was generally ok.
In Italy at least--
caffe macchiato--espresso "stained" with foamed milk,
latte macchiato--milk "stained" with espresso.
I had pretty good coffee everywhere in Italy. I just asked for a caffe ristretto. There always seemed to be a small jug of steamed milk on the bar for me to make my own macchiato.
Last edited by GregWormald; 6th July 2014 at 11:08 AM.
This Euro bashing is quite pointless and not remotely interesting.
Sorry for defending Europe.
"We Shall Fight on the Beaches ". :-)
I was in Europe a few months ago and Portugal by far had the best coffee. The espresso was the best I've had I think! France was ok for espresso and terrible for everything else. Italy was average...very average. No one drinks caps and flat whites , so if you want a decent coffee you should stick with espresso and you will have more success
You'd be lucky to find anyone in Europe who knows what a flat white is...... unless they have visited Australia or New Zealand....
or have come across an Australian, um.... tourist.
It's an Australian coffee drink.
Just had an espresso by the lake in Lausanne and it was remarkably similar to what I get at home in a cafe. Drinkable but nothing special
My experience has been that if you're in a European / British city for a while, and do some research /legwork you can find excellent coffee. But if your schedule restricts you a small radius arounds toursity type places your odds ain't so great (but Europe is not alone in that regard). My experience is largely Paris, Belgium, the Netherlands, and UK (London / Bristol).
My limited experience of Italy is that I never bother drinking coffee in places like railway stations or airports. Yet within a few metres of the old platform 24 at Termini in Rome you could get a great caffe e cornetto for instance early in the morning at a very busy cafe/. Where I worked from time to time, in a smallish town in Latina, my colleagues would go out of their way to avoid some coffee places and go to others. One for instance, a few minutes out of town, looked just like a roadside stop - a servo - and yet had a very busy coffee business. Another, right in the middle of town was completely crowded mid-morning. They insisted that if the machine wasn't super busy the coffee would be rubbish. I suspect some chicken and egg in that. On a cold morning they would drive to yet another place a few minutes away to be able to sit out in the cold with a very good espresso and a glass of grappa.
I found that if I went where they went, and drank what they drank I always got decent coffee. The very humble "hotel" I stayed in - more like a motel here - the night porter could be relied on to produce a perfect espresso at any hour.
I don't think it's much different to here. There are some places you wouldn't drink coffee, there are some places you would and you'd tend to go with what you know a place does well.
Just my limited experience.
I agree with Jonathon and Perlorus. The two worst coffees I have had in the Sydney CBD were at the tourist spots next to the Opera House and at Central Railway Station, both undrinkable to me. Worse than dishwater, more like sewerwater.
I find that cafés that don’t rely on the passing trade and encourage repeat visits, such as near the office blocks, often work harder to make good quality coffee.
When last in the Northern Hemisphere, I found great coffee once in London and once in Dublin. I haven't been to Italy.
Last edited by Barry_Duncan; 7th July 2014 at 10:38 AM.
You're dead right Juvv, espressos were OK, some very good but milk drinks, which I prefer weren't. The milk, 90% of the time was frothy not creamy with microfoam the way we like it here. The top of nearly all cappuccinos were pure white with no coffee showing. I also, as mentioned in my opening post, went out of my way to find specialist coffee shops, when I was in a big city, and not the train stations or airports. A fair number of the shots were actually good with good flow rates, colour etc but they spoiled it by overly frothing the milk. I'll refine my conclusion then. Espressos OK in the right sort of place but milk drinks were basically meringueacinnos.
I'm wondering what level of experience/expertise some of the opinions expressed in this thread are based on?
Seems to be a lot of personal expectation, preference and bias being expressed.
So are you saying that only people with a high level of experience and expertise have an opinion worth listening too? If so then that's very snobby!!!
I'm very interested in other people's opinion regardless of their experience, that's why I started this thread, to see if other people agreed or disagreed. I went to 16 countries and tried to find a great coffee every day and all I'm saying is that I found that difficult. To question the value of people's comments on this thread and others based on a possible bias or lack of expertise is the reason so many people don't post. Everybody has an opinion worth listening too. If you want to take their opinions with a grain of salt then that's fine but there is no need to post that.
This thread is about whether people agreed or disagreed with my opening post. Its a personal choice. Your post #2 was a valuable read. So was post #3. People disagreed with me, particularly Italy. Some said I was too harsh. That's fine. That's my personal experience going to many cafes. Its got nothing to do with facts, experience or expertise, its all to do with people's experiences in Europe and their personal opinions. Your post #26 stifles people giving their personal opinions. Can we now get back on topic or end it. Either way's fine.
Java "Tosses the soapbox on the campfire" phile
Toys! I must have new toys!!!
Agreed. I reckon opinions are fine on the forum.
Personal snipes/slaps are best kept for face to face or non public methods- regardless of who's doing the sniping.
As for Europe? I had some pretty good espresso in Milan- but if you're looking for light roast fruit, good luck!
Machine hygiene from shot to shot was universally non-existent in my experience. Dump the old puck, 2 thwacks from the full doser into the dirty portafilter, load with no rinse and push the button. I was surprised they were even drinkable!
Last edited by TC; 8th July 2014 at 06:17 PM.
When I went to Europe 20 years ago, I thought the coffee's in Paris were rubbish at best...When I was in Venice, Florence and Rome I didn't do much coffee as the temps were cruising on about 35C-40C...Pizzas and pasta were rubbish IMO though... I had nice vienna coffees along with some nice sache torte in Salzburg...Getting back to coffee in Paris I was most disappointed although the cappuccino at Foget's was nice...I have recently been to Paris and found it's what you ask for....If you ask for a Cafe O'late you will probably get and ordinary coffee made with milk but...If you ask for an espresso O'late or make sure the cappuccinos are made from an espresso base you will generally get a nice coffee...If you ask for an American coffee well you get what you deserve IMO...Rubbish...Don't forget that Americans generally make their coffee in a way that is not nice and they make up for a lot of tourist euro over there...Having said that I think they have changed their mindset a bit and do have a nice range of espresso based coffees over there now...Anyway that's my experience...I wonder if others found what I found...
I would expect wherever you go in Europe, It would depend on what you asked for weather you get a nice espresso based coffee or the not so nice American coffee.
The exceptions are Prosciutto ham (generally streets ahead of ours) and some of their bread was very good.
Other Australian cities may be similar, however I mention Melbourne and Adelaide because I've spent a lot of time in both, the others, not so much.
If you ask for a Cafe O'late you will probably get and ordinary coffee made with milk but...If you ask for an espresso O'late or make sure the cappuccinos are made from an espresso base you will generally get a nice coffee...If you ask for an American coffee well you get what you deserve
You're making it sound like Irish Coffee ;-)
You mean café au lait.
I got some decent espresso in Milano, but the highlight in Italy was a café on Lido in Venice that did a superb espresso and a great (but too short for me) macchiato. (I got talking to them when I asked them to do it twice in the same cup. )
French coffee was almost undrinkable for me - couldn't find a place that made something I could finish and that includes Petit Maxims. Bath had a place that made decent latté but weirdly their macchs were crap.
I'd agree with don't drink coffee where the tourists go - get into the suburbs or lanes or backstreets - a little hubbly-bubbly café in Cairo made great coffee, but it wasn't espresso - more like a sweet Turkish. I couldn't find drinkable coffee in China at all - had to stick to Hong Kong-made Guinness, which was only marginally more drinkable.
I got into an argument/discussion with some arm-waving Italians in Napoli because I said we made better coffee... then blasphemed by following with we make better pizza as well. After seeing the 4 guys had guns in holsters under their arms I realised (tipsy as I was) I was in a Mafia bar and we parted on friendly terms after I made the point we were only so good because they had taught us how to make them... (fun night...)
Car'n you guys ...Give this illiterate a break...I'm battling to legibly write and sPeLl proper in inglish, let alone French I had a laugh... OK OK.... Cafe au lait...If you must ...
Will have to take your word on the horse Prosciutto BD, being a horse lover I would not knowingly eat it.
However, having said that, many years ago I was served a steak, I commented on the excellent quality and was told it was horse I know its a personal thing, just me, I imagine others feel the same.
I believe the Dutch are big into horse meat.
Re the bread, the best we had was here http://www.baccalaria.it/# a small restaurant in Naples specialising in Baccala (salt cod) yes, the cod was very good as well, we dined there a couple of times.
The site linked to is in Italian and is not easy to navigate, worth a look though.
Last edited by Yelta; 9th July 2014 at 10:33 AM.
Looking up the thread I note some people have mentioned they wouldnt buy coffee in (Italian) train stations and airports...I guess they have been looking for the oz type lartays and capps. Bars ("cafes") in italian airports and train stations are high volume and if you stick t what they drink (espresso/ristretto but as someone esle stated you dont need to order that just aske fr a coffee), it will be perfectly fine even if i some cases it may be their robusta laden commodity blends....if you drink it their way by adding their 6 gram sugar portion. I think the moral is to always drink it their way rather than to expect them to make something from your (another) culture, and it will be perfectly fine and give you the lift you need after that long trip
It will also need to noted, that the milk they all use in bars ("cafes") is always UHT. It tastes (to us) aweful, and froths into huge airy bubbles....they are not doing it that way on purpose through any technique or lack of as such, its just the way it is for that type of milk. Due to the fact that in their culture they drink espresso for the most part (except for some at breakfast), they are not geared to have large quantities of fresh milk in their bars or fridges to cater for it. Ergo they all keep UHT which doesnt need refrigeration.
Hope that helps.
(“if you should be in Rome, live in the Roman manner; if you should be elsewhere, live as they do there”); which is attributed to St Ambrose.
Fair enough Yelta, although not particularly (and not against them either) a cat and dog lover I feel the same about cats and dogs... I believe some people in Asian countries eat them...I can't get my head around that...
I'm not sure about the Dutch but the French and Swiss enjoy Horse meat...I think they call it Cheval... I've had it and it is very nice, similar to beef but leaner I think...
Interesting comments TOK, and I can understand what you are saying...Thanks, it helps a lot... I really didn't look at it like that...Bit of tunnel vision happening on my behalf....My immediate thoughts are, that explains why their coffee is not so nice (in our opinion) but wouldn't you think they would adjust the way they do things in touristy areas like Airports etc to cater for the tourists...Then when you think it through, maybe most tourists do not have our taste in coffee and the way they sell it is just fine (In their opinion)...Maybe the way we like coffee is in the minority of world coffee drinkers. Regarding robusta coffee beans...Don't they have more caffeine in them???...If that is correct and I was jet lagged and tired from travelling and didn't care a great deal about the taste (and BTW I've had some bad factory coffee/poison in my time) Then Yeah..The drink should give you a good lift...I'd go along adjusting to the culture thing in some, even most ways but if I can get coffee the way I like it, with little or no fuss (and that's the kicker)... That's a bonus IMO...
What a fun thread, just about to head over to Europe again, France, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic.
Funniest thing last time, in this nice little town on the top of a hill in Umbria, Santa Maria de Tiberina, I asked for a latte, and got just that.
Hot steamed milk, we looked surprised, she realised it was not what we wanted, and laughed.
She was great, she had no English, I had very little Italian, but she made us a coffee, not the way I wanted it, but as said before, when in Rome.
But it was all great fun, part of the interest and intrigue of travelling, especially in some of the small towns off the normal tourist track.
Just the way we like it.
Agree with you more generally though - the typical standard of coffee in Europe is lower than here. Auto machines are pretty common. One notable exception is Denmark. Copenhagen has some of the best coffee shops in Europe.