- Food and Cooking
Greek coffee, a healthy coffee
Drinking Greek coffee improves arterial health
A couple of cups of Greek coffee a day improve heart health and increase longevity, according to a study on the benefits of Greek coffee of the First Cardiology Clinic, University of Athens announced at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Stockholm.
Greek coffee consumption increases the elasticity of arteries, which protects against heart diseases. The study of the First Cardiology Clinic, University of Athens was in 485 inhabitants of the island of Ikaria, 65 to 100 years old, who had high blood pressure.
The study found that those who did moderate consumption of Greek coffee, boiled in a briki, had better arterial health, with the vessels to behave like those of young people. The arteries of those who drank less or no coffee was far less flexible.
The researchers speculate that certain ingredients such as antioxidants, may improve arterial function, increasing the body's ability to recruit nitric oxide, capacity which is reduced in patients with hypertension.
To the above study I can add the advice of a Greek doctor in Neurology, who advised me to drink one or two cups of Greek coffee a day, instead of machine coffee that I used to drink when I worked abroad. I did so and my stomach and sleep problems subsided.
The name: Greek coffee or Turkish one?
I guess that Shakespeare's verses: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet", could apply to greek coffee as well.
Whether it is called Turkish, Cypriot, Armenian or Greek coffee, as I prefer to call it - as my national duty dictates-, the particularity of this coffee is the way it is prepared: "finely powdered roast coffee beans are boiled in a special pot, the briki, with sugar according to taste, before being served into a cup where the dregs settle". By doing this the taste and aroma of the coffee is retained: a wonderful and particular smell: A smell that reminds of mediterranean sea and middle east, of summer and basil. And a taste that brings to mind joyful companies and bitter farewells.
Whether of bronze, metal or tin, this sacred object is the main component of the ritual of preparing Greek coffee. Nowadays , due to the existence of roasting coffee machines, this ritual has been simplified, but love, care and a briki are still necessary in order to make a nice coffee, that satisfies each individual's taste.
Preparation of good Greek coffee is like an art. People who succeed in it, as well as those who insist on expecting particular and demanding tastes, are called "meraklides". A Turkish word that means a person who is gifted with "meraki", i.e. refined and high taste.
Briki in stainless steel
How to make greek coffee
In the greek coffee pot we boil the mixture of water (75ml or one small coffee cup), with coffee and sugar.
For plain coffee (sketos) : 75 ml water and 1 teaspoon of coffee
Medium: (metrios): 75 ml water, 1 teaspoon coffee and one teaspoon sugar
Sweet (glykos): 75 ml water, 1 teaspoon coffee and 2 teaspoons sugar.
We stir a few times and then we let the coffee boil in very low temperature. We lift the briki from the fire as soon as it starts to boil and the froth comes up to the brim of the pot. We actually lift it just before it overflows.
We serve very carefully, holding the briki close to the cup. It is better to half fill all cups instead of filling them up one after the other so that the froth (kaimaki) is equally served in all cups.
The preparation of Greek coffee is considered successful when the froth is sustained during serving.
For big cups one has to double the dosage.The disadvantage of drinking Greek coffee in a big cup is that the froth doesn't come out so thick.
Other ways of preparing greek coffee have enigmatic names such as "heavy sweet" or "much heavier" or "heavy sweet and not" , "very heavy and not" . They relate to the thickness that the froth acquires by lowering the coffee pot when coffee is served in the cup. These kinds of taste appeal to the fanatics of Greek coffee and can only be prepared in traditional coffee shops.
How Greek coffee is served
Greek coffee is served in demitasse cups. In the Greek kafenion there is a special type of cup, just the right shape to keep the coffee hot and to let the dregs settle. In Greek homes though, the cups used are of various designs, according to the taste of their owners. The coffee is served on trays and is always accompanied by fresh water. Sometimes the hostess also serves cookies or the tradional "spoon" sweet, made from fruit in sirop.
Coffee in Greek culture
As anywhere in the world, coffee is the most popular beverage of all time. Either alone or in company Greeks have always enjoyed good coffee in so many occasions, happy or sad ones.
In older times coffee was drank in dark places of the underground world, full of smoke of tobacco and kannabis, where rebetika songs were being performed. On the other hand, the same beverage that was served in such places has been the treat offered to guests in any greek house, whether rich or poor, in cities or in villages. It is also still served, usually without sugar, after funerals and memorials.
The temple of Greek coffee is certainly the coffee shop or "kafenion" where coffee accompanies the reading of newspapers. or the vivid discussions on politics. The game of tavli is also an inseparable part of the world of the Greek coffee shop. Coffee, tavli and komboloi (worrybeads) form the triptychon of recreation of many greek souls who, in this way, lay down their burdens for a little while
More uses of Greek coffee
We can use Greek coffee as an excellent antiodorant.
- In the fridge: an open bag of Greek coffee eliminates the odors
- To get rid of onion smell from our hands we rub them with a pinch of coffee
As a cure for diarrhea:
- We can drink bitter Greek coffee (no sugar at all) mixed with one teaspoon of lemon juice.
Finally, dregs are a first class fertilizer. So we pour them in pots instead of the sink. My mother has the habit of keeping the dregs of the coffee she drinks every day in a jar and fertilize her beautiful gardenia.
Device for roasting coffee on sand
This is the best way to prepare good Greek coffee, but it is rarely used in traditional kafenion, due to the length of time it requires. It is worth it though, since the coffee boils very slowly and its taste does not alter at all.
The brikis with the mixture of coffee, sugar and water are placed on the burning sand and, from time to time we stir the sand around them.
Although the device is quite expensive, it has two advantages. On one hand the taste of the coffee is exquisite and on the other hand the "chovoli" with its attractive, vintage, shape, becomes the centre of the group of people who share its preparation and its delicious smell.
Greek coffee accessories
Put a touch of Greek coffee shop in your living room
"Greece coffee shop"
Many thanks to our friends: Marciag, Ciwash and Noctambulant, for their kind and helpful critique