In Australia up until the late 1980s it was non-Anglo migrants and a cluster of faux bohemians who drank real coffee. The mass were largely satisfied with instant coffee, and an occasional cappuccino at an Italian restaurant, and always at awkward hours. Who really drinks milk based coffee outside breakfast!
Now we have all matured into coffee aficionados. We hunt for single origin beans. We buy thousands of dollars of industrial coffee machines, which we don’t use properly and end up with lukewarm babycinos.
Ross Karavis, a Melbourne-based coffee connoisseur, and a PhD candidate researching food, says that over the last two decades we have seen “significant improvements in the quality and range of coffee and an emphasis on origin, taste and flavour.”
Karavis says consumers have ramped up their coffee credentials. “They have a greater interest in the consumption of coffee and in coffee and café culture.”
“These have become incorporated into the day to day routines of peoples lives, so we see more people with espresso machines at home. More people with coffee pod machines. More people using immersion brewers like Aeropress and Clever Drippers and having their own coffee grinders at home.”
Karavis says that people are now more aware of the origins of coffee. “Whether it is the ultra premium single origin beans that we buy at speciality coffee roasters, or the bags off coffee from the supermarket which now declare where their beans are from, or from coffee pods and capsules which state their origin.”
He adds that Eastern Mediterranean pulverised coffee boiled in a pot, or briki/ibrik/cezve, “had not kept up with shifts in consumer taste and preferences as the emphasis was cheap coffee, roasted to a dark cinder and with an emphasis on bitterness which results from over-extraction.”
Greek-style coffee, Karavis says, has now become more sophisticated, and “the taste profile is smoother.”
Greek style coffee has moved up
Peter Patisteas from Oasis, a leading pulverised coffee roaster, says that Greek-style pulverised coffee is “the purest way of drinking coffee”
“It is a ritualised form of coffee making” he tells Neos Kosmos and adds that people are “misinformed about Greek coffee.”
“They assume because one drinks the actual coffee, not the extracted process, and being so super fine, that it is very strong – that is blatantly incorrect.”
Oasis set up shop in 1969 to cater to the large Greek market and have over the years become experts at pulverized coffee. Patisteas and his partner Chris Togias have worked hard to elevate Greek-style coffee in an increasingly congested coffee market.
“Once we struggled to find supermarket shelf space, now they are begging us for product, you see shelves adorned with the characteristic blue of Oasis everywhere” chimes in Togias.
Oasis have just launched its decaffeinated green packaged coffee.
Togias is keen to promote their new green packeted caffeine free coffee.
“We have had lots of feedback, especially from the Greek community, many of which are ageing but want Greek coffee, and want to reduce their caffeine, so, we created a caffeine-free coffee.”
“It has a clean taste, it is a Colombian blend and we tested it, most say ‘I don’t believe it’s decaf,'” he adds.
Patisteas and Togias emphasise that this is part of the company’s “wellness initiative.”
“We have 18-year-olds to 25-year-olds with the same profile as the over 70-year-olds, in terms of wellbeing,” says Togias.
“People strive for a healthier lifestyle, so they are keen to have caffeine free coffee.”
Patisteas says that at the cost of a briki/ibrik/cezve in which you use to brew pulverised coffee costs “$12 to $15 and you can have real coffee delivered in your own home in a precise manner, without expensive machinery.”
Karavis, is a purist at heart, and believes that there is no substitute for a traditional copper briki. He sees the loss of the” great cultural intangible, that knowledge an old school ‘kafetzides’ [coffee brewers in Greek cafes] brought to the art of brewing coffee in a pot.”
However Karavis is an optimist who sees “new horizons emerging in the brewing coffee in in a pot.”
“You have a simple set of rules in what to look for when brewing Greek-style coffee, and when to serve it and you can brew one a satisfying cup in less than five minutes.”
Patisteas likens people with $8,000 coffee machines “a bit like the aunty in the old days with the plastic over the expensive couch.”
“Why buy all the machine, why all the energy and waste?” he asks and emphasises the environmental sustainability of making Greek-style coffee.
“It is simpler, and far less wasteful than an espresso capsule, it is sustainable.”
It’s all about ritual
“I watch my dad and my mum standing at the over the stove making it and it is that ritual and that’s what we’re talking to people about.”
“The ritual of making Greek coffee is great, it’s hard for people to understand the simplicity of making Greek coffee – they expect sophisticated equipment and dual boilers,” Patisteas points out.
Coffee was introduced to the world through the Arabian Peninsula in the 15th century, after it was discovered in Ethiopia.
The earliest known written record of coffee consumption comes from Yemen in the mid-15th century. It spread throughout the region, and gained popularity in Egypt, Turkey, and eventually Europe. Arab traders played a significant role in spreading the cultivation and trade of coffee, and it became an important commodity in international trade.
We know that in Ethiopia brewing coffee is a ritual. “Ethiopians are deeply respectful of coffee” Patisteas says who spent a year in Africa and was in Ethiopia for eight weeks.
“The ritual was crucial in Ethiopia – sitting down as a community and creating a hub is essential. So, with Greek-style coffee we are focusing on the ritual.”
Greek-style coffee is now “a much-improved blend of Robusta and Arabica beans” Togias adds.
“The market has shifted even with traditional espresso, which once used Robusta beans and was roasted dark, our palate has changed.”
“Greeks were used to the dark acidic coffee, but we have a new blend now, without the harshness of the past – a lighter roast,” Togias says.
Patisteas says coffee from the extraction method responds to the fast and industrialised level of work. Greek-style coffee though, is about time-out-of-time. About creating liminal space.
“It is there to let us depressurize, it is about creating a community hub, and discussion.”
Greek coffee is about taking time
Vasilis Vasilas in Perth, has worked in the coffee industry for 25 years and agrees with the Oasis roasters.
“When you ask someone to have a Greek coffee what you are saying is, ‘Let’s take time to brew… let’s sit down and talk’ – one can be sitting on a Greek coffee for hours,” Vasilas says.
He says that extraction, and pulverised Eastern Mediterranean coffees, “complement each other.”
“There will be an increase of quality Greek-style coffee consumption and it will not detract from espresso style.”
Things have changed in the positioning of Greece, so much so that in June this year, Athens will host World of Coffee a major coffee exhibition, and of course Peter and Chris from Oasis will be there.
So brew a coffee with a nice kaimaki and let’s talk.
Oasis at the Antipodes Greek festival in Lonsdale St, Melbourne this weekend will present workshops on Greek-style coffee making .