Even if you’ve just come to Germany, you’ve probably already realized we’re a country that loves coffee. The stereotype says, that all Germans love to drink beer – and while that’s partly true – we love coffee even more. There won’t be a day when you don’t see someone taking a sip from a takeaway cup of coffee in the streets and no lunch break is complete without a coffee afterwards.
The tradition of drinking coffee in Germany begins in the 17th century. The first coffee houses opened in Bremen and Hamburg – the big seaports where the coffee arrived. Coffee houses were meeting points of rich or famous people: Merchants, philosophers, writers or scholars liked to come there, discuss politics or other important topics and work on their creations.
In the beginning, only the upper classes were able to afford coffee, which was also due to the restrictive way coffee was roasted in Germany under the reign of Frederick the Great. He made sure only stately roasteries were allowed.
The industrialisation made it possible for everyone to afford coffee – although, for the lower classes, it was more than just a hot beverage. It had become a food substitute: With lumps of bread, it was a kind of soup, that held workers awake and lessened their hunger. After World War II, coffee even became something akin to a second currency for a while. Only due to the economic miracle everyone could afford it again.
Now, in the 21st century, coffee shops and cafés have replaced the coffee houses, but still people love to meet over a cup of coffee. New coffee creations like “frappuccinos” complement the more traditional ones and everyone can find a coffee to their taste.
On the average, every German drinks around 150 litres of coffee a year. In comparison: Statistically, Germans drink “only” about 107 litres of beer and about 144 litres of water a year.
“Let’s have coffee” – that’s a phrase you often hear in Germany. Whether it’s for formal or informal meetings – coffee seems to be what holds this country together.
Text: S. Schückel