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Greek Coffee Tradition

These brass coffee pots allow the heat
to be distributed slowly and evenly as
the coffee is brought to a boil


Since the real business of eating does not begin for the Greeks until midday, it is only coffee that gets city dwellers, in particular, through the first hours of the day.  This first cup of mocha coffee is both a reminder and a foretaste of an afternoon ritual.  Vale briki, which means something like "get the coffee pot boiling" is one of the most important phrases to be heard during the course of a Greek day.  Not only does it signal coffee-time, but can also be an out-right invitation for a cozy chat over coffee or even a coffee klatsch to gossip about the various goings-on in the neighborhood.  
These get-togethers over coffee have a special social significance in Greece as a means of contact and exchanging news. Anyone who does not participate of observe the rules will find it difficult to make friends in the community.  The hostess serves the coffee on a tray with some sweet confectionery, and a glass of chilled water.  Her guests wish her success and happiness before sampling the sweet confectionery, then quenching their thirst with the water and only then reaching for the coffee.  There are rules governing coffee-drinking too: Unlike espresso, mocha coffee is not downed in one go, but sipped deliberately slowly in order to leave the gritty sediment at the bottom of the cup.

Ground coffee and sugar are spooned
into the pot according to personal taste
  Using just enough water to fill a coffee
cup, pour it onto the coffee and sugar
and bring it to a boil
The coffee is ready when the froth
has risen right up to the brim
  Pour the mocha coffee slowly and carefully
into the cup, leaving as much of the
grounds as possible in the pot

These private coffee sessions can include mixed company with men present as well as women.  Sometimes, it is just a women's get-together.  if only men, it is unlikely that they would make the coffee themselves, preferring to have it served to them in the kafenion.  Coffee-making is regarded as women's work.  These are numerous ways of preparing it and sometimes it does not turn out successfully.  there is a saying that you cant hide anything from the mocha, and the maker's mood is reflected in the resulting brew.  There are basically three different ways of preparing mocha coffee: sketos (bitter), metrios (medium-sweet) and glikos (sweet).  To make one cup of mocha coffee, you need one teaspoonful of very finely ground coffee beans.  Add sugar to taste, then a cup of water, and slowly bring it all to a boil in  a special little long handled pot, before carefully pouring the coffee into the cup.  In days gone by, it was placed in glowing embers to heat up.  The coffee sediment must them be given time to settle at the bottom of the cup, a period of waiting which can be filled with cookies and sweet confectionery.

In the 18th century, it was customary for young men, seeking a girl's hand in marriage to be served a cup of mocha coffee by her family.  This was not simply a symbol of the host's hospitality.  if the coffee were sweet, the suitor had every reason to be pleased; if it were bitter, the young man would rise politely, say thank you for the conversation and never be seen again.

excerpts from: "Culinaria Greece"

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