When we pop into the nearest Starbucks for a cappuccino, not many of us pause to think about the rich history behind our cup of Joe. There are any words that can be used to describe our relationship with coffee: the two most popular would probably be necessity and addiction. Some of us, without our caffeine high, are moody, lethargic and just plain unpleasant. Coffee drinking is believed to have first emerged in Ethiopia and slowly caught on in the rest of the world by the 14th and 15th century, first with the Arabs and then towards the Middle East and Turkey. Writer Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri was one of the first to talk about coffee in a 1587 compilation about coffee, he commented that, “among its properties was that it drove away fatigue and lethargy, and brought to the body a certain sprightliness and vigor”.
Closer to the 17th century, the trade of coffee made its way to Europe; it would, as our list illustrates, become more popular on this continent than anywhere else in the world. The drink did spark some controversy at first, though, until Pope Clement VIII stated that it was acceptable for Catholics to consume it. The first European coffee house was opened in Venice in 1645. It wasn’t long before coffee and cultivation became a large trade and spread to the four corners of the globe. The cultivation did feed into many years of slavery – and it is still, too often, an exploitative industry exporting as it does from very poor to very rich countries. But the coffee industry has survived the test of time, and has become more lucrative for poorer countries since the introduction of Fair Trade regulations. It’s now become an irreplaceable part of the culture of many countries.
However, there are countries that favour the rich dark drink quite a bit more than others. Interestingly, none of these top 5 coffee-drinking countries grow coffee beans natively. The biggest caffeine addicts, in fact, are European. The Americans don’t feature here, drinking less than 1 cup of coffee a day on average at 0.93 cups (their Canadian cousins drink a bit more at 1.009 cups), and around Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where coffee drinking originated, they only average between 0.1 and 0.2 cups a day! These 5 countries, though, have the culture of coffee ingrained into their everyday lives; and hopefully they maintain a great relationship with their international suppliers, because it’s likely these Europeans would be lost if their coffee supply was to disappear. The stats we’ve listed here come from Euromonitor, and were originally ranked by Quartz.
5. Slovakia-1.2 cups/day
Slovakia has had a long-standing coffee-drinking tradition. In 1918, Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia) strongly resembled a Viennese suburb. And emerging in this suburb was a large number of cozy and trendy coffee houses. Being popular places for social gatherings, it soon began to, in a sense, mould the soul of the city. Unfortunately, due to the Communist regime many famous coffee houses were forcibly closed down. People feared that the coffee tradition would be extinguished but, when the European borders reopened, coffee culture in Slovakia was reignited.
The main sorts of coffee beans popular here are Robusta and Arabica. Perhaps due to their forced abstinence from the high-quality flavors of coffee historically, Slovakian taste buds have come to be very refined. This means that the perfect cup of coffee in Slovakia is 100% Arabica espresso, professionally roasted and prepared. However, most of Bratislava’s coffee is offered in a blend of both.
4. Germany-1.23 cups/day
Despite experiencing a dip in consumption due to a flawed perception that only the elderly drank coffee, the now popular drink has come back with a vengeance into German culture.
In the 90’s, 15000 tons of coffee was consumed. That number has since increased to an astronomical 55 000 tons, accounting for approximately 1.5 billion Euros worth of coffee imports. With popular coffee bars and houses like Starbucks and Balzac thriving throughout the country, the total out-of-home consumption of coffee totals to about 25% of the coffee market.
It was in fact dresden housewife, Melitta Bentz, who first brought the filter coffee to life. Bentz was determined to enjoy her coffee without the bitter aftertaste. After much time was spent fiddling over the issue, she discovered that, if she used her son’s blotting paper in a cup, the problem was eliminated.
German coffee went gourmet and became an iconic symbol of city chic. Many exotic brands are brought into Germany like Hawaiian Kona Fancy, Jamaica Blue Mountain, and Kopi Tongkonan and, although they come a pretty hefty price (150-500 Euros to be exact), this does little to deter the elite coffee enthusiasts.
3. Sweden- 1.35 cups/day
Coffee arrived in Sweden in 1685 at the port of Gothenburg. However, it was only about 30 years later when the craze caught on, thanks to King Karl XII. After discovering coffee in Turkey, he was so enthralled that he brought back a Turkish coffee kettle. Of course, anybody who was anybody followed the king’s example. Only those who could afford it drank coffee for the next century or so. After this period, coffee became a national drink. Some speculate that this is due to the teetotalers (non-alcohol drinkers) of the time who promoted coffee as an alternative to vodka. This did not stop the two drinks from being mixed – the alcohol-coffee hybrid drink “Kaffekask” became popular among workmen and farmers.
As far as preparation goes, coffee was boiled well into the 20th century, until the introduction of the electric drip brewer. In the 40’s and 50’s, Italian workers introduced the espresso, with its first cup being sold in 1959 and the Americanized espresso following about 30 years later.
To this day coffee breaks, known as ‘fika’, are a focal part of Swedish and Scandinavian lifestyle. It gives Swedes a chance to catch up and socialize. The typical cup of Swedish coffee is brewed in a drip filter and served with either sugar cookies, or cinnamon/cardamom flavored buns. However, with the barista culture that has taken over Europe, espresso drinks are practically required at any urban hangout.
2. Finland- 1.85 cups/day
In a close second place for biggest coffee consumers, we have Finland. Coffee was first introduced to the Finnish people in the early 18th century, while the country was still under Swedish rule. Like all new concepts, there were skeptics and there were believers. People considered it with suspicion, while others commended it as a medicine that could cure almost anything. Due to this, coffee was first sold in pharmacies, being considered more as a remedy than a drink. However, to keep up with European trends, the upper and middle class Finns were the first to begin drinking coffee habitually. As the 19th century progressed, however, the lower classes were soon taken up in the same habit, despite the high prices. It began as a beverage served during the holidays, but soon began to be a regular delicacy with people consuming it as often as 3 times a day. In the 1920’s, when prohibition banned alcohol coffee became its replacement, explaining why coffee is often drunk at meetings and dinner parties.
Finns have been very particular about preparing their coffee. Prior to the mid 20th century, cast-iron coffee roasters or regular frying pans were used, and it was much more common to use green coffee beans instead of roasted ones. In the 1950s, the electric coffee pot and percolator were introduced, making the production of coffee much easier and more effective. The coffee beans are roasted lighter than anywhere else in Europe. According to Swedish roasteries, the softness and high quality of Finnish water accounts for the light roast, claiming that it extracts the flavor of the bean very well.
Finland, throughout the 20th century, was ranked among the biggest coffee consuming countries in the world, surpassing Sweden in the 1970s. In the 21st century, coffee is a fundamental part of Finnish culture: They’re the only country to make coffee breaks at work mandatory.
1. Netherlands- 2.4 cups/day
The biggest coffee consumers in the world are not the high-powered New Yorkers, neither the laidback Parisian cafe-goers nor the latte drinking Italians: no, the Dutch are the most voracious coffee drinkers in the world.
About 70% of coffee in the Netherlands is enjoyed at home. Nonetheless, due to the growing number of coffee bars and chains like Starbucks, that percentage has begun to lower. A favorite among Dutch people is the “koffie verkeerd” (which can be literally translated as ‘wrong coffee’), a drink which resembles a latte. With the creation of the coffee brewer, Senseo, the Dutch coffee culture has been revolutionized. Until 10 years ago, filter coffee was the preferred type in the Netherlands. Along comes the Senseo, and the population began using coffee pads. Due to this revolution, the Dutch have been known to be very critical of their favorite drink. At work, communal coffee machines are usually frowned upon and those companies with substantial budgets typically invest in more sophisticated machines.
An impressive and positive aspect about this culture is the trend of drinking Fairtrade coffee. Oxfam, the international organization against poverty, reported in 2010 that 45% of all coffee sold in the Netherlands was sustainable, with a further prediction that, by 2015, this percentage would grow to 75%. The Netherlands are world leaders in their consumption of Fair Trade coffee; so really, no better country could have landed at the top of our list!
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