Coffee Abroad: Cafe Freddo

It may be summer, but it’s not quite hot in Charleston, Illinois. It doesn’t matter, because I am focused on the cold, sweet taste of a café freddo, or ice cold coffee.

GreeceThis glorious beverage is served all over the world, but I had my first taste in Athens, Greece. Would you believe that this drink is serious enough to have a Los Angeles Times article written about it? It’s true. As with any major event, the 2004 Olympic Games drew the eyes of spectators directly to this ancient place. And, to their traditions.

What I like best about coffee abroad is the process. I really am that snooty girl in the “Stuff Study Abroad Students Say” video who proclaims The Coffee Tastes So Much Better Here in a sufficiently American, valley-girl accent.

But it’s true! When living in Spain I witnessed the flocks of tourists at Starbucks, versus the crowds of locals at cafés. Once I had my first café con leche, I knew. The “to go” culture is built on American ideals: multitasking, hurrying, caffeine as energy. The coffee culture in many Mediterranean locations is based on taste, talk and enjoyment. At least one of us is doing it right!

Whatever your drink of choice may be, take note on how the locals are drinking in more than just the beverage. Are they seated or standing? Alone or with friends? My best memory of a cafe freddo in Athens was sitting outside of a bakery with a stomach full of pastries and my lips locked on a straw. I’m relatively certain I closed my eyes and made the “ahhhhh” sound from commercials, post-sip. When I opened my eyes I saw a shopkeeper looking at me, and I offered a sheepish grin in return, lifting my plastic cup in his direction. He made a deep nod as if to say, “You ARE doing it right. Finally.”

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