Cyprus reflections: tea and coffee

One observation that we made in Cyprus was that almost every household has their own way of preparing tea. For coffee, while Turkish (hush hush, OK, Cyprus coffee) is ubiquitous in cafes and restaurants, instant coffee still rules people′s homes, and it′s actually served in cafes as well. Coffee and tea drinking rituals vary not only among cultures, but also among individuals. While many in Lithuania are used to blank machine-made or pour-over coffee, there are outstanding cafes cropping up in Kaunas and Vilnius (such as Green Cafe). Tea in Lithuania has much more developed traditions. Most restaurants and cafes offer a choice between a teabag and loose tea, and there is a variety of herbal teas (only three languages derive their word for ′tea′ from ′herbs′). In Hungary, they actually bring a powdered creamer with espresso. In Azerbaijan, Azercay is famous, but coffee culture is something they did not bother to import from neighboring Turkey. In Malaga, Spain, they have an elaborate distinction between a ′half,′ a ′shade,′ and a ′cloud.′ Searching for good coffee can be hopeless in England and many American cities, but English tea is always a good choice (an Italian, living in Cambridge for over 25 years, said that in the beginning it was a cultural shock to see a spoon so clearly visible through the coffee over there). Italy is famous for its coffee, but I found their espressos too tiny to enjoy. In Luxembourg I was surprised to find coffee just the way I like it. In Istanbul both coffee and tea were good. So, what to expect in Cyprus?

Espresso, cappuccino and other varieties are usually available in restaurants and cafes, but I never tried those, because Cyprus coffee was usually the cheapest, the tastiest and felt the most local.

Cyprus coffee in a fancy way: one Turkish and one Greek [click on the image to enlarge it]

Cyprus coffee in a fancy way: one Turkish and one Greek [click on the image to enlarge it]

We noticed that the fancier the place, the more unremarkable was its coffee. On the other hand, tiny local places with no interior design served the best coffee ever. In Paphos we found an ouzeria that was decorated with guitars and vintage photos – could be a hipster paradise if Paphos hipsters did not assemble at “Let them eat cake” (if that’s actually the name of the place) to drink tea. I’m glad they (or tourists) had not discovered the ouzeria, and we could enjoy our coffee with lokoumades (small sweet handmade donuts), watching locals play table games and smoking although it’s not allowed. In Larnaca, close to the police station, there is a cute family-owned cafe with Harley Davidson paraphernalia. Cyprus coffee there was amazing. In Girne (Kolordu street) we found a cafe with only two tables, but coffee was great and cost only two Turkish liras.

As for tea, I only drank it at people’s homes, but there seemed to be regular English tea and herbal infusions available. Our two first hosts in Paphos and Larnaca used regular kettles, but our hosts in Famagusta used a Persian tea set (it looks approximately like this), our hosts in Nicosia and another one in Famagusta used only such a set’s upper part, and our host in Girne used this part with reusable tea leaves. Our other host in Nicosia used a microwave for boiling water, and our last host in Limassol did not make tea at all. We were quite amused observing this variety, which had to do with the lifestyles and backgrounds of our CS hosts.

Finally, we were extremely lucky to visit the village of Kato Drus, thanks to one of our hosts, where a former scholar now spends his time producing home-made wine and collecting mountain herbs for tea. Can’t wait to taste my purchase!

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