Koffee Klatch


WORD COUNT: 983

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of reading a book (translated into English) by the Dutch author Geert Mak called In Europe. In it, he attempted to find the dividing line between “Europe” and “non-Europe”, or “Eastern” Europe or “Western” Europe. Certainly, a lot of people use the old Warsaw Pact/NATO alliances as a way to demarcate that border, but I liked how Geert used coffee. Essentially, if you pour hot water over coffee grounds, you’re living in Western Europe. If you boil the coffee grounds together with the water, that’s Eastern Europe.

Having spent so much time in “Eastern” Europe, I can certainly attest that there is a different history and cultural tradition in this part of the world about coffee. The historian in me knows that this is because the Ottoman Turks, who once ruled these lands, were the people who introduced coffee to the people who live here. In the west, it was the Venetians (now a subset of Italians), and from there the differences continued and blossomed.

Come on over, friend, and let's share a cup of coffee together
Come on over, friend, and let’s share a cup of coffee together

If you are like me, and grew up thinking there was only one way to make coffee (hot water poured over grounds, such as in a typical “coffee maker” machine), then I have good news for you! I have now discovered four amazing ways to make coffee, all taught to me by Romanian-speaking people. If a cup of hot joe is your faithful companion in the morning, you might enjoy one of these other methods of preparing your favorite drink:

Ibric/Ibrik

In Romanian, due to orthography reasons, it is spelled ibric (ee-breek), but this is a word borrowed straight from the Turkish, spelled ibrik in that language. Below you can see a traditional Turkish ibrik:

ibrik

That one is made out of copper, which is the best, but most people (including me) use a stainless steel one, simply because it is cheaper. Here’s what a typical modern Romanian ibric looks like:

ibric

Both will make an excellent cup of coffee. Here’s how to do it:

Method

  • Fill the ibric with cold water
  • Add coffee grounds – I use 7 teaspoons to make 2 cups of coffee
  • Allow the coffee to heat until a thick head of foam threatens to boil over
  • Briefly remove ibric from heat until the foam subsides
  • Allow the head of foam to rise up twice more

Add just a dash of cold water to the ibric to make sure that the liquid is lower than the boiling temperature. Pour into your favorite cup or mug, and enjoy!

Pot/Oala

What happens if you want to make ibric-style coffee but you don’t own one of those fabulous devices? Well, the good news is that you can use any regular cooking pot (Ro: oala) to do it exactly the same way.

Method

  • Fill the pot with enough cold water
  • Add coffee grounds – I use 7 teaspoons to make 2 cups of coffee
  • Allow the coffee to heat until a thick head of foam begins to rise up
  • Briefly remove the pot from heat until the foam subsides
  • Allow the head of foam to rise up twice more

Add just a dash of cold water to the pot to make sure that the liquid is lower than the boiling temperature. Carefully pour the coffee into your favorite cup or mug, and enjoy!

Instant/Ness

Originally developed by the Swiss conglomerate Nescafe, instant coffee – or “Ness” as it is known around the world – is actually just regular brewed coffee that has been dehydrated. You can do it yourself if you’ve got a 20 meter high tube and are not afraid of extremely hot temperatures.

Although it isn’t ideal, it is easy to make a pretty decent cup of coffee with some instant coffee powder.

Method

  • Add instant powder to your mug BEFORE adding any liquid
  • Heat water by any means necessary (microwave, stovetop, etc) – it does NOT have to be at the boiling point
  • Slowly add the hot water to your cup/mug – no stirring is necessary

Note: if you want to add sugar and/or milk, it is best to do this before you add the hot water. Milk will drastically lower the temperature of the final coffee, so be sure to use extremely hot water if you’re going to use a significant quality of milk. Some people substitute milk entirely for water. Do any stirring after the hot water has been added.

Coffee Chemistry

Sometimes you just don’t have a pot, or an ibrik, or any instant coffee, but you do have some ground coffee and are in the mood for a steaming cup of joe. Thankfully, you can still make a fantastic cup of coffee that tastes far better than you might guess.

Method

  • Heat water to the boiling point by any means necessary (microwave, kettle, etc)
  • Put two teaspoons of regular ground coffee in a dry mug/cup
  • SLOWLY add boiling water to the cup
  • Do not stir or mix the drink
  • Add just a drop of cold water to “seize” the grounds

On a chemical level, the grounds will saturate the water with the delicious coffee that you love. When you add a drop of cold water, and wait 10 seconds, the grounds will naturally settle to the bottom and not mix or float about in the liquid. Add sugar and/or milk, and enjoy!

Don’t Forget to Invite a Friend to Share a Coffee With You

While I am certainly blessed to understand and converse in a number of languages, I have never had any knowledge of German (or Germanic languages). Nonetheless, growing up in America, I had learned the word “coffee klatch”.

In 2014, while in Germany, I finally got some education on this word, and learned that it comes from a root meaning “conversation” or “chit-chat”, what Romanians would call barfa, better known in Moldova as birfa. Cool, eh?

AND NOW YOU KNOW!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Chuck says:

    Ahhh yes, my morning is not complete without “my coffee”.
    It is somewhat of a ritual for me.
    Some days the coffee is just so good that it makes me smile inside. My thoughts focus on a girl, a young woman. Of course she is Romanian. I chat with her almost daily. It is a love affair, at least on my side it is.

    And now you know why I like follow your blog. Your adventures, experiences, and descriptions of life in Romania make me feel closer to her.

    Oh boy, I said too much. I confessed.
    Enough of that.

    I make it, the coffee, in a coffee maker but intend to try the methods you describe to discover if
    there is any difference in taste.

    Multumesc,,

    Chuck Burns
    Wisconsin, USA

    Like

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