Many of you know of my love for coffee, even if my consumption has tapered off in recent years. I am slowly (?) moving into snobbishness about coffee. It is my heroine, my weakness, the dark breweding mistress to whom I always return. It is my balm, my muse, my solace. I use it to wake, to celebrate to relax, to move along… So here we have it, my big look at the coffee situation here in BiH. The first thing to note is the lack of filter coffee. RC Banja Luka has some, but it is pretty weird and its drinkability varies. From what I understand, it is a rare thing indeed, though some do have the makers in their homes. I think the oddness of the filter coffee is because the coffee you buy ground here is done Turkish style, which is to say very, very fine, a dust if you will.

People make the Turkish style in their homes, though I have heard it referred to as Bosnian style coffee. The right amount of coffee and sugar, add 2/3 full boiling water. Stir and then raise on heat and stir the surface 3 times. Fill the rest of the way with the water you’d boiled. Let settle. Drink in small cups.

The small cups give you an idea of how the coffee is viewed. It’s not something you just grab on the way to work. It is an event of its own. You have it after breakfast, not during. You enjoy some in the afternoon, taking part in the ceremony with its serving tray, small cups and saucers and all. When you stop for coffee on a trip, you don’t rush in and fill your mug and hit the road again. You literally stop. Not that you could fill a mug if you had wanted — there aren’t roadside gas stations with little drink marts full of coffee and pop.

The coffee isn’t allowed to be something you do thoughtlessly, tossing on a pot and knocking out that last bit of whatever while it brews. To get this sort of coffee right you need experience. You have to know the coffee, so you know how much to use for your equipment. With practice, you can get just the right amount of sugar- not sweet, but rending the cup without its bitter edge despite the strength. As I practice, there is a certain amount of joy in learning the craft, smiling as I get closer to the right amount froth. Having to raise the coffee means you must lord over it. Turning for a moment could mean a messy stove, and having to start the process from scratch.

Going out for coffee is a (proper!) social event. There are many caffe bars, both in neighborhoods and nestled between the shops of business districts. They are often literal coffee bars; a neighborhood place where folks go to grab a beer or coffee. On weekends, they places are crammed with people, dressed sharp and “steppin’ out”. Everywhere, even restaurants, seem to offer the full battery of drinks: espresso, cappuccino, Bosnian coffee, etc. Actually, if you ask for just coffee, you will get an espresso. Or, as my friend does, you can get a double coffee, or double espresso in a slightly larger cup. And, always, the cups are nice and always with saucer. None of the blocky mug stuff we love in the States!

Instead of filter coffee, convenience is instant. Nescafe, to be exact. It has been the same most everywhere I have gone that has instant. The house, OSCE, fields offices, all seem to have that brand. I am sure there are more, but I find it interesting. A little boiling water, and a scoop or 2, and there you are: cup of Joe. I am back and forth on the taste, to be honest. I seem to always vary my number of scoops, and all that. Some days it’s tasty and others it is awful. It might come down to how bad I want some caffeine.

I tend to favor cappuccino when I go out. So far, I would say any I have had rate “good” at their worst. In the States, I would rarely order one, between the general nastiness that most places produce and the cost, it is seldom worth it. They are a little smaller than ones you get in the States, but at most they have run 2KM, which is something like $1.33US at the time of writing, slightly cheaper most likely.

In all, I like the coffee here. Sometimes I crave the quick and easy excessive mugs, guzzled to fuel my day. But, it is nice to be around people who have coffee as an event built in to what they do. As I tend to believe, all great things start with coffee. So I have to sip, but it is stronger. So there is less, but the water following it always is good, and seems fitting, like the coffee I am used to has been split into its essence and filler.

A side note for all this is an advertisement floating around since I have arrived for Don Cafe brand. The billboard is a greasy looking man, almost oily hair pony tailed, a five o’clock shadow, and the goofiest look on his face you ever did see. My guess is that he is supposed to be enjoying the cup in his hands. He is disturbing. I have not seen the TV ad, but am told that for the face he makes after a sip, it could very well taste like feces. Ew.

Posted by Andrew     

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