Euro Food Part IV: Coffee

Friday, 12 November 2010

There are some foods that are particularly European. Maybe people think of fine wine, truffles, baguettes and ravioli. But for cyclists there are some particular foods that stand out. As part of a series about food in Europe for riding, here’s the fourth: coffee.

Product description
This doesn’t need much explanation. If you have to know it’s a drink made by passing hot water over roasted, then ground coffee beans.

The important point to note is that a genuine coffee in Europe is small and black. There’s no milk, no syrup, no flavourings. Italy has cappuccino but it’s seen as a breakfast thing and rarely served after 11.00am. As standard it’s served in a small cup and black. It’s meant to be consumed quickly, a shot of coffee is not something to be nursed or accompanied by a muffin.

Euro Cyclist Use
A legal stimulant. It’s an ideal way to start a ride and you can stop en route too for a quick coffee, especially since a bar will be only too happy to refill your water bottles too.

A typical coffee bar is spartan and unwelcoming, there are no armchairs, Bob Dylan piped music nor Wifi. Certainly many a French café has a time-warp aspect. If some Parisian versions are architectural glories, and many outside France have mythical notions of welcoming cafés, your typical provincial version will have dusty shelves and awkward vinyl seats. You’re not meant to dwell. The antidote to this is to sit outside but even then, you don’t hang around for long, except if you are having an aperitif in the evening.

Many a local group ride starts at a café. For example you’ll find a handful of riders meet up most days at the Planet Café in Monaco to begin a ride out to France or nearby Italy.

This is part of a series on European foods with links to cycling or simply for fuel:
Part I: Nutella
Part II: Pâte de fruits
Part III: Stroopwafels
Part IV: Coffee
Part V: Frites
Part VI: Pasta
Part VII: French Bakeries
Part VIII: Water
Part IX: Sirop
Part X: Pharmaceuticals
Part XI: Summary
Part XII: Esta Thé
Part XIII: Grated carrots
Part XIV: Speculoos
Part XV: Belgian beer
Part XVI: Oman Coffee
Part XVI: Italian Ice-cream

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{ 7 comments }

Neil November 12, 2010 at 1:09 pm

I enjoyed this piece – it made me think of my holidays in majorca and getting to the top Lluc first and nipping in for a very quick coffee! Not that I got to the top first very often, but you know what I mean!

Nemo November 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Now I understand why the shop owner in Gyor Hungary looked at me funny when I asked for a "to go" cup! I'm enjoying this series quite a bit!

JasonR November 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Yeah, I thought I had tasted good espresso until I travelled to Italy. Now I know it was all crap. It's a little sad to order one in the States now, as it always falls short of perfection.

TheInnerRing November 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Neil and Nemo: yes, it's often in and out. Sip at the bar and then back on the bike.

Jason R: it's often good in Italy, yes.

Coffee comes in different types, the cappuccinos of the US and lattes are very different but have their moment.

Anonymous November 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Lattes never have their moments, except, of course, among middle-aged housewives who think that they, and Starbucks, are uber cool.

TheInnerRing November 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Coffee snob! ;-)

But it's worth pointing out that that despite the Italian names, "cappuccinos" and "lattes" are often more popular choices outside of Europe.

In France or Italy you walk in and ask for "un café" or "un caffè" and back comes an espresso.

Ali November 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm

The coffee featured in the article looks terrible, at leat ten times longer than it should be..
the art of espresso is simply amazing….. from italy.

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