To avoid all confusion from the start, “Kaffee (= coffee)” is a very serious topic. “Kaffee” is more than a plain beverage. Kaffee is more than some warm / hot, brownish, caffeinated liquid in a paper cup. “Kaffee” is more than a conversation topic between supporters and opponents of fair trade. “Kaffee” is more than the smuggling good many usually proper German citizens tried to sneak in from Belgium or Luxembourg before the European Single Market was established. “Kaffee” is a meal.

“Kaffee”, while the word actually refers to nothing but the beans, the powder or the beverage, has been used as the generic term for a meal held somewhere around 3pm to 4pm. Savoury items are usually not served at “Kaffee”. Instead, your host will likely treat you to a variety of sweet pastries in addition to coffee as the main beverage. It’s perfectly normal to get invited to a birthday “Kaffee” on the Sunday following the actual birthday; light snacks and dinner unspokenly follow.

Beware though not to bring a cake of your own unless you get explicitly asked to do just that (which usually only is the case at large informal family gatherings or some kind of fundraising cake sales at school carnivals). You might imply that the host is not able to feed you properly (i.e. to stuff you to the brim until whipped cream starts oozing out of your nostrils. “You’re welcome!” on the visual.) If somebody invites you for “Kaffee” and offers you only just that and not even a few store-bought cookies, that person hates you. If it’s a prospective mother-in-law, then she hates you with a passion. Germans love pastries (a post on pastries in particular is soon to come), and while there seems to be a bakery on every other corner, many pride themselves in their homemade pastries. Above you see a sample I contributed to a family gathering “Kaffee”. I did a close-up so you will neither have to see my family nor too much of the emergency-1970s-garden-chair cushion. Alas, people had already started eating of it (the cake, that is) before I could snap the picture, but I hope you’ll get an idea nonetheless.

Finally, a note on “Kaffee” as a beverage: in comparison to the US, coffee is usually much stronger in Germany. There are people like me who enjoy their coffee particularly strong. As my father puts it, my coffee bears the eschatological message that resurrection from death is possible.

About the author

froylein

24 Comments

  • Re the pic: this is your brain on coffee?….. As a surrealist object, it’s almost as spooky as Meret Oppenheim’s fur teacup.

  • Awwwww, Tom, you really need someone to bake for you…
    It’s a tiramisu charlotte, so there’s a lemon cream filled sponge cake role on the outside (the swirls you see) and a tiramisu creme filling on the inside (including the occasional amarettino).

  • froylein:
    I’ve never been able to bring myself to like halva.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    1) Perhaps you are referring to the crunchy, over-sugared version we had in America rather than the smoother, nuttier version available here in Israel? Do give it another chance.

    As a kosher cook I am always looking for ways to give a flavor boost to plain cakes (in the absence of butter) – and one of my favorite tricks is to replace 1-2 tablespoons of the margarine with marzipan, halvah, or tahini paste – adjusting the sugar in the recipe accordingly.

    2) We hear a lot about how French people eat rich foods without getting fat – because they take small portions of exquisite (and rich) food.

    Is the same true in Germany? Or are people fat from eating all that whipped cream?

  • Ben-David, actually the Halva I ate was Israeli, but it still was crunchy and highly sugared. I was told by my Israeli hosts it’s the best I could get, but I wasn’t too impressed. Loved the olives in Israel though. A lot. Much better than the tiny ones you get here.

    You could replace some of the flour by ground hazelnuts or coconuts (roast for a bit in a pan for more flavour) for more taste. Vanilla always works well, too. If you don’t mind using alcohol, use amaretto instead of milk / water. (You can get non-alcoholic amaretto here, too, but I’m not sure whether it’s available everywhere). I don’t use butter cause I’m not much into butter per se. Rosewater also works, but the flowery taste is not to everybody’s liking. It’s become somewhat cheap though, and you can make your own marzipan wit rosewater, ground almonds and caster / confectioner’s sugar. Also works with powdery artificial sweeteners for diabetics, just doesn’t stay fresh as long.

    Phew, firstly, most people don’t eat cream cakes every day; it still serves as a treat, but most people will still go for a sweet desert / pastry with coffee. People eat more reasonably here than in the US. Let’s face it, all those diets leaving out one of the major food groups are utter shtuss. We need protein for the brain and the muscles, carbs for lasting energy, fats for fat-soluble vitamins such as the A vitamin, fibre for a working digestive system etc. The key is to eat a balanced diet. On average, Germans are thinner than US Americans, but the average also means that people are more average and you’ll see fewer on the extreme ends. Like in many European states, parents’ activist groups are pushing to ban sizes 0 and 00 clothing as that size is plain undernourished for young women (average height of women here is 5’8″). There’s great awareness of childhood obesity just as of anorexia and bulimia. You’ll also see fewer anorexic older women here, but it’s also tougher to get hands on laxatives (as overusing laxatives can not only lead to failure of the intestine track but also to heart problems such as heart attacks). Nowadays, you can get most food items in a low-fat variety at the same price. Fat is a carrier of taste, so it takes a while for the taste buds to get used to being more sensitive to flavours, but then the food’s just as good. E.g. I only use low-fat cheeses (0.2% fat in creamcheese as opposed to 60% to 80%; 12% to 16% in solid cheeses as opposed to 60%), cold cuts (3% max. as opposed to 30%), milk (0.3% as opposed to 3.5%) etc. since my father’s a type II diabetic and fat’s been found to bear the highest risk of adding to a potential outbreak of diabetes in children of diabetics. I also make sure not to eat too much sugary stuff, keep convenience food and fast food an exception, and my check-ups say I’m healthy like a horse. Then again, my parents claim they’ve bought me from the gypsies, so maybe I need even not be extra cautious. 🙂 So, overall, Germans are more averagely shaped, but taller, healthier (also thanks to better healthcare) and with a longer life expectancy than US Americans. The average German bra size though is between C and D and rising as opposed to a B in the US; European women have always rung me as more feminine than American women (are more likely to wear skirts, too), but I don’t aim to offend anybody here.

  • BTW, that might be an interesting study for ecotrophologists, economists and sociologists to find out in how far the low carb-craze has negatively affected US economy and professionals’ turnover rates as the lack of carbs results in a lack of stamina / work power and the ability to concentrate.

    Forgot to mention, Germans walk more than US Americans. Taking a cab for a few blocks etc. seems pretty odd to us.

  • Yum, yum, yum. Froylein, when are you coming back to America? We’d like to see you. And that cake.

  • You forgot to mention a couple of things about germany and europe Froylein.Germany has the best public transpostion in the world.They are not as overworked and stressed out as americans.Plus i tend to see more people on bikes and outdoors than your american countrparts.But i have seen my fair share plus sized people in germant too.

  • Lori, not really sure yet. Looks as if I’ll be house-sitting and looking after my grandma during my next break…

    J.Miller, are you in Germany right now? No doubt there are plus-sized people in Germany, but as I said above, you see fewer extreme cases here. I think plus sizes are most common among those that grew up in the 1960s, when for the first time in their lives, there was an overabundance of food at low prices. Just consider that my grandfather earned 7.50 Reichsmark per month as an apprentice pre WW2, – he was the only one among his polytechnics class to even get paid for his apprenticeship – which was the price of a kilo of meat back then. As for public transport, on statistics, Germany’s got the tightest network of rails in the world. Still, in places like mine, trains only run once per hour in each direction, and it’s a 1.5 miles walk from my house to the station.

  • I did not mean it as an insult.No im not in germany.I lived there for awhile and loved it.Europeans are in better shape than americans,this is true.Just look at the Danish they all ride bikes and are in great shape.It is a sad fact that most americans are lazy,spoiled,FAT,whinny people with a false sense of self entitlement.Im 5’6 145 pounds and have a BMI 7.6 at the moment.Are you an american living in germany or you germany?Yes i did mispeak or mis type(lol) alot of the bigger people tended to be older.Hey dont complain a short 1.5 mile walk is good for ya.

  • Since you are a person i assume like facts.According to John Hopkins 64% of adult americans are overweight,30% are obese. When it comes to children almost 55 percent are overweight/Obese.You dont have to look to far to see Extreme cases in the states.But when it is all said and done,DAMN that cake look good.Oh yeah froylein next time you are in the states stop in Pittsburgh we will go for a bike ride.

  • We returned earlier this year from a visit to Italy. My wife and I overdosed for a week on some great cappuccinos and macinatos.

    When we came back home to Israel, I began searching for a great home espresso/cappuccino machine. At first I only found electric ones, ranging from hundreds of shekel for junk to 15,000 shekel for professional systems. Way too much for 2 cups of hot beverage.

    Then I came across this stovetop espresso maker and milk frother. Actually we bought them separately, as we wanted a 9-cup espresso maker, not the 6-cup model.

    We have since been drinking espresso and cappuccino that matches the best we’ve had in Italy. It takes a few minutes for the coffee to percolate on the stove but you’ll never go to Starbucks again.

    Note: the 6-cup brewer produces 2 classic size cups/glasses of cappuccinno. The 9-cup brewer will produce enough for 2 coffee mugs worth of cappuccino.

    In Israel, we ordered these online from Kedma, who were very friendly and swift. Other retailers in Israel available from Zap.

  • J.Miller, I did not take it as insult. 🙂 Just was wondering whether you still were dwelling somewhere around here. I don’t mind the walk to the station, but the train schedule isn’t too convenient, particularly with no trains running between 11pm and 4am. Pittsburgh? Really?

    ShyGuy, lots of people use that kind of espresso maker here, but you also get really good instant espresso powder e.g. by Jacobs. Oh, and get cappuccino cups, they’ll add to the “feeling”.

  • Jacobs?!?!?! Never!!!! Blasphemy!!!!

    Illy has become our standard. I’ve tried some local freshly ground blends but they don’t match the imported Italian. I do miss NYC’s Zabar’s own fresh ground Columbian blend.

    And when in Rome, drop by Tazza D’Oro, have a cup and buy some vacuum packed to take home. They also have a coffee bar and products in the duty free at Rome’s Da Vinci Airport, at least in the departure lounge next to the El Al boarding gate (after taking the shuttle train from the central departure lounge).

  • Shy Guy, I agree their coffee is bland, but their instant espresso’s pretty decent. I usually stock up on coffee in Belgium, where they’ve got the stronger French roasts. I’ve recently discovered the great coffees, teas and cocoa of a local coffee roaster. An uncle of my grandmother’s, who is well over 100 years old, also still roasts for family and select old customers.

  • Yes im from SteelTown USA.But i would love to retire in Corfu and live out my days in a nice little villa.Hey shy guy how about some starbucks(joke).

  • Last year I had the best coffee ever in Germany, but I wasn’t smart enough to bring some home with me.

    Froylein, can you recommend some brands so I can try to buy them online?

  • Certainly, Yael, you need not even go online for those. Dallmayer, traditional Munch roasters, is pretty good, you should be able to get it at Lidl. BTW, some Brits might still frown at the German supermarket chains, but not only is food much cheaper there (sold at German prices) but also is the quality of the food much better as they sell the same products all over, and German quality requirements for food are very strict. The products undergo inspection within the company as well as by state authorities. Also, Lidl’s selection of fruit and vegetables is way better than what British supermarkets usually offer.
    You could also go for the speciality coffee from Tchibo (check out their non-coffee items, too; the quality is great as they have brandname producers work for them, but the items are sold as no-name products at a fraction of the usual price).

  • Thanks, I never even thought about Lidl. I know there’s one in Glasgow somewhere, so I’ll check it out.

    Isn’t Aldi a German supermarket chain as well? I’ve never been in one until I moved here and some of their stuff is great!

  • Aldi indeed is German; the Albrecht brothers were innovators back then as they cut prices by not stocking shelves item-by-item but display-/ boxwise and by having their items, while produced by brandname producers, sold under their very own label.

  • hi you there
    thanks for writing about us
    its funy to see it in english
    and abit surprising.
    we are opening a coffee center in ramat gan
    in aba hilel 17 include coffee lab. and coffee place
    and we are looking for franchising person
    in jerusalem all cosher places.
    thanks again
    alon
    kedma
    kedmaa@zahav.net.il
    kedmagift.co.il

  • I wanted to clarify a few things:
    Tunnel network built in Germany during World War II was intended to fight the American army. Today the tunnels are used to route the trains, and as the trial of this matter with the black hole ..
    One of the largest trials ever no doubt.
    Anyway. Nice to see the Diola that post raises. There really is a respected public space!

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