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Viennese Coffee Houses

Viennese Coffee Houses are a definite thing!

Here's a little background for why they are such a big deal:
After the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, the Viennese found bags of beans they mistook as camel fodder.The king gave them to one of his officers to burn, and the officer discovered the beans could be roasted into coffee. Coffee became a popular beverage here, and the officer eventually established the first Viennese coffee house. Coffee houses became a popular meeting place in the late 19th and early 20th century when authors and artists made cafes the centers of their lives and works. 

There are so many coffee shops in vienna and what's refreshing is they are all very different and have their own personality.  (Yes, technically I only went to one so part of this is what I read and part of it is what our Program Director said in his Viennese Coffee House presentation.)  
There's Tirelerhof Cafe, Cafe Sacher, Gerstner Cafe, Cafe Central, and many many more.  Cafe Sacher (where we went) is known for it's famous Sacher Tort. The Sacher Tort is a bittersweet chocolate tort with a thin layer of apricot jam under the icing. It was invented in 1832 and has been a secret recipe of the Sacher Hotel since its opening in 1876.  (Apparently there's a disagreement about this, where a different coffee house claims they came up with the Sacher Tort.  I can't remember the name of the other coffee house.  It might have been Gerstner Cafe?)
Jeff and Greta both got the Sacher Tort.
Jeff generally likes what he's used to so it makes sense he wasn't the biggest fan, but he still enjoyed it.
Along with the treats to go with the coffee, like the Sacher Tort, there's of course the  strudel:  apple strudel (Apfelstrudel) and topfenstrudel (basically a cheese strudel) are the most famous, but the list of strudels goes on .... and ... on.  
I was almost a little upset to see the new Toaster Strudel commercial that has a little boy dressed in authentic clothing.  Oh toaster strudel.  You are nothing like the real thing.
Karen got the topfenstrudel and everyone loved it!
Vienna even has their own specialty coffee drinks. 

  • Kleiner Brauner and Großer Brauner: Means "little brown one" or "large brown one" and comes close to what people consider to be ordinary coffee: black with a bit of milk, yet typically not filtered, but steamed like espresso.
  • Melange: The king of coffee, a mix of frothed milk and steamed coffee similar to the Italian cappuccino, but consumed at any time of the day.
  • Milchkaffee or Café latte: A large coffee with frothed milk, has been around for a long time, but recently gained popularity probably due to its fancy Italian name that sounds much cooler than "Milchkaffee".
  • Einspänner: Strong, black coffee typically served in a high glass with a dash of whipped cream.
  • Verlängerter: A diluted and thus weaker, but larger version of the Großer Brauner, typically served with milk. Means "extended one".
  • Schwarzer or Mokka: Strong, black coffee, normally consumed with a lot of sugar, but served without.
  • Kurzer or Espresso: The same coffee, in recent years the Austrian term "Kurzer" (meaning "short one") has almost gone extinct and these days, the international "Espresso" is to be found on the menus much more commonly.
  • Eiskaffee: Cold coffee with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and whipped cream - served typically in the summer months, but ideal for the hot season. Only ice tea is more refreshing.
  • Cappuccino: What is sold in Austria under that name is NOT the Italian (thus not the international) version of a cappuccino, but a regional variation made from coffee and whipped cream rather than frothed milk.
  • The Maria Teresa is Viennese coffee, whip cream, and apricot liqueur.
  • Apparently, I just read, "There is no coffee in Austria. That′s right: there are easily a dozen of coffee variations available in a decent café and ordering simply "coffee" might make the waiter slap you in disgust."  I'll give you one guess for what I ordered.  Yep, coffee.  Black.  Maybe that's why my cup was half way filled?  So I could fill the rest with cream?  I did not.
Karen ordered a Maria Teresa.
She figured it was as close as she would get to her flavored coffees, which is the only way she'll drink coffee.
Cafe Sacher
Karen's order
P.S. Since October 2011 the "Viennese Coffee House Culture" is listed as "Intangible Cultural Heritage" in the Austrian inventory of the "National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage", a part of UNESCO. The Viennese coffee house is described in this inventory as a place "where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill."

P.P.S.  I did see a Julius Meinl in Vienna.  Yes, the same brand that's in Chicago.  So there you go, it's in the Viennese style.  As Anthony, our Program Director, talked about how they serve the coffee on a tray with a water, I kept thinking, 'that's not soooo strange, that's what they do at Julius Meinl (with a biscuit).'  Well, apparently Julius Meinl does it because it's the Viennese style.


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