Cafe culture is a term often overused in New Zealand. And believe it or not, attributed to Roger ‘Rogernomics’ Douglas (take that, left wing latte drinkers).
We love a good flat white, and my experiences so far are that Kiwis make bloody good coffee. Meeting over coffee is pretty standard, and every office seems to have a bottomless supply. The Danes, however, have a next level obsession with the stuff! They talk about it all the time. One of my lecturers doesn’t refer to our mid-class break as a break, but instead will announce it by telling us all to go get coffee. Study groups tend to meet at a cafe rather than the library and there are coffee machines all over campus.
The most bizarre thing though, is that their coffee is pretty average in comparison to what I’m used to. Beaten only by the revolting crap they serve at Starbucks (thank god there’s no Starbucks here), it is just filter coffee with a dash of milk. And often you’ll pay $8-$10 for it. I’ll happily drink instant at home and I don’t mind paying 6Kr (about $1.20) at Uni for filter coffee where I have to add my own milk, but it is borderline offensive in a nice cafe where you are paying $10 or more. Even if you order a cappuccino or latte (sadly our NZ invented Flat White is never a menu option) don’t expect a double shot, or appropriately frothed milk. 9 times out of 10 it isn’t even a proper espresso machine, just the automatic kind that is only a step away from being a vending machine.
Finally I caved and went to one such cafe, in my weekend of indulgence when my friend came to visit from London and I ignored my strict budget. We went to a lovely wee cafe in town and ordered coffee and cake, which came to about $10 each, not bad for Denmark! The cafe made the most amazing cakes too. One was a beautiful flourless chocolate cake. The other had no label on it, so I asked the cafe owner what it was. All he would tell me was ‘special secret.’ I didn’t want the recipe or anything, just to know what I was eating! If I were in Amsterdam I would be a tad more concerned at such a description, but luckily it was just that sarcastic Danish sense of humour.
In a hilarious conversation with a couple of Danes about their ridiculous quest for inefficient hydration, I was informed that the main reason they constantly drink coffee is not to be productive, to stay awake or becuase they like the taste, but that they realised they should probably cut back on their day time drinking and it seemed a good substition for all the beer. I have been told time and time again by locals and immigrants alike just how obsessed the Danes are with beer and coffee, but nothing made me laugh as hard as the next comment from these two:
“You can see when the Danes switched to coffee in our architecture: suddenly the buildings aren’t wonky anymore.”