Monday, August 12, 2013

Greek Coffee

Café Galini
Firostefani, Santorini, Greece
I've mentioned before the vital importance of a good café for those who wish to enjoy the perfect day. By happy chance, on my first day visiting Santorini in the Greek Islands I came across a divinely situated café with views to die for, relaxed service, good coffee, perfect snacks, and -- did I mention the view?
Hotel Galini, location of the fab café.
The entrance, from the footpath along the caldera.
White umbrellas and canvas chairs, white marble-topped tables...ahhh!
The Hotel Galini is a small white hotel (is there any other kind on Santorini?) perched on the caldera in the village of Firostefani between Fira and Imerovigli (have you been paying attention?) I can't speak for the hotel, but its café is now on my list of 'world's best'. The location alone would catapult it into this category, but in addition it has a lovely local blue-and-white decor, relaxed ambience, friendly service, and good coffee and food.

They also do a lengthy menu of cocktails, so I expect it's a popular spot for Santorini's famous sunset. I ended up spending several hours there on several visits, and if you're ever on Santorini, I recommend that you do too.

And as an added bonus, you can enjoy traditional Greek coffee -- if you're game.

Coffee on Santorini.
Café Galini. 
Neat and pretty.
Greek coffee is a special brew, usually made in the traditional little pot called a 'briki'. It's a thick concoction, with foam on top and the grounds in the bottom of the pot (don't tip them into your cup). Although it can be made in a different pot, the traditional small pot is best because it allows the proper amount of foam, which adds to the unique taste. The 'briki' comes in 2, 4, and 6 demitasse cup sizes that help create the right amount of foam ... a very important part of the process.

Pouring Greek coffee in Santorini.
Here's a recipe from
Start with very cold water. Use the demitasse cup to measure the water needed for each cup of coffee (one demitasse cup of water is about 1/4 cup), and pour the water into the briki.
Greek coffee is brewed to taste, and there are four standard types, varying by sweetness and amount of coffee. Experimenting will help you find the exact brew for you.
For unsweetened coffee: Add one heaping teaspoon of coffee to the briki. In Greek, this is called sketos (σκέτος, pronounced SKEH-tohss).
For medium-sweet coffee: Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 heaping teaspoon of coffee to the briki and stir. In Greek, this is called metrios (μέτριος, pronounced MEHT-ree-ohss).
For sweet coffee: Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 heaping teaspoon of coffee to the briki and stir. In Greek, this is called glykos (γλυκός, pronounced ghlee-KOHSS).
For extra-strong sweet coffee: Add 3 teaspoons of sugar and 2 heaping teaspoons of coffee to the briki and stir. In Greek, this is called vary glykos (βαρύ γλυκός, pronounced vah-REE ghlee-KOHSS).
Turn on the heat (medium low), stir the coffee until it dissolves, and don't stir again. Heat slowly. Foam will start to rise in the briki before it boils. Note: This foam is called kaïmaki (καϊμάκι, pronounced kaee-MAH-kee) and the richer the foam, the better Greeks like it.
When the foam rises to the top of the briki (it can move very quickly once it starts), remove from heat and serve. Evenly divide the foam among all cups, then fill cups with the remainder of the coffee, taking care not to disturb the foam. Serve piping hot with a glass of cold water.
When in Greece....
And in good news, it's reported that Greek coffee may have health benefits, in reducing heart problems and promoting longevity:
So what exactly is Greek coffee? The brew comes primarily from Arabica beans, which contain higher concentrations of cafestol and kahweol, molecules rich in antioxidants. And it’s these antioxidant properties that benefit the vascular function, says study author Gerasimos Siasos, MD.
As opposed to the filtered coffee most Americans drink, Greek coffee is thicker and richer, almost chocolatey in the way real hot chocolate tastes, says Diane Kochilas, a chef and author of The Country Cooking of Greece. You don’t get the caffeine kick that your typical coffee gives, she says, but rather, it’s a much more subtle intake. “It offers a sweet awakening, not the brutal slap-your-face to cognizance approach of filtered coffee," Kochilas says. 
You might like to consider that while you're enjoying a new favourite café and a cup of coffee.

New favourite.

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