A taste of Europe: all aboard the coffee train

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Coffee-to-go and to savour for taste, place and coffee-ology! We go in search of Europe's best coffees.

One of the pleasures of travelling by train is immersing yourself in the culture of the countries you pass through. And few things reveal more about a place than how they take their coffee. London’s Pasqua Rosee, founded in 1650, may have been Europe’s first coffee house but other countries offer some amazing coffee experiences. We go in search of Europe’s finest roasts, and not a polystyrene cup in sight.

France

Coffee in Paris

You know you’re abroad as soon you take that first aromatic sip of coffee in a little café opposite the Gare du Nord.  If you’re after what we in England know as a ‘white’ coffee, ask for “un grand crème” – which guarantees you a strong coffee with hot milk.  And when you’re taking in Notre Dame, why not drop into La Caféotheque and sample their coffees from around the world.

If you want to part with €1200, why not go on their three-day coffee course that will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the bean and how to make it into a range of pleasing drinks.

Un café, s’il vous plaît | A guide to French coffees 

Italy

The first espresso machine

Italy’s coffee drinks have colonised Europe since Angelo Moriondo patented the first espresso machine.  Not that an espresso machine is a guarantee of a good coffee. There’s many a “barista” that seems unaware of the recipe for the perfect cappuccino – a third, a third, a third – that’s one-third coffee and one-third steamed milk, topped off by foam that you can stand a spoon in. And Italians don’t want to spoil the sweet taste of the milk so it should not be heated to more than 70 deg C. In fact, if you don’t want a lukewarm coffee in Italy you might have to ask for a cappuccino “caldo” (that means ‘hot’!).

Vorrei un caffe per favore | A guide to Italian coffee

Austria

Cafe Central Vienna

Austrians are proud of their range of coffees – and the long history of their coffee houses. Opened in 1860, Café Central was a popular meeting place for Vienna’s intellectual elite. Up to 1938, the Café was known as the “Chess School” because so many chess players were regulars. One of them was the Russian revolutionary Leo Trotsky. And even if you don’t like coffee, who wouldn’t want to sit here for a relaxing hour or two imbibing the atmosphere?  And while you’re at it, why not savour some of those celebrated Viennese kuchen…..

Einen Kaffee, bitte |  A guide to Austrian coffee

Denmark

Kaffe Laboratorium Copenhagen

The UK may have come third in the Olympics medal table.  But when it comes to coffee consumption, we’re only placed 44th in the world, with the Nordic countries taking five of the six top places.  So it’s no surprise to discover that Copenhagen has a coffee shop that calls itself a laboratory, and it specialises in black coffee – made by every process imaginable.

Må jeg bede om en kop kaffe, tak | A guide to coffee shops in Copenhagen

Germany

Hamburg coffee musuem

If you think that this all amounts to coffee madness, perhaps you are wedded to the humble coffee filter. Melitta Bentz from Dresden invented the first coffee filter. She wanted to brew the perfect cup of coffee with none of the bitterness caused by overbrewing. She lit on the idea of pouring boiling water over ground coffee and filtering it to remove the grounds.  She experimented with different materials, until she found that her son’s school blotting paper worked best and used it first in a metal cup. On June 20th, 1908, the coffee filter and filter paper were patented and the rest is history.  And if you want to know more about coffee, its origins and its making, where better to go than to Hamburg’s KaffeeMuseum

Einen Kaffee, bitte | | A guide to coffee in Germany