The Story of the Most Beloved Greek Beverage, the Coffee Frappe
Let me take you back in September 1957, in the place that many call the sub capital of Greece. The gorgeous Thessaloniki. Every year, even today still is held a very popular International Fair. It is considered so significant for Greece that traditionally the Greek prime minister gives a speech and makes an important announcement. Of course there are always thousands of people visiting it and is a fantastic chance for every company to promote their products.
September is normally a hot month for Greece. Most people keep swimming in the sea, the sun is shining and the summer mood is still there. It is always a great chance for Greeks and visitors to go around the city and take their families and visit the exhibition.
So there was one stall there that belonged to the sales representative of a Swiss international coffee company called Nestle. Giannis Dritsas at that day was committed in promoting a new product for kids. It was a chocolate powder that was being mixed with cold milk in a shaker and was producing a iced chocolate drink.
The day was hard but Dritsas was satisfied because he saw that the new product was appealing to kids who were nagging to their parents to try one more or even buy a box to drink at home:”Muum, let’s buy one and I will be sharing it with my brother”,”Daaaddy! Mmm, it’s delicious, I now have a chocolate moustache!”, “Mama, if you buy me this, I swear I will be drinking milk every morning!” These were quotes that, among others, proved to Dritsas that things were going well. Apart from the delicious taste of the chocolate drink, they were excited with the process of shaking that was producing an almost foamy drink.
These positive conditions were indirectly helpful to one of the employees of Dritsas, named Dimitris Vakondios. The day was tiring and Vakondios felt he needed a break to enjoy a cup of coffee. This demand wasn’t declined by his boss. Exhausted as he was, he sat on a comfortable chair and called his colleague Nena:
-“Nena, can you please fetch me the thermos to make a cup of coffee?”
-“No problem Dimitri but, you know, it’s empty, Mary just finished it, it wasn’t enough anyway.”
-“If I understand well, you are telling me that I have no way now to enjoy a damn cup of coffee?? Now that I need it more than ever!”
-“I’m afraid, yes, Dimitri, unless you have any other idea…”
When Nena said “unless you have any other idea” actually didn’t think about it much. It was just a typical reply.
The irony (fortunately for all of us) was that indeed Dimitris had an other idea…
A parenthesis here to mention that back in that times there wasn’t even a single conceptualization of cold coffee, not even in Greece. And, as most of you know, in most countries of the world today still there isn’t cold coffee apart from some new types that come from big chains such as Starbucks. These in fact are closer to the nesquik drink I previously mentioned or to a milkshake than to a coffee.
Back to Vakondios. Although his’ reply was angry, in fact he wasn’t so much. Dimitris was a self motivated guy. He had an attitude to always find opportunities to stretch his skills, train his creativity. And the people that have this mindset, behave this way even in the less significant situations. They are “fed” by coming up with ideas and by putting them into practice. This time, he wanted to drink coffee but he had to find out how.
He wondered? “Should I drink this kids’ chocolate drink instead? Oh, no, come on, this isn’t coffee, or….”
That was it! Maybe it could be coffee!
-“What if, instead of the chocolate powder, put the Nestle instant coffee plus sugar and instead of the milk put water? This way coffee, sugar and water will be mixed well, even though the water won’t be hot” he thought to himself.
So Vakondios grabs one shaker, adds the ingredients plus water and starts shaking it. He was so excited about his idea that he didn’t even notice the drops of coffee that ended on his suit during the shaking.
And BOOOOM! The first Greek Frappe was created!
Perhaps, the stains were the divine duty he had to pay for his amazing invention that offered to the world. In fact, like many other significant inventions, its importance wasn’t recognised at that moment.
But the word of mouth had already started. People were excited by this idea of drinking cold coffee. They accepted it as a refreshment. They were claiming that both Greek Frappe and Beer are half foam but the Frappe is cheaper, said Vakondios in an interview. He also claimed that he couldn’t believe that such a simple experiment would lead to the invention of the most popular Greek Drink!
The origin of the word Frappe comes from the French language and means whisked/mixed but Greeks are so accustomed to it that they use it in the everyday language exactly like a Greek noun.
Greek Frappe consists of instant coffee (generally spray-dried), sugar, ice cubes and water. The spray-dried instant coffee contains nearly no oil, just tiny particles (coffee solids), some molecules responsible for flavor and taste, and caffeine. When dissolved, spray-dried coffee forms a simpler and more stable colloid relative to traditionally brewed coffee. This makes the creation of the characteristic foam on the top possible.
The absence of oil makes the foam more lasting. The presence of sugar will make it even more lasting as it increases the viscosity that retards the phenomenon. Moreover, the foam consists of bubbles. As time is passing the bubbles come closer together and they start to coalesce and create bigger bubbles. The more the variation in the bubble size the faster the collapsing of the bubbles since the bigger ones will consume the smaller ones.
That’s why the modern and most efficient way to make a great Greek Frappe is by using an electric hand mixer. Hand-mixers create smaller and more uniformly sized bubbles. The smaller bubble size reduces the bubble pressure gradient and forms a much longer lasting foam. And due to the dehydration that the instant coffee has been through, the foam can be easily created with just a small amount of water.
The Frappe Coffee is for decades now a part of the Greek culture. It is connected with the calmness because it takes time to consume it all (the opposite of espresso ;)) . It also describes the social sharing because it is usually enjoyed among friends and provides with energy as it is a strong coffee.
Although Freddo Espresso, another Greek invention, has become very popular, Cafe Frappe to this date remains the most popular coffee beverage among the Greeks.
Lastly, the famous Frappuccino from Starbucks was inspired by our beloved Greek Frappe.
(The basis of the story is true but the specific details in between like the dialogues are fictional. They are as I have imagined them to have happened :))
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+ I will be constantly sharing with you interesting information – such as the above – and tickling ideas about coffees