If you spend time in rural Greece you’ll notice the number of people who live to a ripe old age. Many scientists have concluded that there is something in the Greek diet that helps promote longevity, although many theories abound as to the identity of the magical ingredient. Let’s take a look at one of the strongest candidates: Greek coffee.
Sitting in the shade of a taverna in any self-respecting Greek village will be a scattering of locals sipping on their miniature coffee cups. If you’ve tried Greek coffee you’ll know that a little goes a long way and a few sips of this potent, thick brew will perk you up nicely for the day (or help revive you after an afternoon siesta).
Greek coffee is not unique to Greece – a similar brew is served around the Mediterranean and in the Balkan area. Whisper it quietly, but it was known as Turkish coffee in Greece before the two countries began their habit of removing each others’ names from their favourite food and drink (as an aside, try not to ask for Turkish delight in a Greek market or Greek yoghurt in a Turkish restaurant).
Greek coffee is made using Arabica beans. ground to a fine powder and then boiled into frothy thickness before serving. Boiling the coffee beans is known to be a far more effective method of extracting the nutrients than filtration.
While a Greek coffee may resemble an espresso, tradition dictates that it should be drunk slowly and while sitting down, rather than standing at the bar Italian style. Watch the older Greek folk drinking their coffee slowly and you’ll probably hear a hearty slurping sound as they sip their brew through the top layer of froth; a sure sound of enjoyment.
Given the apparent potency of this type of coffee you might be surprised to learn that a Greek coffee contains less caffeine than a normal cup of filter coffee. What is does contain is an important mix of polyphenols and antioxidants, which are known to protect against endothelial cell dysfunction. In simpler terms, what’s in the coffee is responsible for protecting the lining of your arteries and therefore reducing the risk of heart disease.
So is the secret to a long and healthy life really found in the coffee so favoured by the people of Greeks? Perhaps it’s only one of many ingredients, but for coffee lovers visiting Greece on their holidays a brew of traditional Greek coffee should not be missed. Drink it slowly, savour the taste, and if the mood takes you, feel free to slurp and show off your enjoyment.