Coffee is a pretty important part of every day life here.
Don’t get me wrong. I drank a lot of coffee in America too, but in a different way. There I was grabbing a cup in the Dunkin drive through on the way back to the office. I was hustling to finish it before court started or sneaking it in because the right guards were working that day. (Lifesavers. Seriously.) I was having another cup when I caught breaking news late in my shift. In America, coffee was a functional necessity.
I still need the pick me up working here, but I spend a lot more time enjoying my coffee, or at least the context of it.
I don’t think I’ve seen a single place in this country that offers coffee to-go. (Though they may exist in Skopje. The capital has all kinds of goodies. I recently heard a rumor they had cheddar cheese there, but who knows. They may also have unicorns driving the buses.) Here, coffee is an experience. It’s a reason to sit down and chat. It’s a break.
It all starts with how it’s made. There are probably coffee machines in some homes, but generally people make Turkish coffee on the stove top or a small burner.
First, you fill the small pot with water. (There are special pots just for this purpose.) Some people boil the water then add the coffee. Some people do it all together. My host mom in Sveti Nikole adds a heaping scoop of coffee grounds for each cup and a half spoon of sugar. So that’s how I make mine (though I often subtract the sugar). You stir it all together and then when it just starts to bubble and thicken, it’s done.
It’s poured into small cups by American standards, but there are usually multiple opportunities each day to have a cup. The grounds settle to the bottom and you drink until you’re almost to them. (Be careful not to get a mouthful, like many of us did when we first arrived.)
Then be prepared to take your time. Small sips. Put the cup down in between. Pause. Listen to the conversation.
My host mom can work on one small cup of coffee for an hour. I’ve slowed my pace a lot in the last year and a half, but I still try to enjoy it before it gets cold.
Coffee is also an automatic whenever a friend drops by. I don’t think there is a home in this country without coffee on the shelf. There’s always coffee to be made and there is almost always time to sit and enjoy it. Ajde na kafe basically translates to “let’s coffee.” It really means let’s spend some time together. It’s one of the little details that makes up my bigger picture of living here.