Greek coffee frappé? (In Greek: φραπέ, pronounced frah-PEH.) Let’s agree that it does not sound like something Zorba would drink.
I expected strong, stiff coffee when I went to Greece. So strong, that a pound of sugar is necessary to make it palatable. So stiff, the spoon stands up straight in the cup. A beverage so mighty that you have to sip slowly, while filtering the grounds with your now-stained teeth.
Boy, was I wrong. Traditional “hair-on-your-chest” Greek coffee does still exist–you’ll see lots of men nursing a tiny cup while they sit around discussing the day’s news. And you can get it anywhere. But it’s not the most popular caffeinated beverage. Nope, to feel like a modern local, you’ll need to get in line and order a frappé.
Here’s the crazy thing: A Greek coffee frappé is made of…ready?…Nescafé! I know what you’re thinking: How can an entire country be enthralled with instant coffee? That’s why I had to find out for myself. I got in line, paid 2 Euros…
One word: Delicious!
Recipe for Greek Coffee Frappé
I’ll cut to the chase and give you the recipe. It’s incredibly simple and requires less than two minutes:
- 2 teaspoons NESCAFÉ® Clássico
- 2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- Milk, if you want
DIRECTIONS: In a cocktail shaker or jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the instant coffee, sugar and water. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, until very foamy. If using a hand blender, mix for 15 seconds.
Pour into a glass filled with ice and slowly top off with milk (or cold water). Serve immediately…but don’t rush when drinking. The foam will last!
How did this Greek coffee frappé thing even happen? It seems that in 1957, during the Thessaloniki International Festival, the Nestlé representative’s assistant, Dimitris Vakondios, needed a break from hawking the brand-new powdered chocolate milk, which we know as Nestlé Quik. He wanted a cup of instant coffee, but there was no hot water. Desperate for a caffeine fix, he tried cold water…and the Greek coffee frappé was created.
WHY Instant Coffee?
Great question! It seems that the instant coffee is processed to conserve taste and caffeine. Wikipedia says that when it’s dissolved, “spray-dried coffee forms a simpler and more stable colloid than traditionally brewed coffee.” This allows a thick frothy layer to form at the top of the coffee, like the crema foam in espresso. Because spray-dried coffee doesn’t have any oil, the frothy bubbles don’t collapse. Something to do with surface tension.
Got all that science? Me, neither. All I know is that my skepticism quickly dissolved away. Every afternoon, in every town we visited, I stood in line for my frappé. My Greek language is limited to a few handy phrases, but I knew to tell (or gesture) to the cashier that I wanted just a little sugar and milk. Whether she completely understood me, I’ll never know, because they all seemed a little different. But each frappé was magnificent.
As soon as I was home and recovered from my jet lag, I bought a jar of Nestlé Classsico and a handheld mixer/frother. Greek coffee frappé is ridiculously easy to make. If you’re a person who likes to experiment, you can jazz it up with your favorite liqueur, add or omit milk, substitute flavored creamer, or toss in a few drops of a flavor extract. Plop in a scoop of ice cream and call it dessert. Some fans even substitute Coke for the water!
Me? I’m sticking with the basic version. However you decide to drink yours, you’ll never look at instant coffee the same way again. And I bet Zorba would’ve loved it.
If you’re headed to Greece and want to order a frappé, here’s what to say:
- frappé (You already know how to pronounce this!) φραπέ
- sweet / medium / plain: gliko / metrio / sketo γλυκό / μέτριο / σκέτο
- with milk / with no milk: me gala / horis gala μεγάλα / χωρίς γάλα
More food and drink inspiration? Sure!