Coffee. Tea. Hot chocolate. Cappuccino. The keys to different lifestyles.

April 13th, 2010 by | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Photo by Rachel Chaikof. A couple enjoy their morning by a cafe in Sydney, Australia.

Coffee.  Tea.  Hot chocolate.  Cappuccino.  All of these drinks are more than just drinks.  They provide us access to many things depending on our culture.  Coffee is key to helping to get us to work in the mornings.  Tea alleviates illness or presents wealth and prosperity.  Hot chocolate replaces the heating machine for our bodies.  They also provide an access to our social life.  Coffee and cappuccino bring friends together for a gossip chat or provide a couple a moment away from their children and to have some “adult conversation.”

In my travels overseas, I have discovered that the lifestyle of drinking coffee, hot chocolate, tea, cappuccino and those kind of drinks is different in every country.  In my home country, the US, these drinks are the keys to boosting our energy and getting us out to the door to get to work.  In France and Italy, these drinks bring the mothers together for a chat or businessmen together for a meeting.  In Australia and New Zealand, they provide people the time to relax and enjoy their time with their spouses, family members and/or friends.  In Peru, tea is served every morning and evening as a way to bring families together and to treat illnesses.

I called out my international friends on Facebook to write about their lifestyle of drinking coffee, hot chocolate, tea or cappuccino.  Their responses vary greatly due the cultural differences:

I have a cup of unsweetened tea (made the proper way) first thing in the morning… very refreshing, quenches ones thirst… I like it, but I also need the caffeine… that one is usually brought to me in bed by hubby… sometimes I have a second cup after I get to work… don’t like coffee early in the day, prefer to have an astronomically strong instant coffee (no sugar) at mid-morning… this is had at my desk and I have it mostly because I like it but also cos I need the caffeine… then I usually have another cup of tea to finish off lunch – usually at my desk again, but occasionally I will have it with friends (in which case I go for cappucino with double shot instead of tea)… then another one at mid afternoon – 99% of times this is tea…

then another one sometimes when I get home, and always another one before I go to bed…

I drink it for a blend of reasons… I like the flavour, and sometimes it is extremely refreshing when you are thirsty… also like the caffeine (in the morning, but I seem to find that it doesn’t appear to affect me much at night) sometimes I will drink it socially. If socially, usually it becomes cappucino – preferably double shot.

Sometimes when I am thirsty at night, I’ll have a hot chocolate or milo… specially if it is quite late and I don’t want to be kept awake by the tea!!!!

I never drink tea or coffee with reduced fat milk if I can help it because it can make me feel a bit sick. I don’t have a lot of milk in either my tea or my coffee unless of course i am having a cappuccino!

– Carol B. Australia

cappuccino every morning after I drop Sofia at school- I hang out with the other moms to make sure I don’t miss out on something happening in “Sofia’s World” AND after the cappuccino I hang out with my friend Sonia for psychological support *smile* However I can’t start my day without a cappuccino so I would say social and gastronomical…having an espresso after lunch is an Italian tradition and I do so only when I’m out to lunch for work. Italians also have an espresso after dinner, but I find that if I drink an espresso after 3 pm I can’t sleep, so I always decline. The espresso after the meal is such an integral part that I have finally remembered to make it…I used to forget to make it when I had people over- they complained, I always got the “She’s American and has no clue”….after hearing it a hundred times, I started working the espresso maker:-D

– Jodi C. An American living in Italy

In Singapore, people usually don’t drink tea/coffee in the morning, but have it in the evening. We drink kopi-O (coffee) and teh tarikh (tea) in food courts, and cappuccino/latte in cafés. We enjoy these drinks in the company of friends to unwind after a day at work. It is also entertaining to see the way teh-tarikh is made. The boiling hot tea is poured rapidly between two cups, thus frothing it over, and cooling it down as well. We also like eating roti prata (flaky pancakes) and nasi lemak (rice with anchovies and sambal) with our teh tarik. When we drink cappucino/latte/hot chocolate, we eat cakes and biscuits instead.

Oh and many people over here who are rushing home after work and do not have the time to relax with friends, they ‘take-away’ the coffee, which I believe means ‘to-go’ in the US. Then they drink it in their car when they stop at traffic lights.

And one more thing: Tea is highly regarded in chinese and peranakan culture in Singapore. At events such as weddings, anniversaries etc. the family sits at a table while the youngsters serve chinese tea in petite china cups from a delicate china teapot. For them, this signifies that the youths of the family will always be there to support the elders. Also, tea signifies wealth and prosperity for them. They always drink Chinese tea when they dine out as a family in Chinese restaurants. I’ve dined in such place many times and Chinese tea is a MUST at such places.

– Sidhanth M. Singapore

I drink only warm milk with dash of cocoa…don’t like tea or coffee – but many of my greek friends drink a greek coffee in mornings ( it’s like espresso ) and when going out…very few shops here have the ‘to-go’ option , and the Starbucks here caught on and HAVE tables to sit.

My parents also enjoy a cup of greek coffee after waking up from their after-lunch siesta – a way for them to talk and unwind from work.

When I’m out with friends I’ll have an ice cream or juice ( not orange though , detest it ) or in evenings we’ll all have a glass of wine.

Since I wasn’t a good candidate for your poll – I asked mum her coffee habits.which are pretty general for most Greeks here.She drinks a latte in mornings while she does various work at kitchen – or she sits at the table and solves a sudoku – with her roll on too ( she’s smoking.)

If they have someone over after lunch they’ll prepare a strong Greek coffee to stay awake and talk with visiting people ( rare ) or they’ll get it after their siesta ( right after lunch for two hrs ) where they’ll sit and talk and solve crosswords or sudoku’s together.

At coffee places my parents will order a greek coffee – it’s big here and we’ll talk as a family.My mum sometimes will order a capp.

In summer they’ll do a plain cold coffee and add a small scoop of vanilla ice-cream instead of milk.

Tea isn’t big here – it’s the drink for when we get sick.although lately my parents started an early camomile tea for right after they wake up.

– Vivie M. Greece

I mainly drink tea in the morning because I enjoy it, and it has the caffiene. I find coffee too strong in the morning and it upsets my stomach. I’ll have hot chocolate occasionally during the winter if I’ve been outside. I’ll bring tea or pick it up at Tim Horton’s on the way… and I’ll sometimes make it at work too.

– Krista D. Canada

at home green tea or coffee, when out coffee or hot chocolate. If out, it is part of a social thing or escape time for hubby and me away from the teens – a quick trip out to the coffee shop for some peace and quiet and adult conversation : – )

– Naomi H. Australia

I drink Tea daily esp in the morning as always had since child, drinks coffee (capp or skinny latte) if I meet up with friends or go shopping with friends in town mostly at starbucks. Hot chocolate during winter and at ski resorts.Tea for breakfast, watch TV, tea time

coffee mostly for social and i don’t like tea outside my home!

hot chocolate as a warm up and sub for tea at ski resorts.

– Charlotte N. United Kingdom

I found it most frustrating while traveling through america, that I was unable to just sit down and catch my breath with a coffee/tea in a cafe. Even starbucks only had one or two tables, and was catering for ‘take-out’.All the coffee/tea in NZ are served in proper white coffee cups, but even when we did find a sit down place, it was still served in takeout containers. Not very good carbon print!

– Robyn C. New Zealand

As you may know from your visit to Australia a lot of Australians LOVE their coffee!  I consider it more then a luxury, I consider it a necessity!! I don’t drink it because of the caffeine, I drink it because I LOVE the taste of go…od coffee. But I guess what got me into it in the first place is that it is part of Australian culture to drink coffee. I drink it pretty much on any occassion. In the morning is a MUST; regardless of what I’m doing, sitting down at home, running late for university, at work, I’ll always fit in a coffee. I also catch up with friends for coffee and always have a coffee after dinner (caffeine doesn’t keep me awake at all). Sometimes when I have some spare time I’ll go to a cafe and read the newspaper or do some reading for university while I enjoy a cup of coffee and the general atmosphere of the cafe 🙂

– Alexander P. Australia

i drink my tea about 7 times a day haha 😛 i love my tea although i love the smell of coffee i dont drink it.  its an easy drink for me to drink because of my mito condition.  plus tea is mostly water and water is good for u hehe 🙂 i would say the british LOVE tea.! its our thing llike “fancy a cuppa”? hehe

– Laura J. United Kingdom

Ok well every country i live in is a bit different, but as far as drinking coffee and hot choc, ill explain each main place ive lived. Coming from a european family, we tend to drink coffee/hot choc socially, probably like 8 times a day. A cup in the morning to get us going, then during the day and at home after work. On the weekends its a whole another story, we meet friends over coffee about 2 or 3 times in a day, and while we are shopping, we take breaks at cafes to unwind, and then continue shopping.

In Australia, the coffee/hot choc drinking is more done at homes when your visiting friends and stopping by on the way home from work. Again, social drinking. Its more at home because the cafes dont make decent coffees, and my family and friends usually like to make stronger coffees.

In Singapore, its pretty much the same as in europe, we drink in the morning, during the day with friends and after work near our apartments… mind u this is how the expats do it, the locals take to go cups in strange little bags home, but us expats like to sit and savour our drinks and enjoy the moment… then we get home and drink more coffee with our family to unwind. Its a laid back place, so we take it easy at cafes and have it with cake too.

Finally, in England, we go mental on coffee, everyone here goes to cafes non stop to relax with a drink. I however go for the hot choc and cakes because i hate the taste of coffee. I think on a regular basis, I stop for coffee/hot choc 5 times a day, but more on weekends. Usually its to rest my feet from shopping, catch up with a friend or just because ive grown up with the idea u have to stop n unwind that it comes unnatural to me now. When i lived in the US, i went a bit crazy because you guys lack cafes, where as here we have them every few stores down the road. Again im not british, but they do the same, they just add some tea into the combo.

– Kristina Z. Lives all over the world

See? In Brazil it’s THE drink. I think the country is still the biggest producer of coffee in the world. It’s a sign of hospitality. If you go to someone’s house,  they offer you coffee. If you are at a bank,  at a business,  at a club,  church or synagogue,  there’s always a thermal bottle with free c…offee which is constantly refilled with recently brewed one and small cups for you to drink some. That’s why we call it “cafezinho” (a diminutive) more often than “café.” You usually drink small amounts of it,  several times a day. Here’s a pic:

Also,  coffee in Brazil is always hot (even in the Summer) and has to be brewed minutes before. Otherwise,  it’s “bad”. Even when you put it in a thermal bottle,  it can’t stay there for more than one hour. People are so used to a specific taste that they can tell the difference if it’s “old”.

As for black tea,  some people drink it hot,  especially at night and when it’s cold. It’s mostly consumed iced though. Lots of people also drink mate,  which is a South American tea. In Southern Brazil,  it’s prepared using dry leaves and drunk hot (it has a greenish color and a bitter taste). In other regions,  it’s more commonly found iced,  sweetened and made out of toasted leaves (it has a dark brown color). In that regard,  it’s very similar to Southern style sweet tea and consumed year round.

– Luiz C. Brazil

Photo by Rachel Chaikof. Two businessmen in Paris enjoy a drink at a cafe in Paris.

What’s very interesting about some of these people’s notes regarding their lifestyle with coffee, tea, cappuccino or hot chocolate is that they voiced their frustrations while living abroad due to cultural differences.  The American woman living in Italy would forget to make espresso for her company as it wasn’t an integral part of her life in the US.  When the woman from New Zealand visited the US, she was frustrated by the lack of seating to take the time to relax and drink some coffee.



April 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Keep it up, Rachel…your perspective and insight as an exceptional, sensitive person and world traveller is always enlightening.

Debbi Hook

April 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Really enjoying this blog! I love that you gather so many perspectives to share.


April 14, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Thank you all for your comments!

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