Caffeinated in Crete

Crete, Greece

It was a coffee-filled summer for me, 2006. Regular visits from the village I was staying at to the island’s charming capital, Heraklion, became a habit of mine, even though it involved riding the local bus which had a notoriously irregular schedule.

As I walked more or less the same route from the bus stop into town each time and then wandered around aimlessly, Heraklion revealed its best spots to me time after time; the cafes and kiosks that I would go back to again and again. I let my stomach lead me.

There was a little stall that sold iced coffee, but not just any iced coffee. It was like a chocolate milkshake, thick and sinfully creamy, with roughly ground espresso beans in it. You’d drink the icy drink while chewing the chunks of coffee beans that could just fit through the large straw. I’ve never had coffee like that anywhere else.

I learned to make frappé myself, too, though it was nothing like my favorite kiosks’ milkshake. But it was still a good runner up and a recipe that I’ve been repeating at home ever since, with slight adjustments. As the girl who hates instant coffee, I confirm that there is an exception to every rule.

The frappé is made like this:

Take a container with a lid (I like to use a travel mug) and add a tiny splash of cold water in the bottom. A tablespoonful is enough, if you put too much then the coffee will get too foamy. Add 2-3 teaspoons of instant coffee, depending on your mood. Add a few pieces of ice. Close the lid and shake! It gets a foamy texture. Open the lid and add water until the mug is full. Stir. The good thing with using a travel mug is that you can drink from it and not make a huge pile of dishes for yourself to wash later on, but if you’re feeling fancy, you can of course pour it into a glass at this point. Add a straw. Voilà! Drink and enjoy!

Actually, my trademark variation goes like this:

Instead of adding water at the last stage, I add soy milk. Yummy, since the soy milk gives it a slightly vanilla-like flavor. In Crete, some people added a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Improvise!

While I was perfecting my art of frappé-making, Cretan locals (especially men, it seemed) drank their Greek coffee from tiny espresso cups. But… the local coffee wasn’t exactly espresso. The drink looked muddy – as it was supposed to – and it had a taste that would require more acclimatization than I would have time for during my 5 month stay. I decided early on to stick to my iced coffee. No regrets (life is too short for coffee you don’t enjoy).

Definitely worth mentioning, there were of course the French hotel guests, too, who always wanted their coffee just so. Cappuccino in the morning and espresso after a meal, always made with certain maneuvers. If it wasn’t just right, they would be certain to point it out. During the day, a scoop of vanilla ice cream might be added, during the evenings, an accompanying cognac. The adventurous would even try Metaxa. If a coffee was too large, instead of just drinking half of it, they would return it and ask for a smaller one.

How I envied their discipline! Me with my half-a-liter-and-a-thousand-calorie coffee-and-chocolate milkshakes! I felt decadent. Which is exactly how I remember Crete.

26 responses to “Caffeinated in Crete

  1. Sounds like a wonderful 5 months! Were you east or west of Heraklion? My aunt owns a house east of there in a town called Sissi. I’ve always wanted to go but never have!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Gerard, I’m very happy to hear you liked it! The French are fussy, but I don’t blame them… life is too short for bad coffee. France is actually where I first started drinking coffee, so some of it has rubbed off on me, whether that’s good or bad! Though I’ll still drink a tall latte from Starbucks occasionally, while the French roll their eyes!


  2. Mmmm, Greek frappe, I remember that. I’d love to try yours, and then I’ll have you try mine. Not frappe, but coffee, Turkish, or Greek-style, depending who you ask. I’m so hooked to my Slovenian brand that it’s the first thing I buy to take back when I visit Slovenia. Italians take it a bit hard. 😀 So good to hear more o your Crete memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the sound of that frappe you make, I have to get instant coffee to try it! Lately I’ve noticed that I don’t like the taste of cow’s milk in my coffee any more but I can’t drink coffee black either. So the idea of adding soy milk sounds like a good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

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