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How Other Cultures Get Their Caffeine Fix

Do you prefer tea time or a coffee break? Find out which country is your caffeine soulmate.

By Y Yates

In the great tea versus coffee debate, the U.S. clearly comes out in favor of the bean. To assert otherwise would not only be a lie — we drink three times more coffee than tea — but it would be downright unpatriotic, seeing as coffee is almost on par with the eagle as a symbol of freedom. But the Queen’s drink is making a comeback; the U.S. is the third largest importer of tea in the world, and over half the population drinks it every day, according to the U.S. Tea Association. Its popularity among Americans is only growing, so it’s safe to say the Boston Harbor is in no danger of turning back into the world’s largest cup of tea anytime soon. Americans are happy to consume both drinks side-by-side — progress!

Nationalistic tendencies aside, we all have our own personal preferences for getting our daily (or hourly) caffeine fix. We went around the world to learn how other countries take their coffee or tea and with our findings in hand, we are ready to set you up on a blind date. Read on to find out which country is your caffeine soulmate.

I need a caffeine infusion, STAT!

For you, a coffee isn’t something you need to linger over and leisurely sip. It’s your life force, and you think of it as more of a right than a luxury. You want it straight-up, no frills, and as soon as possible. You belong in an Italian coffee bar, where espresso shots are whipped up in under a minute and consumed standing up, all in one go. Italy also shares your point of view that coffee is an essential resource — municipalities across the country are responsible for setting a maximum price for espresso.

Whether it’s over a cup of coffee or tea, I like to take my time to relax. Oh, and don’t forget the pastry, please.

Getting your daily dose of caffeine is important to you, but what’s equally important is the break that goes along with it. You’re not a “grab it and go” type of person. You take this time seriously, whether you’re home, at the office, or out and about.

Your ritual is aligned with Sweden’s idea of a coffee (or tea) break, which is called a fika. At its core, fika is about slowing down, and taking a moment not only to refuel but also to relax. It can be enjoyed alone, or with friends, co-workers or family members. During fika (which functions as a verb and a noun), Swedes pair coffee or tea with a baked good, usually something sweet like a cinnamon roll.

Although I love coffee, I don’t need anything too fancy. But definitely keep it coming!

You love coffee, but you’re not overly snobby about it, nor are you fiending over it. However, you do like to drink it throughout the day. It gives you a little pick-me-up and a chance to relax and be social. You will fit right in with Brazil’s cafezinho culture. Cafezinho is a small cup of coffee that’s usually sweetened. It’s not small because it’s ungenerous, but because it’s strong and concentrated. Cafezinhos are served all day at coffee bars, at home, or after a meal in a restaurant.

I enjoy an iced tea on a hot day, and it should go without saying that I prefer it sweet.

If you prefer iced tea, you’re not alone: it accounts for roughly 80% of all tea consumed in the U.S. And your love for the sweetened variety probably means you’re from the South. But southerners in the U.S. aren’t the only ones who like it this way. You may be familiar with Thai iced tea, a sweet milky drink made with black tea, spices, condensed milk and sugar. And although its recipe is reported to be influenced by the sugar-obsessed Western palate, it can be found throughout Thailand, sold from street carts and coffee shops, and providing some sweet relief from the heat and humidity.

Tea is what sustains me. In fact, I’m drinking a cup right now.

For you, tea is like water or air. You’re constantly brewing and drinking it throughout the day. You drink so much you barely even notice that you’re doing it. But you would definitely notice if it went away, because it’s a vital part of your life. Vital as in vital organ — it’s as essential to your functioning as your heart or kidneys. You get it. And Turkey gets it, too. Tea, called çay, is consumed all day, both at home and in tea gardens (we know your heart just swooped a little at the idea of something called a tea garden). Çay is typically a strong black tea, which is grown domestically. In fact, Turkey is one of the largest producers of tea in the world, and per capita, it’s the country that drinks the most of it, to the tune of nearly seven pounds per person each year.

I’ll drink a coffee but I’m mostly here for the people watching.

You like coffee, but you’re not sipping a single origin pour over, closing your eyes, and trying to identify all the flavor notes. You’ll take a basic espresso or regular drip because to you, a coffee is simply the price of admission to an afternoon of sitting at the cafe. The cafe is your office and your hangout where you work, read, catch up with friends, or just spend the afternoon people watching. Pack your laptop bag and head to Paris, mon ami. At the traditional Parisian cafe, you won’t find an elaborate coffee menu, but you will find the perfect place to while away the afternoon and maybe even write that novel.

Caffeine and studying are the perfect pair.

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