Popular Brew Methods Around the World
A glimpse of the countless ways that coffee is enjoyed around the world
Coffee may be something that almost every culture has in common, but the similarities stop there. Below, you'll find three popular brew methods that you won't encounter in a Blue Bottle cafe—a glimpse of the countless ways that coffee is prepared and enjoyed around the world.
Japan's signature brew method requires a surgeon’s hand, a novelist’s resolve, and musician’s capacity for improvisation.
As Oliver Strand once wrote for The New York Times, "Coffee is as Japanese as baseball and beer.” The Japanese have been coffee-drinkers going back to the seventeenth century, with Tokyo's first official cafe opening in 1888. Over one-hundred years later, Tokyo's eclectic network of specialty coffee purveyors(and the nearly one billion pounds of coffee that must be imported to supply these kissaten) points to an enduring curiosity and passion for coffee.
The nel drip has been in use in Japan since at least the 1920s (right around the time our Cold Brew Bottle partner, Hario, was just starting to manufacture glassware). "Nel" is short for "flannel," the material used for the filter that attaches to a metal hoop, creating a small bed in which coarsely ground coffee sits during extraction.
This “most ineffable” of brewing techniques, as our Founder and CPO James Freeman says, is known not only for the thick, focused, and incredibly sweet coffee that it produces, but for the demanding capriciousness of its process. From its use of month-old beans to the glacially slow pour it requires, the nel drip feels counterintuitive, even unbelievable—until you take that first sip.
The history of Turkish coffee is almost as old as the history of coffee itself. Since 1554, Turkey's coffee shops have been gathering places for discussing art, politics, culture, and even a little mysticism: Fortunes are said to be found in the powder at the bottom of your cup. Since its entrance to the culture, coffee has been, as the proverb implies, as much about connection as about sensory experience.
Which doesn't mean the latter is unimportant. According to another Turkish proverb, the sign of a good cup of coffee? When the foam is so thick, a camel could walk across it. The cezve (also known as the ibrik) is the conventional device for brewing a strong, creamy cup of coffee. Prepared in the traditionally brass or copper cezve, water is brought to a boil, then removed from heat. Coffee beans—ground to a silky smoothness—are added, and the mixture is brought to a boil again, then a second time. Once the remaining powder has settled on the bottom, the coffee is ready. Those who enjoy it do so with with sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon, and almost certainly the company of friends.
Café de Olla
This Mexican variation is said to have been first brewed by las soldaderas de la revolución.
Café de olla was born in wartime. Prepared at night in simple clay pots by the women of the Mexican Revolution, the drink was diluted coffee with cinnamon, clove, and piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar), plus a little chocolate to give strength to those going into battle.
The spices of café de olla are brewed with the coffee, rather than added afterward; they're not garnish, but ingredients. Perhaps this is why, more than a century after it originated, it's remained a beloved drink in the country that is now Mexico and far beyond.