I strongly believe our lives, or at least mine, would be miserable without an ice cold coffee. The past week of summer in London reminded me of sweet warm mornings. The mornings when you walk outside to the garden and feel a gentle warmth on your body. There is no need for a cardigan and an iced coffee will do just fine.
I have three below: the good old Greek frappe which seems to be older than time, the fresh out of the press dalgona, and affogato because who can say no to iced coffee when it involves ice-cream ?
The Greek heritage of Frappe
So what is frappe? Well, it is instant iced coffee shaken not stirred. Nowadays people prefer to call it whipped coffee. Thank you very much Mr Vakondios for coming up with it. Dimitris Vakondios, a Nescafe representative came up with this cold drink at Thessaloniki International Fair of 1957. The company later capitalised massively on it. You are actually looking at the most popular marketing campaign of the 80s in Greece.
Late 80s found all Greek households with mighty shakers. A tablespoon of instant coffee, maybe another one of sugar, a handful of ice and shake, shake, shake. The fracas of the ice on the plastic shakers would meddle in the sounds of the morning hassle and bustle and it would wake you up from your afternoon siesta .
The shakers, plastic straw attached would travel along on the little vespas throughout Athenian streets and islands alike as we’d get about our business.
Frappe through the ages…
Alas this was the first edible preparation I was ever allowed to make in the kitchen. At the age of five or perhaps six, along with miserable attempts to try wash up dishes. (monkey see, monkey do) The family unilaterally decided that I was best appointed to coffee making as the residue of soap on glasses was way more than anyone could stomach. It was much like a game. Mind you, I was only allowed to play with their afternoon coffees. My then teenage uncles were who lived next door were bribing with pocket money for ice cream.
The 90’s brought the automatic tiny frappe mixer, very similar to the milk frother. I was, thus, relieved from my ‘shaking’ duties for the family. Admittedly my uncles had moved away to create their own families, mum and dad still prefer Greek coffee (with loukoumi-petit beurre sandwich) but by now I am making my own cold coffees.
It’s the warm afternoons of late spring, I am back from high school and putting in insane hours of studying in prep of final exams. It’s also the first time I am truly allowed the beverage. It resembles more dessert than coffee, also going by the name frapogalo: 2 tablespoons instant coffee, 3-4 tablespoons sugar and (lots of) concentrated milk with a handful of ice and plenty of cold water. The larger the glass the better. (does it remind you of something? Yes, dalgona!)
Around that time I also pick up the nasty habit of smoking (tres a la mode) and although my coffee habits have largely changed – this other one is still around.
If you are wondering, all the sleepless nights paid off. Thank you instant coffee! Now I am off to Uni.
Frappe at University has a life of its own. There is an insanely large amount of coffee places you can grab your coffee and go. Thankfully they are still going (even during lockdown).
Tastes however evolve and change. Slowly devoted drinkers sift from the sweet beverage. Some go to newly arrived Starbucks (hello ‘00s) others insist on frappe, but now it’s metrios ‘medium’: 1 coffee, 1 sugar in equal amounts, less milk or none at all. It accompanies tavli, endless backgammon games. Three hours are just about enough to enjoy both coffee and game.
More of us still get their adult act on, just sketos ‘black’ as you’d say – plentiful of ice, instant coffee, water and a straw. It serves as a testament to all of us that prefer to stay up at night and couldn’t keep their eyes open for lectures the next day.
There is also a fanciful alcoholic version around, with Baileys or a similar liqueur just like the Irish coffee. It has it height, it is still around but it’s one of the beverages that fades into the distance.
Frapógalo is still preferred among the builders and beach goers. There is a reasoning behind it: no speckle of dust or sand will ever penetrate the froth of instant coffee no matter how many hours the beverage spends under the sun. (although it will be undrinkable under certain hours of exposure to Greek sun)
From one summer to the next however Greeks jumped from frape to cappuccino freddo or best yet espresso freddo. Hello coffee elitism! The jump to Freddo coffees, with its fancy Italian name and none of the actual meaning (you will simply not get the same beverage in Italy) happened somewhere between the 2nd or 3rd year of Uni. It was early 00’s, it seems like – possibly is- a lifetime ago.
This jump is nothing surprising, there is still shaking involved. Espresso is frothed and shaken before added to ice. Cappuccino has also a super frothy milk foam on top.
The highly enjoyable beverage is hardly ever made at home. Because who is going to froth that milk to perfection?? Certainly not my grandma. Who is going to wait for the double or quadruple espresso to brew itself into life without gas hobs? And repeat innumerable times for the household. Certainly not my mum.
Etiquette nowadays commands to run to the closest bakery before visiting a friend, grab the coffees for everyone, perhaps a stuffed koulouri or a tiropita or a loukoumi. You know what stayed the same? Backgammon!
Dalgona, the quarantine iced coffee
Koreans re-invented the frappe. Specifically sitcom actor Jung Il-woo made it go viral during lockdown. Greeks were looking in surprise. A bit like this.
I mean it’s not that we haven’t been asking for people to make cold coffee when abroad. We have been extremely patient with baristas. We have tried to convince them to add ice to that espresso at least. Obviously the mechanics of frothing instant coffee or otherwise would require a mules patience and with a mighty queue behind you, you do eventually give up.
There is this rumour that goes around: instant coffee on this land does not froth as well as in Greece.
So Dalgona, the ‘whipped’ coffee (I weep). South Koreans made it their quarantine drink. Indians claim as much credit to it as Greeks. Testament to this, from this post originating in the pro-quarantine era.
Seriously now, have you seen how many tablespoons of instant coffee there are in a glass to create the super elevated foam? Goodness knows they must be jumping up and down like squirrels. I don’t even want to think about the heart palpitations, it’s the reason I gave up frappe in the first place.
As an official quarantine drink though, I had to give it a go again. The reversed experience with a lot of milk (which I am not huge fan) and chocolate (great fan) in an attempt to make it a tad more exciting. It required 3 tablespoons of coffee, 1 teaspoon chocolate powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar, a bit of warm water and ten minutes holding the hand mixer. (seriously now, I could have made meringues).
Was it good? It was ok. Would I make it again? Not really.
There is also another thing that comes to mind. Food blogger & photographers the world over will relate. There is too much effort behind a simple thing. Mind you, instant coffee got its name for a reason. It is supposed to make your life easier, it is made in an instant. There is too much faking it in dalgona just for the likes. Where does this instant snap world drags us?
I’m a WYSIWYG photographer & food stylist. What you see is really what you get. Keep in mind that anyone using substitutes to beautify food serves one purpose: to make them stand during a multi-hour photoshoot or an even longer filming cession. Because the one minute commercial you see, might have taken a good 5 hours of production. (not counting post processing). Let’s head back to dalgona coffee shall we?
The actual amount of coffee required to make this ‘whipped’ beverage look cool is nowhere close the recommended dose of coffee even Nescafe themselves would approve. For one finger of you need three heaped tablespoons of instant. I said it before, I will repeat, this is just too much coffee. Please proceed with caution. Half the ingredients and if you like instant, you will enjoy the beverage just the same.
It’s also way too much effort for a pretty thing. But this is the world of viral. Also the world of the quarantine, we are bored and I can relate.
If you cannot bother with instant and you made it that far down this post, well done you!
Have an affogato and cheer with me! There is nothing better than freshly brewed espresso poured over an ice cold ball of vanilla ice-cream. Thank you Italy!
From glorious quarantined sunny London with love,
PS1: For anyone in London desperate for a decent cold coffee please head to Carpo or Coffee island.
PS2: You can learn more about how instant coffee is made here.by