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Greek Frappe > a cold and frothy drink August 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes, Greek Food Culture.

The frappe turns instant coffee into a drink worth lingering over.

greek_frappe.jpg  The frappe, a foamy cold coffee drink, is an easy-to-make beverage that’s wildly popular in Greece.

It started by accident in 1957: A representative from the Nestlé food company couldn’t find any boiling water to make his coffee at an international trade fair in Thessaloniki, northern Greece. So he used cold. And thus was born the frappe, the foamy, caffeine-packed drink that became an icon of Greek pop culture.

Fifty years on, while Americans guzzle innumerable fancy chilly copycats, Greeks remain loyal to their simple cool coffee, imbibing everywhere from the beaches to Athens’ numerous upscale cafes. In fact, the frappe has become its own industry. Supermarkets carry hand-held electric foam beaters, while roadside kiosks keep frappe kits in their fridges. Tips are traded on the merits of thick froth, straw placement, and the best time to drop the ice into the mix.

“Frappe looks so thick, but it glides through the straw so easily,” said Daniel Young, an American food critic who teamed with his wife, Vivian Constantinopoulos, to write a coffee-table book on the subject. It may drink smooth, but it has a kick. Young says many frappes have four times the caffeine as an espresso. And it is fueled by something considered the dregs of the beverage world in many countries, instant coffee.

Frappe is a simple beverage. A spoonful of instant coffee is combined with water, sugar and sometimes milk, then shaken vigorously in a cocktail mixer. When to add the ice, during or after shaking, is hotly debated. The resulting dark drink has a foamy head so large it resembles a half-pint of Guinness more than a coffee.

How the freeze-dried coffee drink became a national craze is hard to say, but supporters insist that it matches Greeks’ erratic lifestyle: laid-back Mediterranean with bursts of energy thrown in.

Young and Constantinopoulos, whose book is titled “Frappe Nation” (Editions Potamos, 2006, $42.95), believe Greeks’ relationship with the drink is rooted in their centuries-old thirst for public dialogue and social interaction. “It doesn’t have to do with quality or quantity, but it is more about the way people sit and enjoy,” said Constantinopoulos, who says the average person takes 93 minutes to drink a frappe.

In fact, coffee shop owners price their products accordingly, charging customers likely to keep their tables for a couple of hours as much as $7.50 for a coffee. Much of frappe’s appeal lies in its longevity. Even as the ice melts, the foam, which contains coffee granules, mixes with the ice, and the drink replenishes itself.

“If you time it perfectly, it will stay consistent throughout,” Young said. “Greeks turned it into something that is supposed to be instantaneous and made it a three-hour ordeal.” “To Greeks, there is no such thing as instant coffee,” Constantinopoulos said.

How to make a Greek Frappe >

Ingredients >
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cups cold water
2 tablespoons milk
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
3 ice cubes

Method >
In a blender or cocktail shaker, dissolve coffee in hot water. Add remaining ingredients and blend or shake until very frothy. Pour into cold glass and serve immediately. Yields 1 to 2 servings, about 1 1/2 cups.

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