What wonderful memories we have of summer trips to Greece, and what additional, vivid memories we have about the preparation to travel. In particular, we remember the care that our parents put into the gifts they would bring over for family. Suitcases were packed full of items which they felt would be appreciated, either because they were costly in Greece, or difficult to find. Often in the gift rotation were bedsheets, fabric for our uncle, a priest, to be used to make his everyday robes (ράσα), and thick, plush, bath towels. Yes, those towels in particular took up a lot of space, but they served an additional purpose; they were used to wrap and protect the many, many, jars of Nescafe instant coffee that we were lugging overseas. As we sat on the suitcases, trying our best to squish things down enough so that our folks could close them, we remember asking, “Why in the world are we bringing our family instant coffee?”, and the answer was always, simply, “For frappé!”.
Frappé. For us, it is a symbol of summer. Perhaps you live in a place where it is gloriously warm throughout the year. We do not. Our Canadian winters are long and often quite harsh; perfect weather for hugging mugs of warm, steaming java. But in the summer, when brighter sun and warmer weather come around, we eagerly dust off our flip flops, find our bathing suits, and turn to this delicious frothy-topped, cold coffee.
The caffeinated drink of choice in most of Greece and Cyprus, frappé was invented accidentally by a Nescafe employee named Dimitris Vakondios (modern day hero). The story goes that during an International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki in 1957, Dimitris couldn’t find any hot water for his instant coffee. Being creative, and wanting his caffeine fix, he decided to mix his instant coffee with cold water and ice instead, and shook it all together to blend it. Imagine his surprise when he opened up whatever it was he used as a shaker!? Fascinating and fantastic froth! The beginning of a Greek, coffee culture, movement. Thank you Dimitris…and thank you, International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki, for neglecting to have hot water.
Unloading the gifts meant there was always plenty of room in our suitcases for souvenirs …and cheese. We also almost always returned with a few Nescafe frappé shakers; really nothing more than plastic, cup-like containers with screw on lids, and small, spout-like openings. If you don’t happen to have an official frappé-maker, don’t worry. Any container with a 1 – 2 cup (250 – 500 ml) capacity will work. In a pinch, we have made frappés using mason jars, old mayonnaise jars, and salad dressing shakers. They all work quite well. Alternatively, if you have an electric frother, you can use that. This tends to make a thicker froth layer, which many people enjoy.
Similar to Greek coffee, there are three broad categories of frappé: unsweetened (σκέτος), somewhat sweet (μέτριος) and very sweet (γλυκός). Even if you are someone who typically drinks their filtered coffee without sugar, we suggest that you make your first frappé μέτριος, or somewhat sweet (as described in the recipe which follows). If you would like to try something different however, typically, an unsweetened frappé has no sugar, and a very sweet one has 4 teaspoons of sugar.
If you are concerned about adding sugar to your diet, but still prefer your frappé sweet, you can always substitute your 2 teaspoons of sugar with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of stevia (our go-to alternative to sugar). Stevia is a plant derived, natural sweetener and sugar substitute which has been used around the world for years. You can read more about it here.
You can also choose to make your frappé with, or without, milk. Try it both ways to see what you prefer.
Mia Kouppa: Frappé coffee
- 2 teaspoons (8 ml) instant coffee
- 2 teaspoons (8 ml) sugar
- 1/4 cup ( 60 ml) cold water
- 3 – 4 ice cubes
- Additional cold water
- Cold milk (optional)
- In your frappé shaker, combine the instant coffee, sugar and 1/4 cup cold water. Seal well and shake, shake, shake. You will magically create a thick froth. The longer and more enthusiastically that you shake, the thicker and more plentiful your froth will be.
- Pour the froth into a glass which contains your ice (usually about 3 – 4 ice cubes). Fill your shaker with a little more cold water. Swish it around so that any remaining froth which is clinging to the sides is mixed into the water. Pour this into your glass. Add as much water as you like, allowing for some room if you will also add milk
- Add a straw and enjoy.