Coffee in the land of tea – Culture Shock n.10

Tea is the national beverage of Russia (ok, vodka, as well…) and tea is an important part of Russian culture, to the point that some Russian language expressions are closely tied to the hot drink.  “Let’s drink some tea”, for instance, is a classic way of saying “we should talk…” or even, depending on the tone, “we really have to talk”.

Coffee is steadily gaining popularity, but is is still a somewhat “hip” or at least trendy beverage (usually with a price to match the cool factor), especially espresso.

As in most of the rest of the world, tea is generally enjoyed with milk or lemon. Tea with sugar and milk (or cream, which is called сливки -pronounced slivky) is sometimes called “Sibirskiy chai” or “Siberian tea”, meaning that this is the way it is enjoyed in the coldest region of Russia, where people try to assume as many calories as they can, to fight off the freezing temperatures. The alternative is tea and lemon.

All this goes for tea. Tea. TEA. Not coffee. NOT coffee. Or, at least it really should NOT apply to coffee!

Coming originally from Turin, which is one of the two Italian coffee capitals along with Naples (the famous Lavazza coffee brand is from Turin, for instance), you can imagine my surprise (read: horror) when, upon declining the offer of milk with my espresso, this (the picture atop the post) is what the barista served me!

I must admit this is the first time (and hopefully it will remain the only time) it happened to me in Russia, so after a moment of total bewilderment (read: horror), I had to take a picture of this for posterity, as a lasting memento of the hardship we coffee worshippers are sometimes subjected to! 😉

I even did some googling (in incognito mode, least someone sees my browser history!) about coffee and lemon and I discovered it is gaining popularity in the US (the land of pineapple on pizza…) as a weight loss beverage. Now, this actually makes sense to me, because after drinking coffee with lemon you will have such a bad taste in your mouth that you will not want to eat for a good while (probably a couple of weeks).

What is your take on coffee and lemon? And do you have a coffee horror story to share? 🙂



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