At Kafeterija, a popular cafe in downtown Belgrade, a crowd of customers spills out of the outdoor terrace. On a Monday morning you’ll find people there smoking, doing business and meeting friends—it seems no one is in a rush to be anywhere else. This is Belgrade in its most natural state.
Although coffee is central to daily life in Belgrade, it’s not the bean or roast that matters most, it’s the ‘going for coffee’ that is the art form—a chance to reset, slow down and unwind with friends. In his book The Magic of Belgrade, Serbian writer Momo Kapor notes that unlike espresso, which is usually knocked back while standing, Turkish coffee is a drink “which one sips slowly while sitting and chatting.”
Dating back to Ottoman times, drinking coffee is a longstanding, everyday ritual throughout the Balkans. In his recent book, Coffee Culture, Timothy Hutchins explores the evolution of coffeehouses throughout the world and its social significance in the former Yugoslavia. According to Hutchins, Belgrade’s coffee culture dates back to the sixteeth century with the city’s (and Europe’s) first coffeehouse established in Dorćol, a popular trading district at the time. It was in 1739, once the Ottomans regained power from the Austro-Hungarians, that coffeehouses became known as kafane (from the Turkish kahve-hane).
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