Visiting Cyprus Coffee Houses on Cheap Holidays

Every village in Cyprus has a ‘kafenio’ or coffee house. It’s an integral part of the community just as much as a church or taverna and is regarded as a social meeting place. People on cheap holidays should endeavour to visit at least one kafenio to experience a taste of the ‘real’ Cyprus which has been in existence for centuries. The kafenio is usually located in the central square of the village and some see it as being central to village life. Some of the larger villages have more than one kafenio but they are always located in the village centre.

People come to kafenios for a variety of different reasons. They come to meet their friends, enjoy a game of tavli (backgammon), gossip, eat and of course, drink coffee. The coffee comes in 3 categories; ‘metrio’ is medium with one teaspoon of sugar, ‘glyko’ is sweet with two spoonfuls of sugar and ‘sketo’ is unsweetened. As well as coffee, the kafenio also sells hot and cold beverages and alcohol. Traditionally they used to sell herbal drinks that were produced locally and in some of them you can still buy anise, mint or spadgia (a Cypriot herb) tea. Other drinks available are the ubiquitous frappe which the Cypriots seem inordinately fond of. It’s a frothy iced coffee made of instant, iced coffee, varying amounts of sugar and milk all shaken together. Nowadays, kafenios have moved with the times and now sell ‘modern’ coffees such as latte and cappuccino.

Coffee in Cyprus is still brewed in small, long handled pots, wide at the base and tapering at the top, called ‘Mbrikia’. Traditionally, they were always made of copper. Visitors on Cyprus holidays tend to bring these back as a popular souvenir. To make the proper Cyprus coffee, one heaped teaspoon of coffee is added to each demitasse of cold water. Sugar is added whilst the water is still cold. The amount depends on your individual preference. The mbrikias are then heated on a stove or in small trays filled with heated sand to get a more even heat distribution. When the sugar is dissolved, the coffee is brought to the boil, forming a creamy froth, known to the Cypriots as ‘kaimaki’ on top. As the froth begins to rise the coffee is taken off the boil. Cyprus coffee tends to be quite strong and is served in small cups and customarily served with a glass of water. The dregs are never drunk and when the cup is empty, it is inverted onto a small plate or saucer.

The kafenios in Cyprus are as varied as the drinks they sell. The trendy coffee house like ‘Da Capo’ in Nicosia is popular with tourists on late holidays and young locals who meet up with their friends here and sit outside and people watch. ‘Oktana’ in the old city of Nicosia is a popular kafenio and can get quite crowded. People come here for the coffee which is excellent and to play backgammon. They are also famous for their mouth-watering crepes. There’s a beautiful courtyard out the back and in the basement, you can relax in the cosy Uqbar and smoke a hookah. Another good kafenio in Cyprus is the ‘Kala Kathoumena’ coffee house in Nicosia. A great favourite with the art set, people come here to meet their friends. It’s the place to be seen in and attracts a lot of Cypriot celebrities.