Coffee isn’t just an essential daily food group, it’s a way to socialize. Whether you’re gathered around an Italian coffee counter chatting with neighbors, or relaxing with colleagues over a Spanish cortado, enjoying a cup of coffee is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and catch up with those you already have. To shed some light on this well-steeped subject, we reached out to our extensive network of international Country Walkers friends for more insight—and were surprised by the passion and diversity of what we found.
Our Coffee Farming Friends Shed Some Light on Dark Roast
A coffee farmer himself, Country Walkers Trip Designer Kevin Wilks knows what it takes to make a great coffee—literally from the ground up. Beneath the misty cloud forest that crowns a Costa Rican hillside, Kevin and his family raise roughly 5 acres of coffee trees—each lovingly handpicked and roasted at a local collective. “Everybody has a different way of roasting,” says Kevin. “That’s what makes diverse coffee flavors so unique. I like to roast half our beans in a dark roast and the other half in a lighter roast—then I mix them together. I do that because I like the taste of the stronger, dark roast—but the darker you roast the coffee, the less caffeine it has. People have this misconception that they’re getting a lot of caffeine with a robust-flavored dark roast—which is completely the wrong idea. The light-roast coffee has the strongest caffeine.” It might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re looking for a killer buzz, a light cup of bean juice is more likely to set your spirits soaring than a dark mug of tar.
Kevin loves to enjoy his morning cup while gazing onto the blooming hillside of coffee trees. Whether you prefer the flavor of dark roast, or the voltage of lighter coffee beans, here are a few places to find a truly memorable cup of coffee on your next walking adventure.
Unusual Coffee Drinks and Where to Find Them
Italy: Matera, Otranto & the Puglia Coast Guided Tour: For an authentic (and delicious) coffee drink from Puglia, you simply cannot miss Caffè Leccese. Made with a special Pugliese style of almond “milk” (more like a syrup than the almond milk at your local supermarket) this chilled coffee beverage is sweet, nutty, and packs a wallop. The almond milk is mixed with ice—then a strong shot of espresso is poured over it. During your Puglia walking adventure, a stop at a local café gives you a chance to sample this quintessential Pugliese beverage before continuing on to Le Costantine Foundation. There, you’ll learn about the traditional local textiles during a weaving demonstration, followed by a farm-to-table lunch beneath the pergola.
Greece: Athens, Delphi & Meteora Guided Tour: While in Greece, you’re sure to experience their thick, robust coffee—typically brewed in a small pot called a briki. As the coffee steeps, it produces a light foam—a critically important component of the authentic experience! Greek coffee can be served sweet (glykos), semi-sweet (metrios), or dry (sketos). And if one is feeling a bit adventurous, a Greek frappé is another fun coffee drink to try. It’s a shaken mixture of instant coffee, sugar, and ice—very refreshing on a hot day!
France, Italy & Switzerland: The Mont Blanc Circuit Guided Tour: To prepare for a day of hiking the Mont Blanc circuit, adventurers love a good jolt of java. In the charming French alpine village of Chamonix, you’ll find many places to find a delightful allongé—including Moody Coffee Roasters. This local Chamonix shop roasts beans from around the world and is a great place to browse for gifts for that coffee-lover on your list!
Italy: Tuscany & Umbria Guided Tour: One of the wonderful coffee drinks you’ll find in Italy is caffè corretto—or “corrected coffee.” Typically served after dinner, caffè corretto consists of a strong cup of espresso “corrected” with a generous drop of grappa, Sambuca, or even whiskey. While most Italian baristas wouldn’t bat an eye at a request for caffè corretto at breakfast—any attempt to defile their beloved drink with sugar or cream will be met with derision. They may never serve you coffee ever again!
Spain: Balearic Islands, Mallorca & Deià Guided Tour: Attitudes towards coffee vary from country to country. “In many countries, they don’t take their time over coffee,” says Country Walkers friend (and globe-trotter) Andrea. “It’s a basic necessity—you just grab it and go. But in Spain, coffee is a social occasion. In the morning, you might linger with your friends over a coffee and ensaïmada.” In Mallorca, the famous ensaïmada Mallorquina is a local pastry so prized and unique, it even had its own signature hexagonal box. Baked with pig lard, the ensaïmada Mallorquina is a rich pastry that’s meant to be treasured and shared with friends.
Italy: Pompeii, Capri & the Amalfi Coast Guided Tour: This region of Italy is famous for a unique coffee pot called the cuccumella—a three-piece coffee maker with a pot on the bottom for boiling water, a filter in the middle for holding coffee grounds, and on top, an upside-down coffee pot with a spout for pouring. When the water reaches a boil, the entire apparatus is flipped over to allow the boiling water to percolate through the filter and into the spouted pot where it can easily be poured into your cup. Your caffè alla napoletana is ready to go!
New Zealand: The South Island Guided Tour: While visiting down under, you simply cannot pass up the experience of a true Kiwi coffee tradition, the flat white. Typically served in a tulip-shaped cup, a New Zealand flat white consists of a generous shot of espresso topped with a light layer of microfoamed milk—much thinner, and flatter, than the foam on a cappuccino. In New Zealand, the flat white is typically made with a shot of espresso, rather than the Australian ristretto. Ask any Kiwi and they’ll tell you—a New Zealand flat white packs a superior punch.
Vermont: Fall Foliage Guided Tour: One of the great coffee innovations of the last century was pouring espresso over ice in the summer. In typical Vermont style, we perfected the drink by adding a hint of maple syrup! To prepare for a day of walking through Vermont’s spectacular forests in the height of fall foliage, you’ll find an array of iced maple lattes at coffee shops in Waitsfield, Woodstock, and Stowe.