Graphic by Joaquín Kunkel/The Gazelle

Double Espresso Macchiato, Please

Anyone who knows the two of us knows where to find us every Monday and Wednesday after lunch: we are kicking our afternoons off with a hot macchiato. ...

Graphic by Joaquín Kunkel/The Gazelle
Anyone who knows the two of us knows where to find us every Monday and Wednesday after lunch: we are kicking our afternoons off with a hot macchiato. This has become a little tradition of ours here, but it is also a part of the cultural baggage we each bring from home.
Prompted by the previous article Where is the Coffee Culture at NYUAD? we hope to share our personal coffee culture in order to contribute to the discourse. We make no claim to objectivity, since we are using ourselves as the reference point; some of our colleagues might find their attitudes towards coffee reflected in this article, but many will surely not.
Coffee plays an important role in our respective cultures. Across the western Balkans, coffee culture is relatively uniform with minor local idiosyncrasies. It has two distinct features that make it an integral part of our lives. First, drinking coffee is a social ritual: it is drunk at certain times of the day and mostly in the setting of one’s household or a café.
The coffees people prepare at home are usually Turkish-style roasts, and in cafés they like to keep things simple; you will never see anything more lavish than a cappuccino on the terraces of Belgrade or Zagreb. Needless to say, it is a distinctively sedentary ritual revolving around conversation and self-reflection, not the coffee itself. Although the coffee standards are quite high, we value the quality of the conversation more.
This brings us to the second feature of coffee drinking: it is an undoubtedly intimate practice. When shared with your closest friends, it is a form of amateur psychotherapy; when shared with a new acquaintance, or even a potential business partner, it facilitates conversation and lubricates social interaction.
For Stjepan, who grew up in Zagreb, this kind of coffee culture was a part of everyday life, and he has enjoyed it in the most natural form. Andrija, however, grew up in Botswana, thousands of miles away from his parents’ birthplace, Belgrade. Even so, this kind of culture was thriving in the Serbian community in Gaborone and helped preserve his relation to an aspect of the culture from which he was far removed.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, it has been hard to establish a routine similar to what we had at home for a couple of reasons, such as an infrastructure that caters to individualistic coffee consumption, characterized by gigantic Starbucks cups filled with watered-down, syrup-overflowing content. Although one of these sugary concoctions probably won’t leave you with diabetes, these quasi-coffees aren’t particularly appealing within the social context in which we drink coffee.
We aren’t sure whether the campus coffee infrastructure is a symptom of an imposition of U.S. Starbucks hegemony or the effect of the cacophony of coffee cultures present here.
A singular coffee culture, let alone a European one — whatever that may mean — is unlikely to ever emerge on campus. We find the idea to be slightly ridiculous. What we can and are doing, is sharing the way we consume coffee with our friends, without the pretense of making it the norm. However, we wouldn’t object if it did become the norm.
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