Coffee for All in Leipzig by Kerry Kubilis

Kerry is a first year Master’s student in Journalism.  She is spending time this summer in Leipzig, Germany to perform research on identity communication in post-Socialist societies for her thesis.

Leipzig’s coffee tradition dates back to the trade fairs that have made the city an international hub for centuries. Leipzig is known for hosting one of the world’s oldest trade fairs, and it is through this sharing of culture and goods that coffee came to the city. In fact, it was one of the first cities in Germany to serve coffee and even claims to have popularized eating cake with coffee, a pairing we take for granted today. The Arabian Coffee Tree is Europe’s oldest continually open coffee house and it is now home to cafes and a free museum about coffee and the coffee-drinking tradition. The importance of coffee has made it a national drink of Saxony, the region of Germany to which Leipzig belongs.

Starbucks has certainly infiltrated Leipzig just like it has other major international cities. A local competitor, Lukas, serves coffee on the go and employs the similar self-serve or counter-purchase method of Starbucks. Student cafeterias and vending machines also allow coffee drinkers to take their beverages with them on their way to work or class.

However, a more popular way to consume coffee is the traditional way. And honestly, coffee tastes best in a cozy café or on a historic square, presented in a mug with a saucer on which a small sweet has been placed. It’s typical to see people enjoying their cappuccinos, latte macchiatos, or espressos in the presence of close companions, locked in conversation, no sign of hurry or impatience about them. In European coffeehouses, talk is the main feature, with coffee the comforting accompaniment and an excuse to find a quiet corner or enjoy the shade of a terrace canopy.

Historic figures participated in the coffee-drinking ritual here in Leipzig. The most well-known is Bach, whose presence continues to be felt in the city. The composer even wrote a “coffee cantata,” which was one of several musical compositions dedicated to coffee of the 18th century. During the same century, chess and coffee were paired together in coffee shops. People also gambled, read newspapers, and discussed art and politics. Coffee shops were places where people could share ideas, socialize, meet important people, and relax.

The Coffee Baum is a significant tourist attraction in Leipzig. Its top floors are occupied by a free museum that displays coffee-preparation devices through the centuries, cup and saucer sets, and other items related to coffee consumption. Coffee drinkers can also drink coffee and eat cake in the Coffee Baum, just like Saxons from centuries past.

Whether the need is for a quick jolt of caffeine or for a relaxing afternoon savoring an expertly prepared drink, Leipzig offers both options, ensuring that its coffee tradition continues to be enjoyed by everyone.

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