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Coffee, No Sugar


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Recently, Busboy started a provocative thread inspired by the experience of being an American Abroad during a grueling heat wave: The French and Ice. He commented on reactions to his family's requests for ice in their drinks and the scarcity of ice-making machines they took for granted back home. It made me think about other distinctions between the foodways of European and U.S. natives, and in particular, the way we take our coffee.

We all drink Italian-style coffees now, if in paper cups at inappropriate hours of the day. However, I for one, never put sugar in my cappuccino or the coffee I make at home. The few times I've been a guest of Turkish friends or little old ladies who go through lots of effort to make a special, highly sweetened coffee involving vigorous stirring of lots of sugar, I could barely drink it without making a face.

In Italian bars, you sometimes get looked at funny if you ignore the sugar while sipping your coffee. Hell, even if you don't stir it into your freshly squeezed juice. It seems as if everyone else there always reaches for the sugar.

Is this in fact another American peculiarity?

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I'm Irish and I don't put sugar in my coffee or tea. My dad doesn't even put milk. In fact I know a lot of people at home that don't take sugar. I have a friend, who is of Cuban decent, he asked me if my dad had been in the army and had learned to take his tea & coffee that way because of lack of milk & sugar. If you have ever had a true cuban coffee you would understand his disgust at not having sugar in your coffee. I don't think that not putting sugar in coffee is an American thing.

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Interesting Pontormo for I must have at least sugar in my coffee. The thought of drinking it black only or with a dairy product and no sugar only is unthinkable to me. But to get back on topic, I know a family of Palestinian descent who many years ago introduced me to Arabic-style coffee. IIRC, they said that first thing in the morning coffee is taken very sweet and that throughout the day (and boy could they drink coffee) it got progressively less sweet, often taken with no sugar at all in the evening. Needless to say, I couldn't quite obey that rule. :hmmm:

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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The only coffee I drink with sugar is Turkish coffee. (By which I mean thick black coffee made in a finjan on the stove.) Any other type of coffee -- espresso, filter, french press, drip pot, cappuccino, you name it -- I cannot swallow it if it has sugar in it. It literally makes me gag. But Turkish coffee is the opposite, it must be sweet (and the sugar is added while it is cooking.) When I was living in Israel, Israelis couldn't get over the fact that I drank "regular" coffee without sugar. "No sugar? Not even a little? Would you like sucrazit? (sweetener)" It was just amazing to them, this business of no sugar. But Turkish coffee, which I learned to drink over there, simply must have sugar in it. Don't ask me to explain it, because I cannot. :smile:

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I'm acustomed to Cuban style coffee - served very thick and black (really a stove-top style espresso) that was always served heavily pre-sweetened when my former GF's Cuban father brought out cpffee after dinner.

And I like a bit of raw sugar - perhaps a half teaspoon - in my espresso or machiatto. But when I move to a cappuccino (3 to 1 milk to espresso ratio in a six oz cup) the amount of sugar is reduced. How much I use depends on how smooth the espresso is. In some cases I use a trace amount of sugar or on occasion none at all in the cappa's.

It's when I get to regular coffee that the equation changes drastically and I don't know why. Depending onthe coffee I like my drip or press pot coffee either black or with some half 'n half. But if if you so much as stir the cup with a spoon that has trace amounts of sugar residue on it I'll taste the sweetness and nearly gag. I absolutely can't stand and won't drink regular coffee that has been sweetened in any way.

It's worth noting that among the most progressive espresso purveyors in North America (and elsewhere) you'll find an ongoing quest to develop and serve espresso blends that have lots of complex flavor and richness but no bitterness. With few exceptions these blends contain no Robusta beans.

Many people on these shores assume that Robusta beans are always bad because they're the variety used to make supermarket swill like Folger's and Maxwell House. But there are in fact a number of high quality strains of Robusta that go straight to the specialty coffee market. And most of that goes into espresso blends used in Italy in percentages varying from 10% to 20% or even a bit higher (the balance of those blends being made from Arabica variety beans).

The Robusta adds more caffeine than Arabica and also helps generate abundant crema - a desirable component in espresso. But even the best Robusta also adds a slightly bitter undertone to the flavor profile. In many cases, outside of Italy, this is not desirable but the classic Italian espresso flavor profile has this bitter element which is balanced nicely by the addition of sugar.

When I finally get to Italy (which will be soon!) you'll see me adding sugar to my cup!

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Regular drip coffee, espresso, French press--hate hate hate sugar in it. It's worse than sweet tea (apologies to the South). The family I lived with in France thought this odd but they nearly had a fit when I put milk in my morning drip coffee. I've since heard that French women rarely drink coffee and milk together because they believe it causes weight gain.

I do however love Turkish style sweet coffee and I'm a huge fan of putting a packet of raw sugar in between a double shot of coffee in the portafilter. Seems to be a no-no in most places though, so I save that treat for my home machine.

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The family I lived with in France thought this odd but they nearly had a fit when I put milk in my morning drip coffee.  I've since heard that French women rarely drink coffee and milk together because they believe it causes weight gain.

The French have a strong tradition of drinking cafe au lait in the morning -- but the milk is always hot and traditionally is poured into the cup at the same time as the hot, strong coffee. Your hosts might have been horrified because you added cold milk! I've never heard that French women avoid drinking cafe au lait -- everyone we know seemed to drink it (unless avoiding coffee altogether).

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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The French have a strong tradition of drinking cafe au lait in the morning -- but the milk is always hot and traditionally is poured into the cup at the same time as the hot, strong coffee. Your hosts might have been horrified because you added cold milk! I've never heard that French women avoid drinking cafe au lait -- everyone we know seemed to drink it (unless avoiding coffee altogether).

I did add hot milk and I'm well aware of cafe au lait, thanks. Sounds simply like our experiences were different; none of the women I went to university with ever had cafe au lait, just a cube or two of sugar whether at home or at a cafe. The reason given was that they didn't want to gain weight. Could be a recent trend, of course, much like the low-carb mania that swept the U.S. a couple of years ago.

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