All Cretan culture can be seen, heard and tasted in the villages. The Cretans at work or at leisure will always welcome visitors and show you how to do things the correct way. All villages have a kafenion (coffee shop), an altogether Greek institution which is where most people eventually end up. The kafenion, apart from being a place to meet friends for a coffee, raki or a game of tavli, is used as the main information centre of the village. Be aware, however, that the kafenion is still very much a male dominion in lots of places and women are generally not to be found inside very often. This was and still is to some extent where the men of each village meet up to talk about the harvest, complain about a bad crop, or grumble about the failure and success of everything and everyone. Family tragedies and personal crises are discussed alongside politics. Anything and everything can be a potential topic of conversation. They argue, discuss, shout and make jokes. Anyone preferring quiet and contemplation can let his thoughts wander in rhythm with the 'komboloy' beads running through his fingers. They sit over a cup of coffee and a glass of water, or even a glass of wine, beer, ouzo or raki. There is no food available, except perhaps for some peanuts to accompany the drink. Hours can slip by in this way before the men have finally been seen, talked, played and drunk enough. Happy and content, they leave this exclusively male world in the knowledge that the kafenion will still be waiting for them in the same place tomorrow.

Each kafenion is likely to be sparsely furnished with simple wooden or plastic chairs and tables, yet there is still something enduring and timeless about it which has remained unchanged. The classic kafenion has managed to maintain its role in the typical Greek way of life in spite of modern development. While cafés in the big towns have moved on to become meeting places mainly for young people, everything in the kafenion has pleasantly stayed the same. Women do not feel they are missing out on anything in this male domain and they uphold it as part of tradition.

The decline of the kafenion and the rise of cafés was associated with the fall of the military Junta in 1974. The cafeteria, borrowed aspects from both the male-dominated kafenion and the zakaroplastio. In the cafeteria’s earliest days, women beginning to make inroads in the job market with newly earned wages they felt fine and excepted with spending a little time, in casual yet inviting cafés.


In the 18th century, it was customary for young men, seeking a girl’s hand in marriage, to be served a cup of mocha coffee by her family. This was not simply a symbol of the host’s hospitality. If the coffee was sweet, the suitor had every reason to be pleased, if it was bitter, the young man would rise politely, say thank you for the conversation and never be seen again. Sometimes don't you just wish for those days to return, ladies?



Kafe means 'coffee' not café. Greek coffee is sometimes referred to as Turkish coffee, it is black very strong and served in small but intense doses! Greek coffee is served with the grounds, and consequently the whole cupful cannot be drunk as there will always be a thick sediment at the bottom. There are three different ways of preparing Greek coffee: 'sketos' (without sugar), 'metrio' (medium sweet), and 'glykos' (sweet). 'Glykis vrastos' (sweet and boiled) can also be ordered. In case a double portion is needed, then the order should be a 'Ellinikos diplos' (double) pronounced 'thiplos'. Whatever you're drinking, it will probably be served with a glass of water 'nero'.

Greek coffee
Makes 1 serving

1 teaspoon of extra finely ground coffee beans
Sugar (optional)
1 cup of water

To make one cup of coffee you need one teaspoonful of very finely ground coffee beans. Add sugar to taste, then a cup of water, and slowly bring it all to a boil in a special little long handled pot,' 'briki' before carefully pouring the coffee into the cup. Originally, it was placed in glowing embers to heat up. The coffee sediment must then be given time to settle at the bottom of the cup. 




Frappe is a frothy coffee - ice optional. The name frappe, is French for 'hit', 'struck' or shaken. The brand, Nescafe is Swiss and the coffee is African, cultivated in the Ivory Coast. Yet Nescafe frappe is more Greek than, Greek coffee. The traditional Greek coffee originated in the Middle East and until the 1970s in Greece was widely known as 'Turkish'. But frappe, as recognised and adored in Greece, is a Greek born and primarily a Greek phenomenon inseparable from the country’s climate, character and way of life.



 More Culture pages
: Easter : Christmas : Cretan Wedding : Baptism : Roadside Shrines : Kafenion : Periptero :
: Raki : Komboloy : Hunting Season : Black Veil : Cretan Dagger : Cretan Biscuit :
: Threshing Circles : Tavli : Puppet Theatre : The Mitato :



Copyright © 2009 Only Crete