Slovenian coffee culture is among the most diverse in the world. When a Slovene tells you “gremo na kavo” or “let’s go grab some coffee,” expect a good time. As a country with a sweet tooth and a penchant for a tasty brew, you’ll likely love what’s in store for you.
Coffee culture in Slovenia is one of the most developed in the region. Without any exaggeration, you can list coffee as one of the national beverages of Slovenia. Every corner of Slovenia, from within Ljubljana and around it, has a cup of coffee ready.
If you love coffee, Slovenia is the country to visit. Like any country, they also have their own customs with the delicious, aromatic brew.
Understanding the History of Coffee in Slovenia
In Slovenia, well-prepared coffee is a piece of art. It’s not much of how it looks, as much as how it tastes. Coffee in Slovenia has the same status as tea in England. Coffee is not only valued as a morning drink but as a way to pass the time too.
The history of coffee in Slovenia dates as far back as the late 18th century. The first coffee house came in 1782 in Ljubljana, with the permission received by the Kazina society. Ethnologist Božidar Jezernik noted this in his book, Kava, čudežni napoj (Coffee, A Miracle Drink).
At the time, much of the coffee consumed in the coffee house was the traditional Turkish coffee. For the uninitiated, Turkish coffee is a strong, unfiltered espresso-style drink. Baristas grind the beans to powder, then boil it over and over.
People boil the coffee, remove it from the heat, and reheat. Turkish coffee in Slovenia became a time-honored tradition. Many Slovenians, even the purists, swear by the taste of Turkish coffee. Slovenian homes will have at least one cezve, usually handmade and from neighboring countries.
By the end of the 18th century, only less than two decades, Ljubljana had five coffee houses operational. By the turn of the next decade, coffee houses have become the staple shops in Ljubljana. Coffee houses catered to both the aristocrats and commoners alike.
Coffee houses became the home of intellectual conversation within the country. At a time where the standard beverage was beer and wine, coffee sobered people up. People sat down inside a coffee house and stimulated their minds with communications.
Ljubljanicans, and the rest of Europe, used coffee shops to exchange news. People played chess, bridges, dominoes, and even read the press.
Among the most important coffee houses of the time was the Evropa Mansion. The Evropa Mansion was in the Ajdovščina district, at the intersection of then Maria Teresa Street and Dunajska Cesta.
The coffee house became the most popular in the city at the time. It had a Viennese style interior and facade, with a level of service originally for aristocrats at the time.
The menu for the coffee house included everything from coffee, cocoa, ice cream, breakfast, and desserts. It also was the center of business in Ljubljana, with merchants and traders from all over. Remnants of the Evropa Mansion is now in the Tavčar Palace.
Slovenians and Coffee: A Never-Ending Love Affair
Slovenians are among the most voluminous coffee drinkers in the world. They’re consistently in the top 15 in the amount of coffee they take.
In 2012, for example, the average household member in Slovenia took as much as 3.5 kg of coffee. The trend grew up from the already superb figure of 3.1 kg in the 2000s. In 2019, this number ballooned to as much as 5.8 kilograms of coffee consumed per year.
Slovenia’s coffee culture is booming with both its traditional style kava and the third-wave coffee revolution. Many Slovenians enjoyed their coffee two ways: the original-style Turkish coffee and new specialty coffee.
As we mentioned before, Turkish coffee is a crucial part of Slovenian culture. Everyone has a secret way of doing their brews, from how many stirs to how many reheats they do. Some even debate on adding sugar to the water or not.
Many Slovenians took advantage of Austrian coffee, specifically the Vienna dark roast. Espresso drinks were also famous among traditionalists, mostly due to the shared border with the Italians. What encroached the culture, however, is the so-called “third wave” coffee culture.
Third-Wave Coffee Culture in Slovenia
The idea of third-wave coffee is simple to coffee lovers. It refers to the appreciation of high-quality coffee beans from around the world. Single-origin, ethically-sourced, and beautifully-roasted beans became the norm.
Slovenians are now enjoying specialty-grade coffee more and more. Many specialty shops are now providing tourists different brewing styles. Many shops in Ljubljana are also doing their best to sell specialty beans from independent roasters in Europe.
The third wave coffee craze took over Ljubljana that, much like the original 18th-century boom, coffee outlets are popping left and right. Specialty-grade roasters are also opening across Slovenia to cater to the third-wave community. Ljubljana has a ton of third-wave cafes that offer something different to every customer.
Ljubljana and The Beautiful World of Local Cafes
When walking around Ljubljana, the coffee culture in Slovenia becomes immediately apparent. You can walk around the Old Town and take your time moving around it. An hour is almost enough to walk around and see riverside cafes line the city center.
Many of the current small-time coffee businesses offer specialty blends. A majority serve Italian style blends, together with local and international roasters.
Slovenia was not as early as many European companies when it comes to catching the third wave. The national coffee tradition of Slovenians had deep roots in its Italian and Slavic coffee drinking history. Even then, more and more people are looking forward to changes to local coffee.
The Old Town is the perfect place not for your run of the mill to-go coffee but the sit-down type. It’s a great place to spend with friends and even locals who like sipping on their coffee. If you’re a tourist, the best way to find a new friend is to sit along the embankment of the Ljubljanica River and mingle.
The Aesthetics of Coffee in the Old Town
Coffee culture in Ljubljana has a level of aesthetic value seen only in places with mature coffee drinking societies. Such situations, like Italy, offer a certain level of culture and tradition that you can’t find anywhere else.
Ljubljana is a great place to drink “coffee with a view.” You can enjoy a nice hot brew or a cold, icy cup while looking at the town. The Ljubljanica River offers a magnificent backdrop of class while you sit al fresco or inside little cafes.
You can also see the cobbled streets in town and see the beautiful panorama. When going outside, it’s also best to have a local who knows where the best coffee is. There are many famous tourist traps for coffee lovers all over the town.
Some well-known coffee shops offer an enjoyable time when you’re in Ljubljana. For example, Cafetino is a great place to enjoy many single-origin beans from around the world. They also serve their own, traditional blend that will tell you a lot about the maturity of the local coffee scene.
Cafe Čokl, on the other hand, offers his own take on coffee with new original blends. The coffee shop on Krek square is famous for its fair-trade coffee concept. The cafe offers not only ethics but also freshness and zero waste from every cup. The coffee house also offers the traditional style Turkish coffee you’ll find at Slovenian homes.
Kavarna Moderna offers a combination of intellect and excellent warmth from its brews. The coffee house nestles on the basement level of the Ljubljana Museum of Modern Art. Together with the new age concepts of art comes a robust selection of single-origin coffee banes.
At the end of the day, your best option is to discover a new place for yourself. There are dozens upon dozens of micro-brewers in the city that offer different styles of coffee.
If you want the traditional style of coffee, it’s best to enjoy some in a traditional Slovenian home or a mom and pop coffee shop. If you want to try some of the positive effects of third-wave coffee culture in Slovenia, the city is the place to go.
Coffee culture in Slovenia goes back as much as two and a half centuries in the country’s history. From the time the first coffee shop opened to the newest local micro-brewery, coffee is in the veins of the Slovenian people.
If you love coffee, it’s best to give Slovenia a visit on your next travel. You’ll see how different and mature the coffee culture Slovenes have. You’ll find that there are only a few places in the world that treat coffee the way Slovenians do.
Find yourself around Ljubljana? Spend a pleasant hour or two in the afternoon. Walk around the Old Town and see the cafes that line up the riverside. Mingle with the locals and enjoy an excellent, intellectual conversation.
Making friends over a good cup of coffee can help create lasting bonds for you. If anything, you can get yourself a tour guide who can bring you to the best coffee shops on this side of Slovenia.
Gremo na kavo! Let’s grab some coffee and enjoy the sweet taste of Slovenian culture with every cup.