It is not secret that Austria’s capital loves its coffee. In the 19th century, a tsunami of Kaffeehauses opened up around the city, quickly establishing themselves as institutions in the lives of Vienna’s citizens, who would use them as homes away from home. Hang your coat and hat and settle into the infectious atmosphere. Intellectuals would gather here to pick each other’s brains over a strong black stimulant and a slab of Sachertorte.
Every city puts its own unique spin on coffee and Vienna is no different. Whatever your caffeinated poison, consider learning these words so you don’t accidentally end up with a Kaisermelange (see below) when you wanted a latte. If you order a melange, you will get something closely resembling a cappuccino (although these are often on the menu also). A Verlängerter is the Austrian version of an Americano, and a brauner is your average, run-of-the-mill coffee, normally served with a splash of milk.
Other more quintessentially Viennese specialties include the Einspänner; black coffee commonly served in a high glass with a dash of whipped cream or if feeling a little adventurous (or hungover), perhaps consider sampling the Kaisermelange; a strong espresso, egg yolk mixed with honey accompanied by a shot of cognac.
It seems apt to begin your journey through Vienna’s coffee culture with the old reliable joints. These have served punters for generations and it is incredibly hard to choose just one of these world-renowned institutions if you have limited time. If wanting to experience Viennese coffee culture in its purest and most traditional form (think bow-tie clad waiters in dinner jackets, tiny oval silver trays with the customary water glass, white tablecloths, and chandeliers) then Dommayer, Cafe Sperl, Cafe Central or Cafe Mozart will quench your thirst.
Although the coffee is perhaps not as ‘gourmet’ as some of the more forward-thinking ‘third-wave’ cafés, the unique atmosphere of these coffee houses alone makes a visit worthwhile, and coffee’s beloved companion, cake, is also an excellent incentive.
In a somewhat rebellious departure from the conservative coffee values, many cafés have popped up around the city with aims to pull Viennese coffee culture into the 21st century with new and radical approaches to espresso sipping. One of the best (and smallest) is POC, a sweet and discreet café tucked away inside an old church. Other modern spots surfing the third wave and are also worth trying out are Kaffeemodul and Kaffeemik.
A tasting session at a roastery coffee is a melting pot of colours, smells, strengths and tastes, woody aromas, smoky, bitter and smooth notes. Wiener Rösthaus sees coffee drinking not purely as a quick energy fix, but as an assiduous art. With their expert knowledge on the roasting process and how to grind your beans to perfection, this humble roastery in the second district only stock the very best.
Viennese family-run business Naber has been roasting beans since 1908. Visit their delightful ’50s coffee house for a fresh cup of their Arabico bean blend.