Where would we be without it?
Coffee has been a staple drink since the 11th century when the coffee plant was discovered in Ethiopia and the beans were boiled and thought to have medicinal properties. Its popularity spread like wildfire through the Arabian Peninsula reaching Yemen by the 14th century. From there it was introduced to Istanbul in 1555 where a new method of drinking the coffee was uncovered. The Turks roasted the beans over a fire and then ground them before cooking them with boiling water; a method that is very familiar to us today.
This brings us to where Macedonia’s love affair with coffee began. Coffee was introduced to Macedonia by the Turkish in the 15th century during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. By the 17th century, both the acts of making and drinking coffee were intertwined with almost every aspect of Macedonian life including marriage, politics, and everything in between. It is no surprise then that drinking coffee has now become a concrete part of Macedonian social culture.
While you’re chugging a venti something-or-another during your morning commute, a Macedonian woman is calling her neighbor over to have a cup of coffee. Come back in two hours, after you’ve arrived at work, clocked in, and been through an entire meeting and you’ll find the two Macedonian women in the same place you left them, their coffee only half finished.
Instead of drinking coffee for an energy boost, the people of Macedonia, both young and old use it to interact with each other daily. Like you would invite someone over to your house because you want to spend time with them, a Macedonian person would invite you na kafe which loosely translates to out for coffee. There you would spend at least an hour and a half, if not more, just talking and taking increasingly small sips of your coffee to make it last.
This staple of Macedonian living creates a culture that encourages interaction with others routinely. In fact, it is not uncommon for individuals to have more than two coffees a day because they are often spending time in cafes or at other people’s houses.
Unfortunately, this concept of frequent social interactions has become increasingly foreign to people outside of Macedonia in recent years. Considering the size of the population of Northern America one would assume that society has become more social but that is simply not the case. In fact, in recent years people have become more secluded and self-interested than ever. Being “anti-social” is even touted as something to be proud of by young people on social media.
If there is anything that should be taken away from Macedonian coffee culture it is that we need to take a page out of their book and begin making time for one another. Whether we gather around a cup of coffee or for a round of bowling it doesn’t matter as long as we’re spending time together.
So, the next time you’re in the mood for coffee invite someone along, spend a couple of hours talking, see what difference that makes.
The views of the author may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Macedonian Diaspora and Generation M.