Walk the streets of Athens, Thessaloniki, or any other Greek city around mid-afternoon and you’re bound to see young folks taking long drags on cigarettes and short sips of these frosty drinks topped by amber drifts of whipped coffee. That’s frappe, the most delicious instant coffee you’ll ever drink.
“It was made by accident, actually,” says Petros Vamvakas, owner of the buzzy Montrose café Agora, a staple for cafegoers since 2001. “In Thessaloniki there was a big coffee convention in 1957, and this one vendor’s machine broke down. So, he took Nescafé and heated it up really fast, put water in it, sugar and ice, and mixed it up, and it became the Greek frappe.”
First, a word about Nescafé, the frappe’s key component: In 1929 an Italian bank asked the Swiss company Nestlé to create a coffee product that could preserve its surplus of beans in Brazil. In 1938 the product Nescafé—a soluble coffee in powder form (just add water)—was born. Because of its long shelf life, Nescafé was a favorite present sent to soldiers during World War II, and its popularity grew worldwide because of its convenience. Then the Greeks took it and ran with it to create their frappe.
At Agora, the sugar and milk go in first (unless you opt to drink it straight), then Nescafé, then water to fill, followed by furious stirring. Finish with ice and condensed milk. A fine sudsy head will form atop, so use a straw to get through it to the good stuff: a caffeinated offering perfect for savoring while watching the world go by at a street café.
“We want people to literally come in, have a frappe, and sit and enjoy themselves,” says Vamvakas. “Enjoy your coffee, sit down for a couple of hours, and take it easy.”
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