Kaffeehaus Culture

kaffeehaus

The Viennese say they looted sacks of coffee beans after the Turks withdrew following a failed siege in 1683. But it was a spy on the payroll of the Royal Court who gave the city its real taste for coffee: born in Istanbul, he founded Vienna's first Kaffeehaus in 1685.

And while today, it may seem that cafes in Austria have become something of a cliche, the reality is that more than 300 years later the Kaffeehaus has become a unique institution. In fact the Viennese have developed a whole culture around coffee drinking and elevated it to an all encompassing attitude of life.

You immediately feel at home in a Kaffeehaus: the setting is spacious yet intimate, there is plush seating around marble tables, the scrape of traditional Thonet wooden chairs on parquet floors and mirrors reflecting mildly steamy light. Some Kaffeeh-user are furnished with genuine showpieces - time-worn and darkened, exuding an indefinable atmosphere.

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And while coffee is central, cakes and pastries are a special attraction of every Kaffeehaus. They are almost always home-made, often to carefully guarded house recipes. The "Sperl-Schnitte" at Café Sperl is just one such delicacy, as is the cake of the house at Café Alt-Wien. Café Korb, admired for its original 1950s fittings, serves the best Apfelstrudel in the city. Café Hawelka, on the other side, the best coveted Buchteln mit Powidl, a speciality bun with plum jam.

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