Café Frappé | The Myth Of Makers Coffee | Builders Coffee

Frothy Coffee over ice was known in Greece as Kryo (Cold) before the term frappé was popularised. Borrowed from the French – it literally means to beat. And if the popular myth is to be believed the frappé (a cold instant-coffee based drink) was first beaten into existence by a suited Nestle affiliated employee, at the 1957 Helexpo trade show in the city of Thesaloniki – Frappedopouli. Dimitirs Vakondios was there to promote a children’s chocolate drink – a beaker containing a sashay of powder,  could be filled with milk and shaken, presumably a strategy for tiring the child. Vakondios was unable to find hot water and simply borrowed the technique, using cold water and replacing the chocolate with instant coffee.

This story, accounted in as bland a manner as only those conjured by the managerial classes, at first seemed highly implausible. What sort of imbecile can’t make an instant coffee at a trade show? But instant coffee was developing in popularity, especially in a region with a long history of small bittersweet middle eastern coffee. People would have still predominantly drunk, what they referred to as Turkish coffee – although the symbolic link was slowly being eradicated with campaigns to rebrand to Greek Coffee, as early as the 1960s. Instead, instant coffee may have been seen as free from the history and politics of the recent past but may have also stoked the chauvinism of national identity.

With that, the frappé continued to increase in popularity, with the technique later industrialised, in the primary economic arena of Greece – the cafenia, with the inclusion of a food blender. Christos Lentzos the owner of a popular coffee shop, could make creamier and frothier frappe, blending generous portions of instant coffee to mugs of sugar, and for the extra kick would also sprinkling powdered instant coffee on top, to turbo charge the drink.

On screen I have been using the simplest of methods to make frappe, by  teaspoons of instant coffee with three teaspoons of sugar, in a jar which has a lid. I then add two fingers of water from the glass I’ll eventually be drinking from and combine the ingredients by shaking the jar vigorously for about a minute. I place four ice cubes into the glass and pour the foamed coffee over them, topping with water and the addition of a straw – biodegradable in this case.

I’ll explain why I’m sprinkling sawdust over the coffee at the end of this video but if you can guess the reason, leave a comment.

With the white-goods revolution, a small cement-mixer began to materialise in domestic settings, and people could also replicate the turbocharge process, although the exact procedure to make frappe varies from street to street. Do you place the ice in the froth, or pour the froth from one beaker over ice into another? Do you include milk, or condensed milk, half a teaspoon, a full teaspoon, several teaspoons of sugar? What percentage of froth should cover the liquid coffee to look aesthetically pleasing? Do you even sprinkle powdered coffee on top?

With a blender you could possibly stretch the foam to two drinks although less coffee seems to permeate into the drinkable liquid, while the shaking method producing the strongest the foam is less velvety. And then there is this unusual too – a multitool coffee whisker.

With the association to one instant coffee company above all others, the drink began to evolve into a status symbol of youthful flamboyance and exuberance. But few in Greece let alone the world knew the more down to earth urban myth, which draws the drink back to humbler ingenious origins. That it was builders and makers, people who worked in often dusty environments who invented and popularised the drink. Using the simplest method which I began this video with, onsite or within their workshop to produce froth so viscus that dust could not travel through into the drink beneath. In addition, the glass can be tipped to an acute angle before liquid reaches the rim, which may help prevent spillages. These two observations alone convinced me that this myth could be true, and if it is not true it is at least a better story than the one currently accepted as fact.