Yesterday I had to work late. Normally the café closes at seven, but we were hosting an event that night. It was a performance-talk on Kaffeehaus-Tradition called: "With Cream, Please!" Sadly, I had to work, but when all the guest were served and the show began, we could sneak behind the stage and listen in. It was a wonderful topic and I had so much fun listening to the anecdotes and pieces of useless wisdom about coffee sipping artist, grumpy writers and the history of these curious institutions.
Kaffeehäuser are a dying species. You can still find them of course, in metropolises like Wien or Budapest, but their original purpose, the original charm gets more and more forgotten and will soon be lost for us.
What I took from the talk was that in the old times, the regular customers of a Kaffeehaus really kind of lived there! They often even had the Kaffeehaus as their official postal address. They got and answered calls from there, wrote their correspondence, and generally spend most of their free time in the accommodations of the café, writing, meeting, discussing! They houses even very often became the coulisse for important cultural and political meetings and debates.
What I also didn't know before - The waiters got to select who would be treated with the privileges of a regular costumer and who not! Money was not necessarily a factor in this decision. Neither was the quantitative amount of your visits but only the knowledge about whether the customers were real ladies and gentlemen or not. - We as normal waitresses and waiters can only dream of such power!
We got so inspired by the talk that we mixed wonderful coffee-cream-syrup drinks with chocolate sprinkles and liqueur and enjoyed them backstage while we listened.
I imagine this old Kaffeehauskultur as something really wonderful, that sadly just doesn't fit into our culture anymore. Time is money today and nobody has the leisure to spent half of their lives in a café. But as someone who really enjoys the atmosphere in a café or a modern coffeehouse and very often reads there, meets friends and uses them for study group gatherings, I can vividly imagine how it must have been like in the old days. I, for one, decided yesterday that I will try to spend quality time their more often! I usually find that I can concentrate much better with the background sounds of a crowded café, the coffee smell and the soft music, then at my quiet desk at home. My postal address will not change to Starbucks in the near future (I guess...) but a coffeehouse afternoon here and there is surely a good thing for the soul - and if you throw in a piece of cake or two, also for the body! :)
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