The story, as they tell it in Vienna, is that coffee arrived in Austria during one of the many Austro-Turkish wars. When, in 1683, the Austrians successfully made their Turkish invaders retreat from the gates of Vienna, they left bags of coffee beans behind – a delicacy previously unknown to Austria. The very first coffee houses to spring-up following this serendipitous discovery provided colour charts from which guests could choose the strength of their coffee. And after many years of experimentation and accidental invention, Austria developed a rich coffee culture of its own, with a variety of choices unrivalled in Europe; so much so that Vienna’s coffee house culture is listed as a source of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ by UNESCO.
Below, we delve a little further into the stories behind some of the most-loved coffees to come from the Austrian coffeehouse, and that we also happen to serve here at Fischer’s – to be enjoyed as you would in Vienna; savoured over a newspaper with an accompanying piece of Sachertorte.
Our coffees at Fischer’s
A traditional Viennese coffee, combining espresso and a generous topping of whipped cream. The story goes that this coffee was named after the one-horse-drawn carriages in Vienna. For coachmen it was an ideal drink for travelling, as the cream would keep the coffee warm and prevent any spillage. Served in a tall, handled glass so that the coachmen could keep hold of the reins in one hand and enjoy a coffee whilst on the move.
Translated as ‘topsy turvy Newman’, this coffee is the Einspänner’s quirky sibling. Named after Mr Newman, a regular patron of the legendary Café Herrenhof, who requested to drink his Einspänner upside down. Whipped cream is thus placed in the cup first for an Überstürzter, and coffee is then poured over it at the guest’s table. The key difference from an Einspänner is that the coffee slowly mixes with the cream as it is poured over, whereas the coffee in an Einspänner stays black. The finer details matter in Austria.
Coming from the French ‘to mix’, this vague name has left the constitution of a Melange open to a little interpretation. At Cafe Sperl in Vienna, for example, the Melange is half a cup of brewed coffee with half a cup of cream, topped with milk foam; yet, the Viennese coffee company Meinl specifies it as having ‘equal parts steamed milk and foam’, and serves theirs dusted with cocoa powder. With the basics always being coffee, milk and foam, tourists in Austria are often recommended this beverage if their usual order at home is a Cappuccino.
With Schwarzer meaning black, this is one of the more self-explanatory Austrian beverages. The Schwarzer Kaffee is often remembered as being a favourite of Sigmund Freud, who regularly frequented Café Landtman, and was part of the wider intellectual and artistic movement of the early twentieth century that dominated Vienna’s Cafés.