Frappé is the ideal quarantine coffee: made of shelf-stable ingredients and designed to pass the time.
As the Dalgona coffee craze sweeps Instagram, it is clear folks are looking for ways to spend their time at home by preparing food and drink (see also: sourdough starters). Dalgona coffee (whipped instant coffee, sugar, and hot water dolloped on top of cold milk) gained popularity in South Korea and then the US during coronavirus lockdown, but the consumption of ethereally whipped coffee has a long history across continents.
Greece’s second most famous coffee beverage (after Greek Coffee), is the Frappé, purportedly invented at the 1957 Thessaloniki International Fair. Imagine the Frappé as only the foam part of a Dalgona coffee – and imagine it as a symbol of Greek relationships to taking one’s time as a demonstration of personal autonomy. (See Renée Hirschon, “Presents, promises and punctuality: Accountability and obligation in Greek social life” in Networks of Power in Modern Greece, Hurst & Co, 2008.)
The opposite of an Italian espresso downed in seconds while standing up at a café, the Frappé is meant to last for hours. The cup full of foam subsides into pleasantly drinkable liquid only after hours of stirring with a straw. People watchers seated at café tables face the square or the street, chatting to the tune of muffled clinking of ice cubes under foam. When I lived in Athens in 2013, unemployment was still sky-high from the 2008 crisis, and with the purchase of a 2€ Frappé, one could reasonably pass four pleasant hours with friends in the neighborhood square, under the shade of plane trees.
Now, in 2020, as I watch winter change to spring and then to summer out my apartment window, I make this Frappé at home to pass the time as I dream of Greek cafes in my past and future.
- 3 teaspoons Nescafe instant coffee
- 1-5 teaspoons granulated sugar (to taste – I use 3 teaspoons)
- Ice cubes
- Evaporated milk, to taste
Tip: Pierce the top of the can at 12:00 and 6:00 to easily pour without fully opening the can, thereby preserving its shelf life. Store in the fridge after opening.
- In a tall cup that fits your immersion blender, combine the instant coffee, sugar, and ¼ cup water. Blend with your immersion blender until it’s foamed to maximum volume (30 seconds or so). If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a milk frother, a blender, an old-fashioned milkshake maker (this is what most Greek cafes use) or you can even shake it up in a mason jar or cocktail shaker (this is how frappes were originally made).
- Pour your foam into a tall serving glass (ideally the foam should come about halfway up the sides of the glass). Add 3-4 ice cubes, a splash of water, and evaporated milk to taste (a good heuristic is to use about as much evaporated milk as you would of half and half in your cup of coffee).
- Drink slowly with a straw and stir, stir, stir. When the liquid is gone and you are left with just foam, add a splash of water and keep stirring.
Thank you to Christina Palis for alerting me to the Frappe hiding within the Dalgona fad, and for inspiring me to dig back out my Nescafe.