Magyar Magyar

From Viennese to Speciality Coffee

Hungarian coffee culture has been influenced by the hot beverage of three legendary coffee-loving peoples: the Turks, who were the first to introduce coffee to this part of Europe, the Italians, from whom we imported strong espresso, and the Austrians, from whom the atmosphere and range of Viennese cafés came. 

All this is no wonder at all, as the centuries of Turkish occupation and then Austrian rule brought Hungary into direct contact with all three nations and coffee cultures. And to really bring the story full circle: history links the invention of Italian espresso and vacuum packaging that preserves the aroma of coffee to the name of a Hungarian coffee merchant living in Trieste, Ferenc Illy (Francesco Illy), so this how this strong, aromatic, hot drink made it directly to Hungary from Italy.

The scene of social life: the café


The first Hungarian coffee house was opened in 1714 by a Rác merchant named Balázs “Kávéfőző” (“Coffee-Maker”). Not long after, coffee houses began to pop up all over the country, becoming the leading venues of social life in the 200 years that followed, fashioned after the Viennese café trends of the time. Of course, they also attracted the most famous individuals in the artistic world: artists such as Dezső Kosztolányi, Ferenc Molnár, Géza Gárdonyi, Frigyes Karinthy and Zsigmond Móricz sat at the tables of the New York Café, the Central Café or the Hadik.


Espresso is the favourite


Unlike many Western European countries where a longer coffee is preferred, Hungary's favourite is still the Italian-type strong espresso and coffee drinks made with foamed milk, such as cappuccino or latte macchiato. Italian espresso making does not brew the ground coffee but forces the aromas out of it under pressure, and the coffee machine produces the drink quickly and at a consistent level of quality.

Hungarian cafés still preserve this triple tradition, as they offer numerous invigorating coffee specialities by mixing the stronger robusta and softer arabica varieties, or just using them separately. And in line with the traditions of Viennese cafés, pastries are offered to accompany the strong coffee. In recent decades, the shops of the best-known international coffee chains have also become popular, especially among young people.


Speciality coffee enters the scene


In recent years, another coffee trend has been gaining ground among Hungarians, who are always open to a caffeine kick. Hand-selected, exceptional quality and carefully roasted specialty coffees are characterised by a unique harmony of fruity, sour and sweet flavours. The aroma of unique-quality beverages tempting you for expert tasting is combined with family hospitality in the speciality cafés that are becoming more and more widespread both in Budapest and all over the country. Anyone who starts their day in one of these cafés is guaranteed to leave recharged.