Coffee to Croatians is essential. Whether it be an espresso from a coffee bar or Croatian coffee cooked on the stovetop at home, an excellent strong coffee is critical to a Croatian’s existence. You have no idea how big a cup of joe can be until you’re in Croatia. As one of my favorite expat bloggers, Zablogreb, says;
Croatians love coffee, but more than that, coffee in Croatia is where everything gets done. It’s where friends meet, where deals are made, how favors are asked, how people are hired, fired, introduced, married, divorced, everything. Everything involves coffee.
A while back, I wrote about some basic Croatian phrases that will help you while on holiday. I also wrote a very popular piece about swearing like a Croatian, but this coffee ordering guide is by far more important… trust me! Given that coffee has such a significant role in Croatian culture, I feel it is my duty to help you – the traveler – find your way through the coffee ordering scene.
Coffee In Croatia: What Type Of Coffee Should You Order?
First things first, you should know that the Croatian word for coffee is kava. Sometimes heard as kavu or kave due to the sophisticated use of cases and plurals in the Croatian language. Before you get to ordering a coffee, I suggest you follow your nose, determine where the best coffee aroma comes from, and check out how busy the coffee bar is. If the coffee aroma tickles your sense of smell and the coffee bar has several patrons, you’re in the right place for excellent Croatian coffee.
The next step is to work out the type of coffee you want:
You like lots of milk. Ask for a Bijela kava. A simple white coffee (kind of like a latte) made with an espresso shot and lots of warm milk. This is the biggest coffee you can order in Croatia.
You like milk, but not a full glass. Order a Veliki Macchiato. A shot of espresso with about 1/4 cup of warm foamy milk.
You like a small, strong coffee with a dash of milk. Ask for a Macchiato. A shot of espresso with the tiniest splash of warm foamy milk.
You like low-fat milk. Too bad milk is milk, and there are no skinny, low-fat, two percent, or added calcium options—just regular whole-fat milk. Never fear; you are on holiday, and a little extra fat won’t kill you.
You prefer a small, strong coffee. Ask for an espresso—just a shot of coffee to get your coffee fix.
You hate coffee. Perhaps you’d like to order a cup of tea. There are all kinds of herb and regular teas on offer. Other options include juice, water, soft drinks, and also a drink called cedevita. This Croatian drink comes in powder form, to which you add water. It comes in orange and lemon (and a few other) flavors.
You prefer tea. Ask for Čaj. Not to be confused with a chai latte.
You need caffeine-free coffee. Really? Why do you bother? Seriously, I can’t tell you how low your chances of finding a cafe that sells bez kofeina kava are if you’re outside of the big touristy spots like Dubrovnik. If anyone knows of any, please tell me, and I’ll make a list here for those of us who like to pretend to drink coffee.
Instant coffee. Weirdly, some Croatians prefer a cup of instant coffee (someone, please explain to me why!), in which case, if this is you, you can order a Nescafe.
You love lots of whipped cream, syrup, sprinkles, and other additives. But if you want those giant creamy drinks with syrup and sprinkles, sorry, you won’t find coffee shops in Croatia with many of these options. You are hard out of luck. You will find kava sa slagom, a white coffee with a glob of cream on top.
You like filtered coffee. In this case, enjoy your last cup before you travel to Croatia and be prepared for some new coffee adventures.
Ha! Free refills. These, unlike in America, do not exist. But, given that coffee is between 1 (in small villages) and just 3.5 (in very touristy areas) euro a cup, you can easily afford to buy a second or third cup of coffee in Croatia.
So who is paying for this coffee?
If you are invited to a coffee bar by a Croatian, you are forbidden to pay. Try to offer, but your hand will be slapped back.
Buy Croatian Coffee
Are you returning from a trip (or miss home) and want some Croatian coffee? Here are our top picks for Croatian coffee + coffee pots.
Other Things You Need To Know About Coffee In Croatia
- Tap water in Croatia is safe and okay to drink. Water is free. Not the bottled kind, but a glass of tap water comes at no charge.
- Sugar is always on the table in packets. Called šećer, it is mostly just served as regular white grains, and you will need to add it to your Croatian coffee.
- Sit down. As I said, enjoying a coffee at the local coffee bar is a part of life here in Croatia, which means you do not get it in a take-a-away cup and drink it on the run. Sit, relax and enjoy your holiday in Croatia. If you must, ask for Za van or take-away, but do not be surprised if they look at you a little oddly or do not have the paper cups.
What coffee in Croatia will you order?