Guide To Coffee In Croatia (Tips For Tea Lovers Too)

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Coffee to Croatians is important. No, seriously, really important.

Coffee in Croatia is more than just a quick caffeine fix; it’s a vital part of the daily culture and social scene. Understanding this can transform your experience in Croatian cafes, turning a simple drink order into an opportunity to engage with locals and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the nuances of Croatian coffee culture and offer practical advice for both coffee lovers and tea drinkers to navigate the café scene like a local. Here is your guide to coffee in Croatia (plus tips for tea lovers too).

Coffee In Croatia - Illustration of diverse tourists enjoying a coffee break at a quaint outdoor cafe in a Croatian village.

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?

Zagreb Spiza And Coffee - With Flag

 

First things first, you should know that the Croatian word for coffee is kava. Sometimes, it is 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:

Your Preference Drink Type Description
You like lots of milk 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 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 Macchiato A shot of espresso with the tiniest splash of warm, foamy milk.
You like low-fat milk N/A 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 Espresso Just a shot of coffee to get your coffee fix.
You hate coffee Tea or other drinks 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, a Croatian drink in powder form you add water to, available in various flavors.
You prefer tea Čaj Ask for Čaj. Not to be confused with a chai latte.
You need caffeine-free coffee Bez kofeina kava Really? Why do you bother? Your chances of finding this outside of big touristy areas like Dubrovnik are low. If you do, I’ll make a list for those who like to pretend to drink coffee.
Instant coffee Nescafe Weirdly, some Croatians prefer a cup of instant coffee (someone, please explain to me why!). If this is you, just order a Nescafe.
You love lots of whipped cream, syrup, sprinkles, and other additives Kava sa slagom But if you want those giant creamy drinks with syrup and sprinkles, you’re out of luck in Croatia. You will find kava sa slagom, a white coffee with a glob of cream on top.
You like filtered coffee N/A In this case, enjoy your last cup before you travel to Croatia and be prepared for some new coffee adventures.
Free refills N/A These do not exist in Croatia. However, coffee is affordable, ranging from 1.5 euros in small villages to 3.5 euros in touristy areas, so you can treat yourself to another cup if you wish.

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.

Brands We Use And Trust

  

Buy Croatian Coffee

Zagreb Coffee Spica - Natalie Chalk

Are you returning from a trip (or miss home) and want some Croatian coffee? Here are our top picks for Croatian coffee + coffee pots.

Croatian Coffee Chronicles: Sip, Savor, and Smile

  • Let’s talk H2O. In Croatia, the tap water is as safe as a goalie’s hands in a penalty shootout. And guess what? It’s free! Forget about splurging on the bottled stuff unless you’re collecting fancy labels. A glass of the tap will do just fine, and your wallet will thank you
  • Sweet tooth? Sugar packets, locally known as šećer, are a mainstay on Croatian café tables. They’re not trying to sugar-coat anything; it’s just plain old white sugar, no frills attached. So go ahead, tear open a packet or two, and sweeten your brew to taste
  • Café culture here is not a grab ‘n’ go business. It’s more of a sit-back-and-let-the-world-drift-by kind of vibe. Croatians cherish their coffee time, so much so that ‘to-go’ cups are as rare as finding a unicorn at the beach. If you’re in a hurry and ask for a “za van” (that’s a ‘takeaway’), prepare for some raised eyebrows or a quest for a paper cup that might just not exist

Best Cafes In Zagreb

Here is a list of the recommended cafés in Zagreb, along with the reasons I recommended them:

  • Botaničar: Recommended for its bohemian atmosphere, greenery, and cocktails
  • Caffé Bar Finjak:  Instagrammable décor and comfortable courtyard seating
  • Divas Café Bar: Offers an elegant, artistic setting and good coffee
  • Café u Dvoristu: Stands out for its arty vibe, Cogito Coffee, and secluded courtyard seating
  • Booksa: A literary club and café with a laid-back atmosphere and regular community events
  • Monocycle Specialty Coffee: A popular choice for coffee enthusiasts interested in manual brews and African and South American roasts
  • Velvet: An upscale café known for its cakes, vintage decor, and quiet courtyard

Best Cafes In Split

Here are my recommended cafes in Split:

  • B7: Best cakes and coffee combo + Riva views
  • D16: A cool cafe with two branches in Split, serving coffee made with high-quality arabica beans
  • Kava2: A favorite coffee shop in Split, known for its peanut cream croissants and aesthetic, offering various coffee blends
  • The Daltonist: A cafe/bar with a chill vibe, offering specialty coffee, brunch options, and pop-up events
  • 4coffee Soul Food: A small coffee window with quality coffee and baked goods
  • KaKantun: A hidden gem in Split’s Old Town, serving excellent coffee, including cold brew and matcha options, as well as being a gin bar
  • Restoran Vidilica: Offers scenic views of Split
  • Jadran Beach Bar: Provides scenic views of Split
  • ZONA: Offers nice views
  • Kavana Procaffe: Known for its cakes and provides nice views

So, what coffee in Croatia will you order?

Comments (73)

  1. Having a cup of coffee in Europe is a culture, indeed. You can’t just sip it on your way to the subway station from a styrofoam cup, like here, in the States. Unfortunately I am not a coffee drinker, although I adore the taste and the smell. I am an insomniac…

  2. Thank you for writing this, there is nothing worse than going to a place where you don’t speak the local language and can’t even order a simple cup of coffee.

    1. Okay sure there is kava sa slagom, but its not like this. I added kava sa slagom as an option but its hardly the same.

      1. You forgot about Cappuccino (kapućino).
        It is espresso with lots of milk foam.
        If it is a good one jour shugar should stay on top of the foam few seconds before it sinks in ;)

  3. Would have loved this post 6 months ago before I went to Cro hahaha
    I must be honest, here in Melbourne we are VERY spoilt for coffee choice and quality, so we found the coffee in Cro really disappointing

  4. Like decaf coffee, every coffee bar in Croatia also serves coffee with whipped cream, (kava sa šlagom) and nescafe isn’t tehnically instant coffee (it’s more like a flavoured cappucino)

    1. A little cream on top of a coffee is not what I mean. I am talking about these babies and drinks like it from Starbucks and similar chains. And nescafe is instant. You rip open the packet, add hot water and have an… instant coffee. Also, I think maybe a little of my tounge-in-cheek-humour may be lost in translation if you are not used to my writing:D

  5. just an FYI – every bar in Dubrovnik has decaf coffee, and yes you are so right about the take-away! I carried my own cup to work and waiters looked at me like I was an idiot until they got used too it. Filter coffee – yes, none of that here maybe just on buffet breakfasts in hotels. And Nescafe? yes, people order that but usually vanilla or chocolate tasting one – i order it when ‘Im hungry since one cup of vanilla nes has calories like a whole meal ( around 500 LOL) :)

    1. Okay that is true very touristy areas have it, I’ll make a little amendment. Thanks Vesna.
      Really it has that many calories? I know a Croat who orders just regular nescafe as he says its better than espresso… I think he needs his tastebuds checked :P

  6. And coming from America, one has to bring a stash of Starbucks instant coffee Via packets when feeling homesick.. ; )

    1. Why? I’m Canadian, coffee in Croatia is much better than either Starbucks or Tim Horton’s. I don’t even like espresso much, but find the coffee in Croatia excellent.

    2. I agree.. but some cafe’s aren’t open early.. it’s that easy going feeling when they decide they will open when they feel like it..”Malo po malo” ; )

    3. What is early? I’ve had coffee at 7am, no problem in many places in Croatia.
      @ Chasing the donkey, very high levels of caffeine and great marketing.

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