Summer and Frappes for those below the equator.

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I am sitting in my friends’ home in Canada, while the thermostat plunges as winter is setting in. We huddle around the fireplace with a mug of hot coffee, reminiscing about the times we had while we lived in Athens. We decided to reach out to our friend (the third musketeer of our little parea from Greece) who is now living in Santiago, Chile. With frozen hands we reach the computer and click to video visit via Skype.

elegant_frappe

Not every Greek in the world is shivering like us…many are enjoying sun filled warm days! We are extremely jealous when she answers the phone poolside! She too is sipping a coffee, however she is enjoying what looks to be an ice cold Nescafe Frappe! Elena, we ask, “Looks like you are still living the Greek island lifestyle sipping your frappe while in a bikini!” She giggles, and responds, “Yes, I am, and I actually made this frappe with the tin of Nescafé I brought back to Chile in my suitcase from Athens! ”

There is something about the Nescafe in Greece. It tastes so much better than that we can get in the Americas.  A delicious Greek frappe with foam so frothy it resembles whipped cream. The best part of the frappe is this very thick foam. The lower oil content of instant coffee compared to traditionally brewed coffee makes the coffee bubble which does not collapse and makes the foam creamy and durable.

outdoor_frappe

Frappe a simple beverage where instant coffee is combined with 1/5 of a glass of really cold water, sugar (optional), and shaken vigorously together in a shaker or with a hand mixer, until the mixture turns to thick foam. The creamy mixture is poured in a tall glass, and additional cold water and optional milk (evaporated milk for stronger flavor and even Baileys for a fun twist) is added to taste.

making_frappe

photo source buzzle.com

After our Skype visit with our sunbathing friend, we decide to get the answers to some questions about Nescafe Frappe…where it came from and why does it have such a different taste in Greece?

Our research tells us that the main difference that results in a different blend and taste is in the drying of the granules. We learn that there are basically two methods: Spray drying and Freeze-drying.

The basic principle of freeze-drying is the removal of water by sublimation. Since the mass production of instant coffee began in post-WWII America, freeze-drying has grown in popularity to become a common method. Although it is sometimes more expensive, it generally results in a higher-quality product. A vacuum is used and the coffee is dried within the chamber rapidly.

Spray drying is preferred to freeze drying in some cases because of its economy, shorter drying times, usefulness when dealing with such a heat-sensitive product, and the fine, rounded particles it produces. The particles are different in size than those created by the freeze dried method and produces much finer particles.

We are convinced that we have found the reason why one tin of Nescafé purchased in a North American store tastes differently than that tin purchased in Greece yet prepared the same way.

European Nescafe is spray-dried, rather than freeze-dried, so it froths when it is blended. The flavor is also a bit richer in taste than that in North America as well. We are doomed to being unable to recreate the frappes that we enjoyed when we lived and worked in Greece.

According to popular legend, the Greek-style frappe was invented in September 1957 at the annual Thessaloniki International Fair in the convention center of Greece’s second largest city. Working at an exhibit for Andreas Dritsas, then the Greek distributor of Nestle products, sales representative Dimitrios Vakondios made an important discovery. With no hot water available, Vakondios grabbed a shaker meant for Nesquik, the Nestle cocoa drink, filled it instead with Nescafe instant coffee and a little cold water, and shook it vigorously. Not accounting for the burst of foam this action would generate, Vakondios achieved two results: The first outcome was the staining of his business suit; the second, the invention of the foamy concoction that would become something akin to the identity soft drink of Greece.

Soon after its invention, a form of this frothy cold coffee was promoted by Nestle at the Contemporary Home Exhibition at the Zappeion in Athens. A Nestle company promotional brochure from around that period, written in Greek, detailed a slightly different recipe: Put in a mixer 2 cups Nestle evaporated milk, 1 cup water, 2 teaspoons Nescafe, and 1 scoop vanilla ice cream. Mix a few seconds and serve.

This formula took after the French classic cafe frappe, made with ice cream, as much as the Greek one, which acquires its foam and fullness without ice cream. By 1963 ice cream was no longer a part of Nescafe’s frappe equation. A print ad from that year carried a bold illustration of a glass with an exceedingly thick head of light-colored foam over a dark liquid. Greeks came to know it as milk less “frappe horis gala”. The ad copy linked “Nescafe” and “frappe” and revealed these simple instructions for preparing a frappe coffee: All you have to do is beat Nescafe, sugar, and cold water.

Our last research on the computer…. is a visit to the countdown site, http://mycountdown.org/Other/Summer/ where we learn that for us North of the equator, especially those of us suffering in the cold 🙂 there are 206 days and 19 hours until Sunday, June 21, the first day of Summer.

on_the_beach_frappe

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