Mission: TO EXPLORE WHY COFFEE AND CAFES ARE CENTRAL TO THE BALKAN WAY OF LIFE
Cafes in the major European conurbations - from Amsterdam to Budapest, Paris to Milan, Barcelona to Vienna - have been well celebrated and documented.
The Balkan countries, not so much.
So we're going to correct that by going off the beaten track to examine and document the cafe culture of the Balkan area countries. Particularly Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia. Why? Because probably nowhere else on earth is coffee and the cafe culture more important to everyday life than in this region. A region where coffee is more a ritual than a drink. Where it's invariably coffee first, business later. Where coffee is a social adhesive. And where taking coffee on the run is almost considered a crime against humanity.
Yes, we will visit and document what few ‘grand’ cafes still exist in the bigger cities - Bucharest, Belgrade, Zagreb, Sofia, Tirana. But our ultimate goal is to get under the skin of cafe culture in the Balkans through its neighbourhood joints and their denizens. To hear and retell stories from and of the people who dispense this fragrant dark potent liquid. And who drink it in vast quantities. People from the melting pot of ethnicities, religions, tribes, backgrounds that make this region so interesting and, let it be said, volatile.
We’ll also be looking at how the cafe in the Balkans has evolved, continues to evolve, into chic, sleek, new venues including the third wave artisanal coffee movement. How the culture normally associated with men only (the Ottoman legacy?) is now embracing both genders in its modern form.
As for the images, we will endeavour to capture what is real. Not just the art nouveau/art deco splendour of the grand cafes, not the usual sidewalk-umbrella-beautiful-people snaps, but telling portraits of human faces and interaction, faded signs and advertising, crumbling paintwork, rickety furniture. And full ashtrays (yes, like it or not, smoking is still a major feature of Balkan cafe culture!).
And let’s not forget that cafes in this area are not just about coffee (and tobacco). The cuisines of the Balkans embrace a huge range of roasted, baked and fried delicacies. As well as fresh vegetables and fruits rendered in everything from delicious pastries and soups and salads to eye-watering spirits. We will be sampling it all.
Not wishing to bite off more than we can chew we've decided to break our journey into three legs. First leg: Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our target launch date for the trip is April 2017. We'll be on the road for about 22 days which will give us time in each of our main 'target' towns and cities to hear and document cafe stories over many a cup and accompanying spirit.
What is Balkan Caffeination?
Our mission is to explore why coffee and cafés are central to the Balkan way of life.