Weekends Mean Kaffeeklatsch -Coffee, Cake, and a lot of Laughter!
Americans missed out on a good thing by not adopting the “Kaffeeklatsch”. Honestly, meeting friends at Starbucks for a sippy cup of coffee on a tiny table just isn’t the same thing. Kaffeeklatsch… friends coming together for coffee… maybe some cake… and good conversation, is such a lovely way to spend a few hours. In Germany, the concept of Kaffeeklatsch goes back hundreds of years. This break from work, time spent with friends and family, is a cultural essential. (And probably saves mountains of money on therapy). Kaffeeklatsch doesn’t have to happen on weekends. It’s perfectly acceptable to meet around the table mid-week in the afternoon… or even mornings.
When I was growing up in California, Sunday was Kaffeeklatsch day. Our family would get together with some other German families that we knew, either in our house, or in their homes. Naturally there would always be coffee and cake. The table would be set with a nice tablecloth, the good china, and pretty napkins. Flowers in the center of the table. Then the moms would sit in one room and talk. Rapid fire German punctuated by LOUD laughter. So fun to hear. The Kaffeeklatsch helped my mother, and all the other German women maintain connection to their culture. (Imagine my surprise when I grew up and learned that American homes didn’t have a special “Kaffeeservice” coffee dishes… but it’s not really ABOUT ).
In my German-American world, Dads would sit around a table in another room playing cards. Beer and maybe schnapps or cognac would be poured. They would talk, tell jokes, laugh and play. Sometimes they would come outside and play a game of soccer. But they would always come back to the table eventually for coffee and cake. (We kids always stayed out of the way, half listening while we played… and once the adults were served, we could come and get cake too)
Today the world is far less formal, even in Germany. Kaffeeklatsch doesn’t always mean setting a fancy table… but people still come together for a coffee and conversation.
Did you know that Germans drink more coffee per capita than beer or water? Around 39 GALLONS a year each! And 84% of the population over age 14 drinks coffee… mostly at home with family (and during a Kaffeeklatsch!) Coffee culture in Germany older and stronger than you would imagine, going back hundreds of years. (Read more about German Coffee Culture HERE). But why a Kaffeeklatsch?
The first mention of coffee in Germany comes in the late 1500s, but it wasn’t until the later 1600s that the upper classes “discovered” coffee in the Royal houses in France. By 1680 Coffee Houses popped up in Hamburg, bringing people together over a cup of coffee, and it spread from there to Berlin and across Germany. Cafes weren’t just a place to drink coffee… they were places for discussion…. politics, intellectual ideas etc. But (and this is a big BUT), women weren’t allowed to go to drink coffee in public. Cafes were off limits.
So they drank coffee at home.
Kaffeekränzen, the root of the Kaffeeklatsch, were small get togethers for women in the mornings or afternoon. Women could come together, visit and drink coffee. (And I’d like to think, based on conversations I’ve heard during Kaffeeklatsches, that they talked politics, books, and intellectual topics as well as things like “how to remove stubborn stains from a baby diaper.) The concept of Kaffeeklatsch stuck, becoming an ingrained part of German culture. A way of maintaining connections.
My mother only serves German Coffee in her home. This milder roast tastes less bitter or heavy, meaning you can drink pots of it, and still get through the day without the shakes.
You can Order German Coffee here–
Pro Tip- If you put the coffee in a nice thermal carafe, you can set it on the table and it stays warm for top ups…
You Can’t Have a Kaffeeklatsch without Kuchen (Cake)
Every house had a specialty. Some had Apple Cake, some a cherry cake. My mom was known for her Mohn Kuchen ( Poppy Seed Roll) during the holidays, and she would make a cheesecake covered with cherries in the summer, another woman was lauded for her Frankfurter Kranz. One of the dads was a trained baker from Germany, but in the US he worked as a police officer. Luckily, he baked on weekends…. real German Torte, Sahne, mmmmmmm.
Women and men would come together around the table, to drink coffee, eat cake, and talk together. They became a surrogate family, since all of us had extended family so far away. I called these people my Tantes and Onkels (aunts and uncles), because that’s how I saw them, and still see them. They are part of my family.
As I got older, I learned that inviting families for Coffee on weekends was not an American way. It’s a shame really. There is something really special about coming together with other families, friends, and sharing a coffee, conversation, and a piece of cake on a Sunday afternoon.
Follow this link to find Traditional German Cake Recipes
Order German Baking Books
I’ve been using the Classic German Baking book from Luisa Weiss lately to try new recipes. They work very well. And, of course, Dr Oetker ALWAYS!