More Than a Drink: The History and Culture of Drinking Coffee in Slovenia

Slovenia is a country of sweet teeth and coffee lovers. Without exaggeration, this fragrant drink can be called one of the national Slovenian brands. In any corner of Slovenia, you can always find cosy coffee houses where everyone can have a cup of coffee made with loving care and suited to every taste, even the most demanding one.

Photo: Evropa Coffee House/Miško Kranjec, hrani: MNZS

The first permission to open a coffee shop in 1782 in Ljubljana was received by the Kazina society, as an ethnologist and culturologist Božidar Jezernik tells in his book Kava, čudežni napoj (Coffee – An Amazing Drink). By the end of the 18th century, five coffee houses were already operating in Ljubljana. In the second half of the 19th century, coffee houses became widespread. Besides, catering institutions of a higher level appeared for both representatives of the aristocracy and ordinary citizens. At their core, coffee houses served as clubs. Their visitors communicated and exchanged news, they also read the press, played dominoes, chess, billiards and bridge.

Photo: Evropa Mansion, 1975/Marjan Ciglič, hrani: MNZS

A special place in the history of Slovenian coffee houses is occupied by the Evropa Mansion in the centre of Ljubljana. In 1633, the city authorities opened a tavern here. Subsequently, the Zum goldenen Kreuz bistro operated at this place, which, together with the adjacent land plots, was purchased in 1867 by the hotelier and landowner Luka Tavčar. He ordered to demolish the old building and, according to the designs of the Viennese architect Carl Tietz, the Evropa Mansion was built in the Ajdovščina district, at the intersection of the then Maria Teresa Street and Dunajska Cesta. The eponymous coffee house, which became one of the most popular in the city, was built near the hotel. Its facade and interior premises were decorated in Viennese style. The coffee house was distinguished by a rich interior decoration and an excellent level of service. At the same time, the coffee house communicated well with the outside world. It had large glass windows and was located at the intersection of the two key city routes. Evropa coffee shop was mainly visited by entrepreneurs, traders, officials, artists, lawyers, teachers, students and politicians, and in the morning – by ladies and senior citizens. Regular guests had their reserved seats. Visitors to the coffee house were treated to white and black coffee and cappuccino. The menu also included cocoa, tea, liquors, hot chocolate, punch, grog, English and Viennese breakfasts, rolls, sausages, pastries and desserts. The coffee house was famous for its ice cream.

Photo: Tavčar Palace that housed the Evropa Cafe, 1925/All images from Wikipedia, public domain

In the twentieth century, when the “time is money” formula gained strength, lengthy gatherings over a cup of favourite coffee and reading newspapers became an unattainable luxury for people. Evropa ceased to exist as a coffee house but the memory of the legendary cafe lives on. The building of the same name has been preserved. The Turkish Airlines office will be located here. It is also planned to use this facility in the hospitality industry.

Thus, coffee in Slovenia is, without exaggeration, a part of history and an element of national culture. An average Slovenian drinks 500 cups of coffee per year. It is very popular among students. Strong coffee is one of the most favourite drinks here, which is understandable. During the academic year, it is the main “fuel” for students (you can read about the beneficial properties of coffee in this context here). Slovenian youth have a saying: “A cup of coffee a day will strengthen health and drive away laziness,” although in fact a typical student drinks not one but three cups of coffee a day. Students are frequent guests of Slovenian cafes. As a rule, these are small bistros. However, more respectable establishments do not remain without student attention as well – for example, TOZD cafe-bar and Čokl and Moderna coffee shops in Ljubljana, Teta Frida cafe confectionery in Maribor, Loggia Caffe in Koper. Coffee is also quite affordable here. A cup of this tasty drink will cost 1-2 EUR.

Interestingly, the start date of the academic year at Slovenian universities is 1st of October and coincides with the International Coffee Day. By the way, on this day, starting in 2015, a unique coffee festival is held in the city of Ptuj, which combines the historical, cultural, social and culinary elements associated with the use of this drink. The festival is accompanied by numerous cultural and educational events, it is distinguished by a rich offer of local catering institutions within the hospitality and tourism industry and is strongly recommended to visit.

However, even if you can’t attend the festival, you won’t remain without tasty coffee in Slovenia. In the next article, we will tell you about the best “coffee places” in different cities of the country, and right now we will provide you with the information about the wonderful Slovenian cafes, which in the current conditions have already opened their doors to visitors. Here they are:

  1. Le Petit Cafe, Ljubljana
  2. Hiša kulture, Šmartno, Brda
  3. San Martin, Šmartno, Brda
  4. Terasa GHB, Bernardin
  5. Cafe Central, Portorož
  6. Kavarna Triglav, Koper
  7. Hranilnica prekmurskih dobrot, Murska Sobota
  8. Grad Murska Sobota, Murska Sobota
  9. Minattijeva kava, Slovenske Konjice.

Stay tuned for our further articles!