Legend has it that coffee beans were left behind by the fleeing Turks in 1693 and by 1685 the first coffeehouse opened in the city.
But it wasn’t until the late 19th century when coffee houses became most influential upon Viennese society. Many writers, artists, and politicians claimed to have been influenced by coffee houses and the surrounding culture. The famous journal “Die Fackel” by Karl Kraus is said to have been written in coffee houses to a large extent. Renowned writer and poet Peter Altenberg even had his mail delivered to his favorite coffeehouse, the Café Central.
Today, coffee houses still hold a special place in the hearts and minds of the Viennese. It is still not uncommon to see the Viennese taking a break from their busy lives to enjoy a finely brewed coffee while relaxing or reading a newspaper at a café. Much of this can be attributed to a renewed interest as well as an increase in tourism which has helped to revival many of these formal establishments.
Types of Viennese coffees
Below are just a few of the most common types of Viennese coffees. Many of these beverages contain liqueurs, sweeteners, and syrups.
Einspanner - Sweet black demitasse, a strong black coffee, served in a glass with whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate powder
Eiskaffee - Chilled coffee, vanilla ice cream, then topped with whipped cream and chocolate flakes
Espresso - Black coffee from the Espresso-machine
Fiaker - Mokka laced with a bit of cognac or rum and whipped cream
Grosser - Large cup of coffee with a dash of milk or whipped cream
Kaffee Maria Theresia - Mokka with orange liqueur and whipped cream
Kapuziner - A small amount of coffee mixed with a large amount of milk
Kurz - A single shot of espresso
Kleiner Brauner - Small cup of coffee with a dash of milk
Mazagran - Maraschino, spices and liquid sugar, served cold with ice-cubes in a special glass
Melange - Half coffee and half milk with a frothy crown
Schale Gold - Espresso with cream, served in a large cup
Schwarzer - Plain strong black coffee. Can be large (Grosser Schwarzer) or small (Kleiner Schwarzer)
Cakes and pastries
Aside from great coffee, Vienna is also regarded for its cakes and pastries. Here are just a few that are commonly enjoyed with coffee.
Strudel - Sweet flaky pastry with apple, nut or sweet cheese filling
Beugel - Pastry croissant with nuts
Golatschen - Puff pastry with sweet cheese or jam filling
Marmorguglhupf - Ring shaped cake marbled with chocolate
Rehrücken - Chocolate cake
Rosinenguglhupf - Ring shaped cake with raisins soaked in rum
Sachertorte - Dense chocolate layer cake with a thin apricot coating in the center
Zimtschnecke - Spiral-shaped pastry with nut filling and sugar-coating
Traditional coffee houses
Many of these establishments serve light meals such as breakfast and lunch. It is not uncommon to see patrons linger for hours. Along with coffee, a glass of water is often provided to ensure patrons feel welcome and appreciated.
This legendary café is situated in the center of Vienna across from the Hofburg Palace and the Spanish Riding School. Opened in 1876, Cafe Central was once a key meeting place for intellectuals including Leo Trotsky, Adolf Loos, Vladimir Lenin and Sigmund Freud. At the end of World War II, it lost popularity and closed for many years. It was restored and reopened in 1986.
Established in 1880, Cafe Sperl is a memento of old Vienna with all of its original fittings intact with Thonet chairs, crystal chandeliers and marble tables. The atmosphere is quite cozy and laidback. In addition to a wide selection of coffees and cakes, there are two billiards tables and some dartboards are on the premises. It generally attracts a less touristy clientele than some of the more centrally located houses.
Part of Vienna’s upscale Hotel Sacher, this stylish coffee house is the original home of the Sachertorte chocolate cake. Although it is clearly a chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling, the full recipe remains a secret. In the summer, the café is extended into an open terrace that provides an unrestricted view of the Opera House.
Named after the monument to Mozart (now in the Burggarten) that once stood outside, Cafe Mozart has been a tradition since 1794. It gained international recognition as a location in the movie “The Third Man.” Besides coffee, five different versions of hot chocolate are offered.
Famous for its irresistible Buchteln (jam doughnuts), Café Hawelka has long attracted artists and local literati. The walls are decorated with paintings by followers of Vienna’s Fantastic Realism school, as well as works by later artists.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Suzanne Urpecz, creator and editor of The Hungarian Girl. Click on my About page for more info.