Coffee Culture in Tirana

I love drinking coffee, especially my morning coffee. It boosts my energies to actively start the day. Most likely, I’m not an exception among other coffee lovers. Also people who don’t drink coffee use some kind of caffeine substitute to get this energy kick, like coca cola, tea and so on. Even now that I’m writing these thoughts, I so need a coffee:) Once I got a little upset when I heard an English consultant saying to me “…unbelievable, this country runs on coffee”. My counter-reaction was obvious and pretty fast “same like England that runs on beers, no…” A bit silly I know, but it is the typical reaction when you don’t want to hear from a random foreigner insulting neither your country nor your people.

It is not easy to stay far from coffee shops when you live in Tirana. They are everywhere and usually they serve as a meeting point for everything, you name it: doing business, meeting a date, breaking up, killing spare time, planning the weekend with friends, doing group work, lobbing and even reaching political deals. In other words, a coffee shop is the place to got, so let’s meet for a coffee;)

For many of us it is a fast way to get things done, meet with an acquaintance, talk over things and let’s get it on. Someone can find the social impact of this attitude more comforting or healthier by spending spare time sitting face to face with a person in a coffee shop, than hiding after a monitor screen, chatting for hours with someone, tweeting and re-tweeting hundreds of time a day, going through pictures and status updates on Facebook or endlessly adding 500+ new professional connections in LinkedIn.

To some extend it is more common for us Albanians to establish bondage in real life then sinking deep in the virtual world with a good intention of living a life they imagined. And that’s beautiful, makes life much more sizzling and lovely. I guess that’s the Mediterranean gene in us. But not always the big picture reflects optimism and joy. By walking through these coffee shops in Tirana you often notice these annoyed faces filled with boredom, sitting in this outdoor little spaces defined by a coffee table and four chairs (expect on times when people are busy cheering for their favorite Euro team, of course). It is normal considering that it’s a rather passive activity and when it’s overdone, results in reduced satisfaction. Only we Albanians can understand this rather “schizophrenic” behavior which simultaneously explains its dullness and excitement.

There are many reasons for rooting the coffee culture so deeply in our cells. The past heritage plays its own importance. It is known that coffee was born in northeast Ethiopia and migrated to Europe back in XV century through Turkish traders. Being occupied by Ottoman Empire for 5 centuries, it was unthinkable to believe that this powerful social drink could not make it through Albania.

Another reason which helps explains this social attitude is the lack of sufficient public spaces in Tirana like parks, squares, playgrounds, public sportive and youth centers. The creation of those facilities would re-orient people especially the youngsters on spending more free time on open space recreational areas.

Furthermore, meetings for business talks in coffee shops, like it happens randomly with public officials, is a dangerous approach. It transfers outside doors of the institutions formal issues on serious public/private matters. It is not professionally serious plus through making this process informal stimulates corruptive affairs and strengthens exhausting red tape attitudes. “Coffee informality” is also a well know phenomena in other South Eastern countries which have already taken measurements for strengthening the institutional powers in regards to social – economic and administrative matters.

In a light of coffee culture talks, here is a very special coffee bean mosaic by the Albanian artist Saimir Strati, depicting five musicians, entered the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest coffee bean mosaic.