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- 5 07 2001 - 11:51 - katatonik

Educational sipping

US coffeehouse chains open their first outlets in Austria.
The other day I went to one of these coffee-outlets and, for a moment, plunged into utter linguistic confusion. The menus were all written in English. Guests were chatting away in Viennese. Now, what language was I supposed to speak with the guy behind the counter? Was I supposed to say “Iced coffee” or “Eiskaffee”, or just “kalter Kaffee? Would adding a decidedly Viennese accent to my order be considered as uncool or clumsy, or as charmingly local? Would, on the other hand, pretense of authentic US-pronounciation be considered as cool and hip, or as painfully pretentious? Ah, the complexities, the complications. If I hadn’t already had ordered cold coffee, it would have turned cold while I was pondering over its appropriate pronounciation.
Opening “fast-food” coffeehouse chains in Vienna is of course something special, given the time-honoured tradition of coffeehouses in this town. The Viennese coffeehouse union (or whatever you call this association in English) is quick to note that it considers these establishments not as competitors, but as a complement in what happens to be a huge market.

Contrary to most legends which claim that the first coffeehouse in Vienna was opened by Franz Georg Kolschitzky in or around 1683, this book claims that it was actually opened by an Armenian, whose name I forgot.

An interesting twist is given to these news, though. The representative of the joint venture that aims to get Starbucks to Austria announces that their goal is to introduce teenagers to a gastronomic world without alcohol (and nicotine). Now that’s just what we need: turn rather mellow Austrian drunkards into nervous, quick-tempered coffee-junkies. Some Irish Coffee would be just fine now, thank you.

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