We are not experts on whether coffee for rowers makes them go faster or just go. What we have learned over the years, is where to find great coffee around the world, and more importantly, how to order it. Whether you sip a latte before a row on the Thames, or rev up your morning with a cappuccino in Italy or a flat white in New Zealand, drinking coffee alone or with friends in amazing places perks up the cultural ambience of a place. It immerses travelling rowers in cultures around the world and is part of the rowing travel experience.
Let’s start at the ground level.
Coffee has come a long way since the jasmine-scented plant was discovered in Ethiopia in the 11th century. Rowers, and other athletes, discuss whether consuming a few cups of coffee or milligrams of caffeine enhances physical performance. One rower learned a few things in his own self-imposed experiment. We are not quite sure what the results were – maybe another cup of joe would help us understand better?
Whether coffee improves your rowing in Italy, or England or Australia, here’s how to do it right, and blend in.
In Italy, the day is defined by coffee rituals: first, a cappuccino with breakfast, then a caffè macchiato or two after lunch and as an afternoon pick-me-up, followed by an espresso after dinner. How do they do this and still sleep!?
You’ll mark yourself as an outsider if you order a milky coffee after 11:00 a.m. or after a meal.
To blend in like a local, enjoy a pastry paired with a delicious, milky coffee in the morning. Cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk. Caffe latte is expresso with more steamed milk and less foam. Latte (meaning milk) macchiato is steamed milk with a splash of expresso.
Espresso is everywhere, but each of Italy’s regions will have unique twists depending on the region. Listen to what locals are ordering and try them al banco, or standing at the bar, with friends.
“I’m knackered after that row. Let’s get a coffee.”
In England, tea is still the number 1 hot beverage, but coffee culture has been brewing for a long time.
When a Turk brought coffee to Oxford in 1637, it quickly became popular among its students and teachers, who created the “Oxford Coffee Club.”
TurkishCoffeeWorld.com says “By 1660, London’s coffeehouses had become an integral part of its social culture. The general public dubbed coffee houses “Penny Universities” as they were patronized by writers, artists, poets, lawyers, politicians and philosophers. London’s coffeehouses offered customers a great deal more than piping hot cups of coffee: the entrance fee of one penny allowed them to benefit from the intellectual conversation that surrounded them.”
Brits have American tastes in coffee, so lattes and cappuccinos are all the rage. Order the same thing you order in North American and you’ll fit in. “Let’s get a cuppa,” however, is out, as a cuppa is a cup of tea.
“Hey mate, how you going? Wanna grab a coffee?”
Both Italy and England influenced Australia’s laid-back but advanced coffee culture. While immigrants from Italy went to both the U.S. and Australia, Australia’s wave didn’t happen until after World War II, in the 1940s and 50s, bringing with them the piston-driven espresso machine, and giving rise to cafes.
From England, which Australia was very closely tied to until its independence in 1901, the country inherited big, hot breakfasts, which espressos and other coffees went very nicely with.
Order a flat white in Australia or New Zealand; just don’t ask who invented it first. Australians and New Zealanders froth at the mouth “discussing” whether it was Derek Townsend, who could crush coffee beans with his fists, or Fraser McInnes, who used “flat white” to describe a cappuccino with weak froth.
What is a flat white? The short answer is that it is micro-foamed milk poured over a single or double espresso to create a sleek, velvety texture. To learn more about the intricacies of a flat white, here’s A Newbies Guide to the Flat White.
When we are on leisurely rowing trips, having coffee in exceptional places around the world is part of rowing travel. Admittedly, we’re less concerned about increasing performance than blending smoothly into a place, just like a fine flat white.