It takes Giannis Bratsolias 126 seconds to make my iced coffee. He brings it to me with a smile; one hand holding the blended drink, the other holding a glass of cold water.
I am the first and only one here in this early morning—at Bar The Way in Pangrati, Athens—and I watch as Bratsolia’s sister appears from downstairs to mop the colorful floor in preparation for the day. She is wearing long jeans and a white t-shirt, as if the hot and sticky temperature is barely warm enough.
I am here on a quest—to see if coffee is as much a part of the Greek morning routine as it is the American. An East Coaster myself, I am well-versed in the delicious potentials of the iced coffee.
This particular coffee fulfills my wildest dreams. It is a perfect gradient of browns: dark chocolate brown at the bottom, caramel next, a light tan towards the top, and foamy white deliciousness at the rim. I try to drink it slowly to soak it in, but it is so light I consume it all within a minute.
The airiness of Bratsolia’s coffee isn’t unique; it’s the epitome of the Greek caffeinated drink. When I tell him I’ve only had American coffee, he replies, “You try this and tell me what you think.”
A second customer arrives 13 minutes later, and Bratsolias gets to work making a drink for him before he even says a word; it is remarkably quiet and the regular pulls out a cigarette to smoke as he waits. He doesn’t pay—at least not from what I can tell; the two speak a few words in Greek and I assume he is either family or on some sort of tab system. After this second customer come two more, and soon a steady flow of people begins to filter in.
Each customer here is quiet, patient, and friendly. They have the same sleepy just-woke-up look as the Americans back home, but there is a relaxed atmosphere that is a stark contrast to the average east coast Dunkin-Donuts.
When I go up to pay, I tell Bratsolia his coffee is delicious. Then I ask if he thinks Greeks can survive without caffeine. He replies, “Our coffee is good.” I smile. That’s answer enough.
And then I can’t help myself. I spend another 3 euro on a second coffee.