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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Largest Cappuccino Breaks Guinness World Record In Croatia

This I'll just put under amusing, wierd, pointless, cool, or just whatever. Just something short and sweet and not too serious today, and this story for some strange reason was all over the internet lately, go figure. And I mean not at Croatian sites but other ones. I'm a big coffee drinker, enjoy cappuccino when I get the chance, and I did have a few cappuccinos the last few times I was in Zagreb at this very exact Eli's caffe. Croatians love their coffee, cafe culture and everything that goes with it. Cappuccino's, Espresso's and other caffeine drinks are like a ritual, especially on Saturdays in Zagreb. Almost like a religion actually, to not sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and sun and talk would be unnatural and a sin. That's when all the nearby špica's start up downtown, a Saturday ritual of mostly females drinking coffee outside, smoking cigarettes, talking about who's wearing what, walking their dogs, who's fucking who, where to get the latest style of bikini, who's going where, who's playing at which club or concert, be seen looking hip, cool and even bohemian etc, stuff like that. It's awful and dreadful being forced to look at all the styles at tables everywhere you go, horrible and disgusting. (More info HERE)

 A typical autumn scene at one of the many outdoor cafe's in downtown Zagreb, a coffee drinkers Utopia.

Sometimes it seems to almost reach the point of a špica vs. špica as the females frequenting their favorite špica try to outdo the others in the fashion/hip or most happening scene department, therefore making their špica more popular and trendy, the one to be at. Even local celebrities also attend these weekly popular outings. (It's where I actually ran into Ljupka Gojić last summer)...Or one can just shut the fuck up, drink coffee (or a beer if you prefer because they sell all sorts of drinks, but that usually comes later as all the pubs and bars open up) and then watch all the great scenery and different styles, sort of like a free fashion show. It's a very far removed custom from sitting cooped up in a stooge filled Tim Hortons or stuffing fries down your pie-hole in some mall food court, surrounded all sorts of sights and sounds that probably would ruin your drink, well, basically.... mall food court people, believe me. Also, over there the way caffes are run is different too.

Firstly, you don't stand around in lines giving your coffee order at a counter surrounded by lemon party folks or worse, you sit down and then the hostess will come up to you to ask what you want, and you usually get a complimentary glass of water first even without asking. Top notch classier and it makes you feel more human. Secondly, as mentioned above, people prefer to sit and drink their coffee and preferably outside every chance they get, taking coffee to go in a paper cup is not commonplace at all. You can of course buy other things to go, other drinks and foods, but when it comes to drinking caffeinated drinks out of paper cups, that's where they draw the line. Because drinking coffee is different, it's more like a ritual and social, more civilized as in a real person who enjoys a nice scenery etc while sipping, not just a coffee line production clone, if it's that important to the person then just take along a thermos from home filled with coffee made just exactly the way you like it, without the paper cup that just spills and cools down fast, and it'll stay hot all day if you get a quality thermos and save trees. These days you probably can find some places with to-go paper cup coffee options, but it's rare and probably more oriented towards tourists/foreigners. (you can also get the thermos cup like I said and get them to fill it for you, other customers sitting in the cafe or patio will probably be in awe of you then and think you're some sort of foreign celeb in a rush to a filming location/scene, a real important somebody in a hurry, maybe a director or producer who's running late on his way to an important movie cast party). Anyway, as for this, Hooray for Zagreb and the worlds largest cup of cappuccino! or whatever. I guess there's worse world records to hold or topics to mention. Related story is below....

*see also: tips-on-how-to-make-stove-top-espresso post.



Giant cup of cappuccino sets new Guinness World Record

Baristas can hardly espresso their joy, after making the world’s biggest-ever cappuccino in a 2,000 litre (440 gallon) mug.

More than 1,000 trained baristas worked around the clock using 22 coffee machines for the record bid in Zagreb, Croatia.

A group of helpers filled the giant mug cup by cup to create the record-breaking Italian coffee drink with the traditional brew made from one part espresso, one part warm milk and one part foam.

A delighted Julius Meinl, whose shop in Zagreb, Croatia, has been in business for 150 years, said the huge cappuccino was made ‘exactly how it should be.’

‘In total there are about one thousand baristas here. A thousand people, really, who do this job every day, who make cappuccinos every single day, and they are certainly good at this,’ he said.

‘What is also interesting is that we make cappuccinos by the book, so – one third espresso, one third milk foam.

‘So each and every cappuccino here is made exactly how it should be,’ he added.

The record was officially confirmed by Guinness World Records judge Seyda Subasi-Gemici, whose announcement was greeted with huge cheers.

‘This record category is a new record category at Guinness World Records,’ she said.

‘And always when there’s a new record category there is a minimum requirement which has to be fulfilled.

‘And in this case for the largest cappuccino – actually largest cup of cappuccino – it has to be a minimum of 1,500 litres.’

They beat the previous mark by 455 litres (100 gallons) for a Guinness World Record.

Discovering the king of baristas in Croatia's caffeinated capital city Zagreb

(Image by Kimberley Lovato)



Coffee is an obsession in Croatia, and in its capital, Zagreb, the coffee culture is as strong and prevalent as the locally prepared žižule grappa. And the coffee itself? It would knock the non-fat foam off a Starbucks latte any day.

But it's not just about the flavor. Here, having coffee is as much of a social ritual as an essential kick-start to the day, and hours and hours are spent over a cup and saucer. It's not surprising that locals have eschewed the "to-go" cardboard coffee cup and sleeve trend, opting instead to revere coffee as a destination in itself.

To understand this, you need only spend Saturday morning at the intersection of Bogoviceva and Gajeva Streets, near Zagreb's Flower Square. The outdoor cafés stack up on these pedestrian-only passageways, and the well- and high-heeled patrons sit elbow to diamond earring and watch the world, and each other, catwalk by. The most coveted spot is a perch at Charlie (Gajeva, 4), once owned by the late footballer Mirku Bruan, who used his nickname as the bar's moniker. Celebrities, models, actors, singers and femme fatales descend on this area of central Zagreb to see and be seen, and presumably drink coffee, in a phenomenon known locally as Spica. I've heard many translations for this word – pinnacle, point, and striker (the soccer/football position) among them -- but ask a Zagreber and you'll be told that Spica means only one thing: Saturday morning coffee.

In search of something a little more down to earth, and with lower heels, for my own Spica, I strolled along Ilica Street, Zagreb's main thoroughfare. A few cafés appeared but none appealed to me -- too smoky; too over-lit; too many laptops. Dodging an endless hustle of bikers and walkers, I stopped to lick the windows (as my French friends say) of pastry shops like the family-run Vincek, whose cakes and cookies looked too perfect to eat. Then one of the always-stuffed blue trams of Zagreb whirred down Ilica Street and startled me, and as I was recovering I noticed a crowd gathered beneath an awning printed with the words "simply luxury coffee."

From the moment I entered the minuscule Eli's Caffé, I knew this was not going to be an ordinary coffee experience, and that owner Nik Orosi was not going to be an ordinary barista.

"Dobar dan! (Good morning!)," Orosi yells when I walk in. Eli's Caffé is all white, from the hollowed-out cubes displaying coffee cups hanging in the front window, to the walls, ceilings and streamlined furniture in the espresso-sized room. There is only space for a few high-top tables for two, and they are occupied, and the patrons lounging on the couch in the front of the room look as if they're staying a while. I zero in on the 5-foot red-lacquered bar in front of Orosi.

The room is jammed, wool coats diminishing the scant space between bodies, and the guttural din of Croatian is my soundtrack as I do the shimmy, duck and pardon-me dance toward the only empty stool. For a few minutes I just watch Orosi. His hands pound and twist and wipe and push out coffee, orders for which dart through the heated air like fruit flies. Each time the door opens, about every 30 seconds, Orosi looks up to greet a new wave of caffeinerati, many of whom he knows by name. I can't help but think of "Cheers." Eventually Orosi asks me where I'm from. When I tell him San Francisco, he asks me if I know Blue Bottle Coffee. Of course I do. It's good coffee, I say.

"They do make very good coffee, but their baristas are too stuffy," Orosi responds. He faults most baristas for using big words, similar to wine experts and sommeliers. "Why would they do this? People don't understand. It's elitist and scares people away."

Orosi knows a thing or two about barista-ing. He was the Croatian national champion three times, in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and has several other titles that include the word "best" in them. But Orosi doesn't brag. He opened Eli's, named after his son, in 2005 because of a dream he had had -- and "to bring coffee closer to people."

I order a strong coffee with milk and Orosi's hands and arms know what to do without consulting his mouth or eyes. The barista king effortlessly toggles between English and his native tongue, and simultaneously manages to collect money, make coffee, chitchat, and wipe down his spotless La Marzocco coffee machine that he dotes on like a prized Ferrari. Before he serves the fresh brew, Orosi puts his nose in the cup and takes a sniff, swirls it, then sucks a small amount in his mouth. "No. Too watery," he says, dumping it. He starts over.

Like everything in the café, Orosi's set up behind the bar is uncluttered. No CDs for sale. No mug-lined shelves or cookies or breath mints. Just stacks of white coffee cups and saucers, the espresso machine, a sink, and the white on white relief of his café name and again the words "simply luxury coffee."

Orosi sets down a thick-rimmed white saucer on the bar and turns it a few centimeters clockwise. He then places a small silver spoon on the saucer, followed by the cup, which he turns so the handle faces right to expose his logo, which is really an anti-logo. He pours in the coffee, and then pours in the hot, slightly aerated milk. With a flick of the wrist, he conjures a heart pattern in the foam, then slides the concoction toward me.

I ask him about the writing on the cup that reads "No logo/ just taste."

"I just want to make good coffee," he says. "I don't want people to think it's good because it's a certain brand."

Orosi tells me that he also removed the menu that once hung behind the bar so that people would talk to him directly about his product. He also says the walls of the room used to be charcoal grey -- the antithesis of the café's current unpigmented interior.

"I don't want people to come in and order #5. I want it to feel open, and for people to focus on coffee and learn something about coffee," he says. "Just because you drink it every day doesn't mean you know about it. I eat every day but I'm not going to call myself a chef."

As if on cue, two women walk in, wave, and yell out something in Croatian. "See, that's what I'm talking about," smiles Orosi. I ask him what they said.

"They just asked for two of my best coffees," he smiles, and wipes down his coffee machine again.

I take a sip and the coffee's taste is full-bodied, not at all acrid like a lot of the coffee I have tried on my Croatian trip so far. It also contains just the right amount of heated milk. I close my eyes.

"Look at this," Orosi says. He opens his hands to reveal a palm full of coffee beans: dry, brown, aromatic. Eli's Caffé, for now, is the only establishment in Zagreb that roasts its own beans. Orosi takes a whiff and identifies the beans as Tanzanian and the ones he is using today. In the few moments we've been talking seven other orders have landed on his ears, and he grows silent to catch up.

"I love being busy but it keeps me from talking to people," he says, not looking up.

I sip, watch and listen. Every now and again Orosi sings a few bars of the national anthem, the American national anthem, which I assume is for my benefit. I ask him if I can take his picture and he smiles sheepishly, lowering his eyes. His list of awards and accolades is long, and I know I'm not the first to ask for a photo, but he keeps moving, avoiding the lens and my request. I drain my last drop and begin to leave, but Orosi insists I stay for a second cup.

"After two glasses of Champagne, you'll do something wrong. After two cups of coffee, it's all right."

For another 20 minutes, I am content to remain in Orosi's caffeinated world, a world I serendipitously fell into and one I tell him I'll return to in a week.

"Come on Monday," he yells as I open the door to leave. "The Ethiopian beans will be perfect by then."

When I return the coffee is indeed perfect, again. And Orosi still won't look directly at the camera. Next time.

Eli's Caffé
Ilica 63, Zagreb
+385 (0)91 4555 608

Kimberley Lovato is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. See her full bio at

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