The Iconic European Country Where Iced Coffee Lovers Won't Look Like Total Tourists

As summer temperatures rise and time in the sunshine increases, it's a natural instinct to switch our regular coffee order from a steamy flat white to a refreshing iced latte. Unfortunately for tourists, that lifestyle swap is rarely witnessed in most European countries. While coffee is considered an essential beverage year-round in Europe, it's uncommon to catch locals in countries like Italy and France with a shaken espresso in hand, even on the warmest days. That's not to say iced coffee is nonexistent in Europe. However, it's far more rare, which makes your iced latte from Starbucks a bold statement that says you're probably a tourist. Luckily, there's one country in particular that's famous for its coffee — with iced espresso-based beverages the local drink of choice.

Greece has more than one cold drink considered a coveted coffee shop sensation that will help visitors avoid looking like a tourist in Europe. The freddo cappuccino, freddo espresso, and iced frappe are renowned for being the coffee drinks of choice among younger crowds in Greece and tourists looking to fulfill their inner iced-coffee connoisseur. Ordering any of these popular iced drinks is perfectly acceptable across all regions of Greece, aiding tourists who struggle to be away from their daily cold brew back home. With its evergreen specialty-coffee scene that inspired drinks like the freddo espresso, Greece makes it easy to appreciate a quality cup of iced coffee in a kafeneio — the traditional Greek coffeehouse — where community and coffee intersect.

Greece — the reigning European iced coffee capital

The origins of iced coffee in Greece trickle down deep into the root system of this country's culture. Just as Italy is credited as the founders of signature pasta dishes and France takes the crown for the puffed-pastry scene, iced coffee is a beloved symbol of comfort and home to Greek locals. Aside from its symbolic properties, the frappe, freddo cappuccino, and freddo espresso are a unique staple in Greek coffeehouses, breaking away from the nearly exclusive hot-coffee scene that pervades the cute cafes across other European cities.

An article by the New York Times explained that iced coffee (and cold drinks in general) are not considered a staple beverage in most European countries, making Greece a unique outlier to this trend. What's the main reason for the lack of ice cubes in European espresso? One explanation proposes that Europeans are less concerned with excessive temperatures and don't rely on the convenience of heat-combatting staples the rest of the world considers essential — iced coffee included. The warm, sunny climate of Greece birthed a craving for sipping and savoring chilled coffee beverages in this Mediterranean patch of paradise. Its close ties to Greek culture have prevented the freddo from gaining traction in other European countries, with the exception of a few major coffee chains. 

The iced coffee staples of Greek coffee culture

Coffee has been around the Greek islands for as far back as any self-respecting coffee-drinking local can remember. The first Greek coffee shop opened during the Ottoman Empire, at around 1475, back when baristas had to hand-roast or grind coffee beans in an era before the sacred espresso machine. After the kafekopteia (Greek specialty coffee shop) became the dominant gathering place to meet over a cup of local brew in the 19th and 20th centuries, speciality drinks like the frappe and freddo were slowly integrated into the community.

The frappe is Greece's earliest version of an iced coffee beverage, and a similar equivalent to Starbucks' world-famous Iced Shaken Espresso. An iced form of instant coffee, it consists of a simple blend of water, soluble coffee, milk, and an optional dash of sugar, shaken together and poured over ice. After espresso was imported into Greece from Italy during the 1990s, coffee shops expanded their menus to include drinks like the infamous freddo that's now deeply ingrained in Greek coffee culture. With the help of higher-quality beans and single-origin coffee, the freddo became a transformative creation with a distinct flavor profile. The freddo espresso consists of a smooth, creamy blend of ice, sugar, and a double shot of espresso shaken together in a drink mixer. Its cappuccino counterpart is nearly identical, with a layer of frothy milk set atop the blended mixture.