The Poles, or at least the Cracovians, are a very laid-back group of people. Being a New Yorker to the core, this kind of threw me off at first. I’m kinda high-strung, admittedly. I’m one of those people who prefers always being on the go, and has a hard time just chilling out. And Krakow’s just not that kinda place, it’s a take your time to smell the roses kind of place.
However, this seems to extend to coffee drinking. It’s really hard to find a decent cup of regular take-away coffee. In Poland, you typically sit and drink your coffee – none of this on the go business. Amazingly, even though there is a Starbucks at the base of the Great Wall of China ( no, really – my ex taught in China for awhile and has photographic proof,) there is no Starbucks in Krakow. In fact, the first Starbucks in all of Poland opened in Warsaw just a few months ago. I actually think it’s really cool that the country has managed to remain S-bucks free for as long as it has. It’s as if they’re one of the last bastions against conglomerate coffee culture or something. Almost.
In recent years, Poland’s cafe culture has grown, but like many European cities, it’s still a sit and sip culture. And that’s cool too. My main issue is that you can’t seem to get a decent plain cup of coffee with milk — known in Polish as kawa biala (say it as ka-VAH bee -ah-wah.) Don’t ask me why, but the Poles seem to really love instant coffee. A woman I met who was born in the U.S . and lives in NYC told me she brings her relatives in Poland instant Folgers when she comes to visit them because they just can’t get enough of it. I was pretty happy to find a decent cup of non-instant take-away coffee in the Warsaw airport!
But a cappucino or cafe au lait at a sidewalk cafe was pretty nice too. I sat and drank this lovely cup at a little cafe in the university section with old-fashioned student desks outside to sit at. Not bad.
Still, it’s nice to be home and able to get a decent cuppa joe with wings.