Word of the Week: Blümchenkaffee

May 18, 2012

Every Friday, Germany.info and The Week in Germany highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


Breakfast Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/Photocuisine)

Although it sounds at first like a pleasant springtime beverage, a "Blümchenkaffee" (flower coffee) would generally be frowned upon in Germany. In fact, it is a far cry from the tasty, yet fattening, "Kaffee Kuchen" (coffee and cake) afternoon tradition.

Unlike those exotic flowering teas enjoyed in the past by European royalty, a "Blümchenkaffee" is not a special coffee drink involving rose petals or funky floral designs dashed across fluffy mounds of foamed milk.

Instead, it refers to a watered down, meager ration of coffee that was not uncommon during the postwar period in mid-20th-century Germany. Rations of staples such as sugar, butter, flour - and coffee - were limited during those lean years after 1945. So a weak, watery brew was often made to extend a rarely obtained full package of coffee's shelf life for as long as possible. This beverage was then generally brewed so weakly that it revealed the flower pattern at the bottom of a china cup. Hence this watery brown caffeinated concoction became known as a "Blümchenkaffee" (flower coffee).

(c) picture-alliance/dpa Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Once postwar reconstruction and Germany's "economic miracle" started kicking in by the 1950s, this "Blümchenkaffee" beverage gave way once again to the richer, more robust brew common in Germany today, where coffee is a popular drink during the morning or late afternoon.

So the strange brew that spawned the expression "Blümchenkaffee" is by and large a thing of the past  now in Germany - unless you like your coffee so weak that you can literally almost see through it.

Cake © Colourbox

Traditional Kaffee und Kuchen

In between lunch and dinner, there is traditionally a social gathering around a piece of cake or two and a hot steaming cup of coffee or tea. These days, people still get together with friends and family on Sunday afternoon to share some cake and good conversation. 

© Germany.info

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