Part 2 of the Coffee Series
(I did not actually go back to Vienna, although I wish I had.)
Now that we’ve gotten some of the basics out of the way, I’d like to talk about the actual best cup of coffee I had in Europe: the Hauskaffee at Cafe Demel in Vienna, which is in itself probably one of the largest coffee (and cake, let’s not forget the cake) institutions in the city.
Tucked in a side road just around the corner from Michaelplatz, Demel boasts an impressive collection of freshly-baked cakes and pastries and an equally well-made collection of coffee. I have been told that the Viennese take their coffee seriously, and while the coffee plant itself does not (and cannot) grow in Austria, local Austrian companies and even independent roasters all have something called the Viennese blend, which caters to the Viennese taste: full-bodied, often medium roast coffee with dark chocolate, fig, and berry notes. The coffee on its own, when brewed well (and the Viennese do an impressive job of this), tastes incredibly indulgent.
Traditional Viennese coffee is not actually the Demel Hauskaffee. Traditional Viennese coffee is the Wiener Melange, which is essentially a version of cappuccino: a shot of espresso (Viennese blend, of course), with steamed milk and topped with milk foam. The coffee we know to be topped with whipped cream– cafe viennois in France– is actually espresso con panna, which is incidentally what the clever people in Demel have claimed to be their house blend.
I mean, all I really wanted was an indulgent coffee dessert that would double as a cute teatime treat. The experience was so good that I broke my promise to myself to have something new every day and showed up at Demel’s doorstep every day I was in Vienna, despite the fact that I was covered in bedbug bites and running an allergy fever. The coffee was that good.
There was a point upon my return that I was unwell and found myself craving the taste of the Hauskaffee again, despite the fact that it was no longer summer, I was seven timezones away, and did not have access to a secret wonderland where what I could only describe as Renaissance-like indulgent pastries practically lined the walls.
When replicating any Viennese coffee in Manila, I’ve found that the biggest challenge is finding coffee that actually comes close to the Viennese blend. Filipino taste for coffee tends to lean towards strong and bitter, like barako, and even blends that claim to be mild and fruity still bear that trademark acidic bite. Of all the blends in the market, I’ve found Toby Estate’s Wooloomooloo blend to come the actual closest to Viennese because of its strong chocolate notes and mild flavor, you could get away with drinking it unsweetened.
The other, more significant, challenge is that I do not actually own an espresso machine. I had my trusty Aeropress, and upon hours of research and trial-and-error, I found that using two or more filters and doubling the grounds-to-coffee ratio while reducing the steep time, I could come very close to a blend that could pass as a strong, but clean, brew.
The final piece of this is, in an attempt to make this cup entirely from scratch, I hand-whipped my own cream. Did you know that you can over-whip cream and actually make butter within a matter of minutes? I did not know this, and ended up making an actual batch of butter which may or may not have gotten everywhere in the process. When making whipped cream, pay attention to the consistency and when it’s good enough, stop and go no further. Unless you like fresh butter, in which case, be my guest.
Thanks to Jake Feraren for the photos and video
Also thank you to Matthias Pankow for actually teaching me about Viennese coffee