Written by: Olivera Tolimir
If you’re planning to visit Serbia, learning how to order coffee might be one of the first things you want to master. During the path of learning to speak Serbian, correctly ordering this heavenly drink should be very high on your priority list. Why do we start with it? Well, because the coffee culture in Serbia is quite strong.
More than half of our population drinks coffee every morning, and when we say coffee, we don’t think of some fancy vanilla-flavored drink with milk, chocolate powder, and just a pinch of coffee. Oh, no, no, no. We’re talking old-fashioned, strong, black coffee. Before we dive into coffee shop etiquette, let’s talk about our beloved hot beverage!
Domaća kafa (Homemade Coffee)
In case you’re not sure what this homemade coffee represents, we’ll start with the basics. Black (or homemade) coffee was brought to Serbia by Turks. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Serbia for more than 500 years, and during that period of time, they brought us a fair amount of their customs, foods, drinks, and words. Black coffee is one of them. That’s why it’s also called Turkish coffee (turska kafa).
Black coffee (crna kafa) is prepared in a special pot called cezve (in Serbian, it’s written džezva). We put water in the cezve and heat it on the burner. As soon as the water starts boiling, we move it aside, put a teaspoon or two of ground, non-filtered coffee, and put it back on the burner for a few seconds. After that, it’s ready for serving!
Black coffee is served in small cups and optionally, with sugar. Some people put milk in their homemade coffee, but it’s not so common.
What is common for the coffee lovers in Serbia is we sip our beloved drink in the morning, with friends, and even when we would like to signal our guests it’s time to go home! “Sikteruša” is the cup of coffee a host offers you after you’ve been at their home for a while. It’s like saying, “OK, you’ve been here for a few hours, we had a great time, but now I’m tired, so let’s circle this up”. So, apparently, when visiting our country, it’s not crucial only to speak Serbian – you should try to understand our quirks and all those silent parts of the conversations!
Speak Serbian 101: Ordering Coffee
There’s more than one way to order coffee in Serbia. There are politer and more direct ones. But don’t worry about being impolite if you’re direct. It’s natural for our language, so as long as your tone is friendly, all of these phrases will work completely fine. Of course, don’t forget to say, “Hello” first! So, if you want to speak Serbian like a native, order your coffee in one of these ways:
- Daćete mi domaću kafu. (You’ll give me a homemade coffee.)
It sounds really inappropriate in English, right? It’s almost as if you’re trying to be rude and command the waiter. But don’t worry, in Serbian, it’s completely acceptable, and the waiter won’t consider you an arrogant person!
- Crnu kafu, molim te. / Crnu kafu, molim Vas. (A black coffee, please.) *The second form is used for formal communication, for example, if the waiter is older than you.*
If you want to speak Serbian in a politer way, you can make your sentence nicer by removing the words daćete mi, and adding the word “please” (molim te / molim Vas).
- Za mene crna kafa. / Ja ću crnu kafu. (For me, a black coffee. / I’ll have a black coffee.)
This version is a usual way to order coffee in Serbia when there are more people at the table, and you go round saying your orders. This way, you’re giving the waiter those extra two seconds to move their focus from the previous guest, before you say your order.
- Da li imate domaću kafu? (Do you have homemade coffee?)
We use this sentence when we’d like to order a homemade coffee, but we’re not sure if the coffee shop serves it. It’s not an unusual question, because some modern restaurants and coffee shops don’t serve it.
Other Popular Types of Coffee in Serbia
We talked so much about black coffee, you might think that’s the only type of coffee Serbs drink! While it may be true for the generation of our grandparents and often parents, younger generations are changing this custom. Globalization has left a mark in Serbia, so the youth mostly drinks instant coffee or espresso.
- Nes kafa (Instant coffee)
The word nes doesn’t mean “instant” in English, but this is one of those cases when a company’s or product’s name has taken over the entire type of a certain product. It’s similar to using the word “Kleenex” in English for all paper tissues.
So, when you’d like to drink a cup of instant coffee, you can say: “Nes, molim Vas”. This type of coffee has a few variations, so we’ll list them:
- topli nes (warm instant coffee)
- hladni nes (cold instant coffee)
- nes sa šlagom (instant coffee with whipped cream)
- nes bez šlaga (instant coffee without whipped cream).
If you’d like your coffee to be with sugar, just say sa šećerom, and if you want it without sugar, ask for a coffee bez šećera.
- Espreso (espresso)
There are three types of espresso depending on the amount of coffee and water in a cup:
- kratki espreso (one shot of espresso)
- dupli espreso (two shots of espresso)
- produženi espreso (ona shot of espresso + water).
Whichever coffee you’d like to order, you can use the sentences we wrote in the section about black coffee, and swap the words crna kafa with nes or espreso. Practice these sentences for a day or two and you’ll find it easy to order coffee in Serbia!
- Produženi espreso, molim te.
- Daćete mi nes sa šlagom.
- Za mene topli nes bez šlaga.
- Ja ću kratki espreso.
We hope you’ll soon have the chance to practice these sentences in a real Serbian coffee shop! What could be a better way to learn to speak Serbian than with a friend, while enjoying a good cup of coffee?