As with many countries where Starbucks hasn’t yet deployed their green mermaids in a D-Day-like marine invasion, Budapest, Hungary is still waiting for the wave: portfolio | The battle of cafés in Budapest – Eston. Budapest has long been rich with cafés, but according to the Hungarian online financial journal, Portfolio.hu, Starbucks may finally open there next year — and quite predictably under the banner of Pizza Hut and KFC. (Mmm mmmm, nothing says “good coffee” like the Fincsibe sandwich.)
The article notes some of the differences between Hungary’s café culture and what many of these international café chains offer. For example, Starbucks has thrived by repackaging a Mediterranean coffee culture for Anglo-Saxon markets. However, Starbucks has wisely not set foot in Italy or Portugal — knowing the folly of putting their native culture through a milkshake blender and regurgitating it back to the locals at three times the original price.
Budapest’s first café opened in Buda (the hilly, palacial side of town to the west of the Danube) in 1579 — partly due to the local Turkish influence at the time. Vienna-style coffee was then the norm before the advent of espresso machines that popularized Italian-style cafés starting in the 1930s.
Although there were no “Seattle-style” coffee shops in Budapest when I last visited there in 1995 (unlike my visit to Prague the week prior), I am positive they must have some by now. Budapest and its people were some of the most romantic, Western thinkers I’ve met in all my travels.
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