TRAVEL

The Best Euro Life Hack for Coffee Drinkers

These people know how to do it right

Julio Vincent Gambuto
3 min readMay 10, 2021

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I am just back from an incredible trip to Montenegro, a tiny European country the size of Connecticut that used to be part of Serbia and part of the former Yugoslavia. It was a personal trip, my first plane ride since I spent a year solo in my New York City apartment. I went for love and came back with something almost just as good: a new way to drink coffee. (I also came back with love. He flew back with me and moved in. It was a pandemic romance birthed with a masked walk and nurtured via WhatsApp from 4,500 miles away. It’s a story for another time.)

They do coffee differently in Europe. In Montenegro, they don’t have tall, grande, venti. There is no Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino. And there are no to-go cups. Why would you walk while drinking coffee? How unciviled. In fact, there isn’t a Starbucks to be found. Not one. Yes, “Want to go for a coffee?” is an hourly refrain. Coffee houses abound. Even during the pandemic, most have outdoor seating and are serving small cups of joe all day long. But when I asked my new boyfriend why there are no Starbucks in the country, he replied, “We would never pay that much for coffee.” And they don’t. They drop a euro coin or two on the table to cover an hour of coffee talk.

What I found fantastic — and frankly life-changing for a guy with such a sensitive stomach— is that they serve their coffee with water. For every cup of coffee served, along with it comes a small glass of water. When I first asked “why,” I got that Euro look that says, “Oh, how cute, you…American. We also believe in train travel and universal healthcare.” The explanation was simple: they have been doing it for centuries; the water kills the acid from the coffee — or at least prevents the stomach attack that comes over me every time I guzzle a grande. The water kills the acid. Mind blown.

When I learned this, in a chill coffee house in Podgorica, their capital, I had the same feeling I had when I learned that SoHo means “south of Houston.” How obvious. How simple. How brilliant. I have seen an endless list of doctors for my stomach issues. The walk-in clinic gives me Pepto and tells me to follow up with my primary care physician. My PCP sends me to the GI specialist. I need…

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Julio Vincent Gambuto

Author of “Please Unsubscribe, Thanks!” from Avid Reader Press at Simon & Schuster // Speaking at SXSW in March // juliovincent.com