Creamy, creamy Switzerland

5 Dec 2013, 4:29 p.m.
I like black coffee and dark chocolate. Coffee and chocolate have had human culture and creativity poured into them for hundreds of years, so it's not surprising that there are many ways to order them. The Swiss have their own, milk-centric way of living and it bleeds into this as well.

In coffee shops in the UK, I can order a black coffee, a filter coffee, an Americano, or a coffee, no milk and get what I want. I tried the German equivalents of all of these when I moved to Switzerland, only to be met with confused looks and the question, "Café creme?"

"Coffee without cream," I would clarify. A cup of black coffee would appear, often with a plastic pot of creamer at its side. The Swiss collect the foil lids of these — I am in no way kidding.

A collection of coffee-creamer lids for sale in a second-hand shop window. All fourteen albums, with catalogue, cost 250 Swiss francs.

Anyway, it turns out that, in Switzerland, café creme means black coffee. Does anyone know why this is? Perhaps it's just that they feel everyone must enjoy the goodness of cream, whether by ingesting it or merely enjoying the feeling of the word crossing their tongue.

I noticed today that the dark chocolate I'd bought, though it contains no milk products, was labelled cremant. What will be next?