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Coffee. A morning boost for some, a lifeblood for others, and you will not be in Croatia very long before you realise that coffee is much, much more than a caffeine-hit for locals – it is one of the very foundation stones of the traditional way of life here.

As you look, you will notice subtle differences and uses of coffee and the coffee culture. For here in Dubrovnik, everything revolves around the café, and the chance to engage in social activity with friends, business partners and anyone else where a chat is required.

The first thing to learn about coffee culture in Dubrovnik is fidelity. A little like the relationship a woman has with her hairdresser, so too that of the local with his waiter. A relationship which takes time to develop until the customer is happy with the way things are done, but after which things are done perfectly and automatically. A local with the right waiter no longer has to order – his mere arrival is enough to signal the waiter to begin the process of preparing the perfect coffee.

Coffee here is timeless, and there is no greater offence than trying to rush a Croat to finish his coffee. It is a way of life, a sign of the quality of life, and something that simply cannot be rushed. It may frustrate foreigners initially to sit with a local who takes an hour over an espresso, but it is easier to enter into the spirit than to expect change. A coffee in a café fulfils a multitude of social occasions, and don’t be fooled into thinking that locals are just idly chatting. A lot of business gets done over coffee, in more informal locations than the traditional office perhaps, but that is the Croatian way. Looking to make an appointment with an elusive local official and having trouble getting a meeting? Find out his local café and tell the waiter to send over his regular order on your account, and a meeting is much more likely.

Business deals are often sealed over a coffee, and the relaxed setting of café life is often the backdrop for serious meetings which result in significant deals being done, with the person who has got the best of the deal (a property purchaser perhaps) sealing the deal by paying for the coffee. It is unheard of to split the cost of a round of coffee. Friends will take it in turns to pay, and even it one can’t remember exactly who paid last time, things tend to even themselves out over time.

Saturday morning has a particular significance in coffee culture, as this is the day to see and be seen. The best spots in the best cafes are taken by stylish locals in their very finest attire, keen to share that style with anyone who is looking and keen to be seen in the right company and location. There is an unusual difference between coffee drunk in cafés and in private houses where one receives an invitation to visit. In private houses, it is the custom to serve Turkish coffee, and yet it is almost impossible to find Turkish coffee served in cafés and restaurants. Just one of the many fascinating things to learn about coffee culture in Dubrovnik.

Where should you start? We recommend you find a nice-looking café, take an hour over coffee, and start building that relationship with your waiter.

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