Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Mongolia

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Welcome expatriates to the rich tapestry of coffee culture in Mongolia, offering insights and tips for navigating the local coffee scene. Coffee is an integral part of daily life and social interactions in Mongolia, and embracing the local coffee culture is an enriching experience for expats. In this article, we will explore coffee origins, production, favorite coffee styles, and customs unique to Mongolia, providing practical tips for engaging with and respecting local traditions.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Coffee is not widely cultivated in Mongolia due to its harsh climate and altitude, but what is grown is prized for its high quality. The majority of coffee beans consumed in Mongolia are imported from Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam and Indonesia. Expatriates seeking to immerse themselves in Mongolia's coffee culture should consider taking trips to the provinces of Khentii and Dornod, where coffee is grown on small farms. These farms offer opportunities for expats to learn about the coffee production process, from planting to harvesting, and sample freshly grown beans.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Mongolians have a unique coffee culture, influenced by both Russian and Chinese traditions. The most popular coffee beverage is the traditional Mongolian coffee, made by brewing ground coffee with hot water and served in a small pot called a tokhalag. This strong, bitter coffee is traditionally drunk after meals or during social gatherings. In addition, Mongolians also enjoy various flavored coffee drinks, such as mocha, caramel latte, and americano.

Traditional Mongolian Coffee

To prepare traditional Mongolian coffee, first, grind the coffee beans coarsely. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the ground coffee into the tokhalag and add enough hot water (just boiled). Stir gently and let the coffee steep for 3-4 minutes. The coffee will be thick and sludge-like, but that’s the style. When brewing, avoid using boiled water. Instead, use freshly boiled water at around 90°C. Starbucks and other Western-style coffee houses in Mongolia often offer Mongolian coffee on their menus, allowing visitors to sample the unique taste of this traditional brew.

Mocha Coffee

One of the popular drinks in Mongolia, the mocha coffee is made from a blend of chocolate, coffee, and milk. To make a mocha, you must first brew coffee using 3-5 tablespoons of ground coffee per 250 ml of hot water. Then, add 5-10 grams of milk powder to the coffee and stir well. For extra richness, you can add chocolate syrup or chocolate sauce to the mix as well.

Caramel Latte

The caramel latte is a popular variation of the traditional latte. To make a caramel latte, follow the standard process for making a latte and add 1-2 tablespoons of caramel syrup. The taste of caramel will add a new dimension to your drink while still letting you enjoy the rich coffee flavor.

Americano Coffee

The Americano coffee is a popular choice for coffee lovers who prefer a milder flavor. To make an Americano, you must use 2-3 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 250 ml of hot water. Typically, it is brewed with espresso shot, but in Mongolia, it's also prepared using brewed coffee. Once it is brewed, pour hot water over the coffee to water it down

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

Coffee drinking traditions in Mongolia are deeply rooted and have cultural significance. Coffee is served in small pots and drunk slowly, savoring each sip. Sipping coffee in a social setting is an opportunity to bond and share experiences with friends and family. In Mongolia, coffee is often enjoyed while reading, chatting, or watching TV. Coffee rituals and customs are essential components of Mongolian social and cultural life.

Coffee Rituals

Coffee rituals in Mongolia consist of preparing and serving coffee according to traditional customs. The tokhalag coffee maker is an essential part of any Mongolian kitchen, and the process of preparing coffee is a ritual. First, fill the tokhalag with hot water, followed by ground coffee. Stir carefully and let the coffee steep for a few minutes, then serve and enjoy.

Etiquette for Enjoying Coffee in Social Settings

Coffee is a preferred beverage during social events, and it's considered impolite to drink it too quickly. Sipping coffee is a sign of relaxation and enjoyment. It's best to allow yourself to savor the first sip of coffee before adding more water to taste. Drinking coffee during social gatherings is an enjoyable activity, and expats should continue practicing the social customs outlined above to respect the Mongolian coffee culture.

Expat-Friendly Coffee Shops and Cafes

For expats looking to explore Mongolia's coffee culture, here are some suggestions for coffee shops and cafes in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. These cafes offer a unique and vibrant coffee atmosphere and allow expatriates to enjoy the local coffee culture.

Gudii Cafe

"Gudii Cafe," located in Khan-Uul district, is a popular cafe among Mongolians, attracting a diverse crowd daily. The cafe offers a charmingly cozy ambiance, comfortable seating, and serves an excellent selection of coffee beverages, including traditional Mongolian coffee, mocha, latte, and Americano.

Grub Bar & Cafe

"Grub Bar & Cafe," located in Naddam District, is a trendy cafe with a spacious interior and plush seating. The cafe serves an excellent variety of coffee beverages, hot and cold drinks, including Mongolian coffee and espresso shots. The cafe's atmosphere is relaxed, providing guests with a comfortable environment to enjoy their coffee.

Indus Cafe

"Indus Cafe," located in Sukhbaatar District, is a quaint cafe with a cozy interior and comfortable seating. The café serves all types of coffee beverages and offers WiFi access to its guests. The décor of the Indus Cafe is unique, featuring striking artworks and traditional Mongolian decor elements.

Sekhelt Emporium Café

"Sekhelt Emporium Café," located in Khan-Uul District, is a charming and cozy cafe with classic decor elements. The café serves excellent coffee drinks, including traditional Mongolian coffee, caramel latte, and Americano. The café also provides guests with a small selection of homemade pastries, sandwiches, and soups.

Conclusion

Coffee plays an essential role in Mongolian social and cultural life, and embracing Mongolia's coffee culture offers an enriching experience for expatriates. By understanding Mongolia's coffee origins, traditions, and customs, as well as its favorite coffee styles, expats can immerse themselves in Mongolia's unique coffee culture. It is essential to respect Mongolia's coffee rituals and customs, savoring each sip, and engaging in social events. Expatriates living in Mongolia can explore a variety of coffee shops and cafes, offering unique atmospheres and coffee experiences.