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How to drink coffee like the Swiss

Whether at home or in the cafe, the Swiss love coffee. Here's how to fit in when drinking coffee in Switzerland.

A typical Swiss camping scene (we think)
A metal coffee maker in a field against the backdrop of the Morteratsch Glacier, Pontresina, Switzerland. Photo: Kevin Schmid/Unsplash

Switzerland sits at the nexus of three coffee-loving countries: Italy, France and Germany. Even eastern border Austria is known for its coffee houses. 

But while all of these cultures are united by their love of coffee, the way in which they enjoy a cup can differ significantly. 

As a result, Switzerland itself has a diverse number of ways of enjoying coffee, some of which are likely to make coffee snobs wince. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

The Swiss love coffee

Regardless of how they drink it, wherever they are from the Swiss love coffee. 

The Swiss drink 1,110 cups of coffee per person per year, which works out to roughly three cups per day. 

That’s tenth on the list globally, one ahead of Italy, according to figures from Statista. 

A breakdown of which countries drink the most coffee, with Switzerland tenth on the list. Image: Statista

A breakdown of which countries drink the most coffee, with Switzerland tenth on the list. Image: Statista

Other estimates say that Switzerland is as high as number three on the list. 

The Luzerner Zeitung reports that Switzerland bucked the global downtrend in coffee consumption during the pandemic, with the Swiss continuing to drink coffee like the pandemic wasn’t a thing at all. 

In fact, the Swiss love coffee so much that the government keeps a secret stockpile of the stuff just in case. 

READ: Understanding Switzerland’s strategic coffee reserves

While time out at a cafe is a Swiss institution, in the morning the Swiss are all business when it comes to coffee. 

According to that great bastion of coffee knowledge that is Swiss tabloid Blick, 75 percent of people drink their first coffee at home in the morning, with only 25 percent drinking it on the way to the office or actually at work. 

Coffee is the most important thing in the morning for the Swiss, Blick found, more important than sleeping in or breakfast. 

The cost of coffee also varies depending on where you are in Switzerland, with the average price highest in Zurich (4.35CHF) and lowest in Ticino (2.70CHF). 

READ: Where is the cheapest coffee in Switzerland?

And despite not having the climate to grow coffee, Switzerland’s role in the global coffee trade is so prominent that between 70 and 80 percent of green (i.e. unroasted) coffee comes through Swiss hands. 

Cool people enjoying a cool coffee at a cool cafe in Geneva. Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Cool people enjoying a cool coffee at a cool cafe in Geneva. Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Why do the Swiss love coffee so much? 

The answer to why a country which cannot grow coffee loves it so much is not incredibly clear, but experts say coffee is so culturally important because it has been considered a staple for such a long time. 

“In other countries coffee is considered a luxury good, in Switzerland it is a staple food,” says Bruno Feer, from coffee roasters Delica. 

The country’s wealth contributes to the popularity of coffee, as despite a cup costing a fair bit more over the Swiss border than in Germany, Italy or Switzerland, it is clearly affordable for the wealthy Swiss. 

“The corona crisis therefore did not affect coffee consumption in the same way everywhere. The purchasing power of Swiss consumers is still very high and the product is still in high demand”.

The cold climate and the lack of a tea culture also contribute to the popularity of coffee. 

They love it… but the Swiss did invent instant coffee

OK, so coffee snobs may thumb their nose at instant coffee, but it speaks to the country’s enduring love of coffee that they invented a way to drink it when there’s no coffee-making paraphernalia around – or that they found a way to drink it when it’s not even good. 

While several countries including New Zealand and France had tried to patent a way to make water-soluble coffee, it took the Swiss to actually make it happen. 

Image: Nestle/Wikicommons

Instant coffee was invented by Swiss chemist Max Morgenthaler during the great depression. 

Morgenthaler had been taken on by a little known Swiss food company called Nestle and managed to crack the instant coffee code while at home after five years of research. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland invented instant coffee

Instant coffee was popular during the Second World War and later became a global staple. 

Now as proud coffee people, most Swiss wouldn’t admit to drinking instant coffee – although almost every Swiss pantry is likely to have a jar of the stuff, just in case. 

Switzerland is also responsible for the 21st century version of instant coffee: the Nespresso pod, the plastic disposable coffee husk which simultaneously manages to annoy coffee snobs, the budget conscious and environmentalists at the same time. 

OK, so how do the Swiss drink coffee? 

The most popular coffee order in Switzerland is the ‘café creme’, or a Schümli in the German-speaking parts of the country. 

We’d explain what that is to you, but the café creme is far more elegantly defined by Swiss travel guide Hotel Magazin:

“The coffee beans are freshly ground for each cup and the light-coulored coffee grounds are brewed under pressure, as with espresso. A uniform foam, the Schümli, is created on the surface.”

This is usually served with a small glass of water and perhaps a little aniseed-flavoured cookie, ginger biscuit or small square of cake. 

And while the Swiss love to visit a café – particularly in Ticino – one relatively unique aspect of Swiss coffee culture is how much they like to drink coffee at home. 

Swiss are willing to spend more on coffee at home than their German and Austrian neighbours, with one in ten saying they’d pay up to 70 cents per cup for a coffee at home – compared to less than one percent of Germans or Austrians. 

Julian Graf, managing director of Cafetier Suisse coffee association, says Swiss coffee drinkers have such high standards in home coffee that they are forcing restaurants to keep up. 

“More and more Swiss people want to drink high-quality coffee and are finding ways (to improve) the product and the preparation of coffee,” he told the Luzerner Zeitung. 

“Customers will expect the same top quality in the restaurant that they know from home. This development has been going on for years and is now – like so many other things – being accelerated by the corona pandemic.”

More than a third – 36 percent – of Swiss have some type of sophisticated coffee machine at home like a capsule/pod system (26.1 percent) or an espresso machine. 

The Swiss don’t just stop with a morning coffee. They are also likely to keep their habit up during the day, with one in three Swiss drinking a coffee in the late afternoon, far more than in Germany (17 percent) or Austria (16 percent). 

How do Switzerland’s different regions enjoy their coffee? 

The German, French and Italian cultural differences play out in the way different Swiss language regions drink coffee. 

While the Swiss on the whole average three cups per day, the French speakers have the highest consumption, with an average of 3.4 cups. 

Across the whole country, just under two thirds (62 percent) drink their coffee with some form of milk, with the rest drinking it black. This is different in French-speaking Switzerland however, where less than half drink their coffee with milk. 

Perhaps surprisingly, slightly more (63 percent) of Italian-speaking Switzerland drinks its coffee with milk.

The German speakers however love adding Milch to their Kaffee, with 66 percent doing so. 

Ze Germans also prefer long coffee, i.e. filters or French press, whereas Latin Switzerland has a preference for espresso. 

Lighter roasts – more common in filter coffee – are much more popular in the north of the country, while the south of Switzerland prefers a darker roast, reports Swiss coffee blog Kaffi Schopp. 

Drink your coffee in a different way or haven’t tried a Schümli before? Let us know at [email protected].

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For members


ANALYSIS: Is the quality of life really that high in Switzerland?

Switzerland, as well as some of its cities, regularly appear in international surveys among the nations with the highest quality of life. Why is this so?

ANALYSIS: Is the quality of life really that high in Switzerland?

In its annual ranking of 85 nations, US News & World Report has placed Switzerland in top position, based on 73 different criteria.

While it did not come up tops in all of the categories, Switzerland did sufficiently well in others to get an overall high score, as well as high scores in several individual categories.

In terms of quality of life, Switzerland ranks fourth, but it got high scores across nearly all the sub-categories. This is where the country ranks best — and not so good.

READ MORE: Switzerland ranked ‘best country’ in the world

Political stability (100 points out of 100)

Nobody can argue that Switzerland merits to get such high marks in this category.

The country has not been involved in any wars, unrests or upheavals in recent history, protected in large part by its neutrality and pacifism.

It is also politically stable from within, with well established democratic processes — such as referendums — providing security against abuses of power.

Economically stable  (100)

Switzerland’s economy has withstood the Covid crisis far better than many other countries, and continues to be strong, partly due to an inflation rate that is far lower than in eurozone nations.

The reason is that Switzerland “combines world class governance with high levels of social capital and high social resilience. It also had strong financial systems, manageable debt levels and good health system resilience”. 

READ MORE: Swiss post-Covid economic recovery ‘fourth best in the world’


Various surveys have shown that Switzerland is among the top-10 safest countries in the world, and one even rated it the safest in 2022.

This is not to say that there is no crime in Switzerland, but the rate, especially of violent infractions, is relatively low in comparison to other countries.

Even large cities, though more risky than small towns and rural areas, are not crime-ridden.

READ MORE: Switzerland ranked one of the world’s ‘safest countries’

A good job market (92.2)

Switzerland’s unemployment rate has been lower than in many other countries for decades, and it recovered quicker than others from the slowdown that occurred during the pandemic.

Currently, the unemployment is 2.1 percent, versus 6.6 percent across the EU.

There are now 15.6 percent more job vacancies in most industries than at the same time in 2021.

Family-friendly (85.4)

Parents of small children who are trying to find affordable daycare in Switzerland may disagree with this assessment, as these services are expensive and good facilities may be hard to find.

However, there are plenty plenty of benefits for children and families as well.

According to The Local’s reader survey, Switzerland offers an abundance of outdoor activities, the children are safe — whether playing outside or walking to school — and both good healthcare and education system are a plus as well.

Income equality (85.2)

In this category, Switzerland is in the 5th place in the US News & World Report survey, right after the Scandinavian countries.

While there is data showing that  gender gap exists when it comes to pay, a study by the Federal Statistical Office shows that income distribution (between the highest and lowest earners) is fairer in Switzerland than in many other nations.

Public health system (84.7)

Although very expensive with costs increasing each year, in terms of quality and access to care Switzerland’s system is among the best in the world.

Like much of the European Union, Switzerland has a universal health system. However, The system here is fundamentally different in that it is not tax-based or financed by employers, but rather by individuals themselves.

Everyone must have a basic health insurance coverage and purchase it from one of dozens of private carriers.

The system is generally efficient, has an extensive network of doctors, as well as well-equipped hospitals and clinics.

Patients are free to choose their own doctor and usually have unlimited access to specialists. Waiting lists for medical treatments are relatively short.

READ MORE: How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Public education system

Switzerland has 12 publicly funded universities (10 cantonal universities and two federal institutes of technology), and a number of public Universities of Applied Sciences.

According to The QS World University Rankings, “Switzerland has the “third best university system in the world”.

The country also excels in vocational training —a three-year, dual-track programme that includes two days in a vocational school and three days getting an on-the-job training in their chosen sector (the so-called apprenticeships).

It includes a variety of fields such as business and commercial, administration, retail, tourism, construction, information technology, arts, wellness services, as well as various trades — in all, 230 professions.

This programme  “enjoys very strong support from Swiss employers, who credit it with being a major contributor to the continuing vitality and strength of the Swiss economy”

READ MORE: Why is vocational training so popular in Switzerland and how much can I earn?

These aspects all contribute to the high score Switzerland obtained for its quality of living.

Not great for affordability

However, there is one negative category in the ranking as well, and it is not difficult to guess what it is: affordability, in which Switzerland’s score is…2.7.

It comes as no surprise to anyone living here (and a shock to tourists and new arrivals) that Switzerland’s cost of living is among the highest in the world, and especially in the country’s two largest cities, Zurich and Geneva.

Everything from food and clothing to housing and public transportation is more expensive than in the EU, with the exception of electronics and lower taxes.

However, there is also another way to look at this phenomenon: that Swiss salaries, which are higher here than in the eurozone, and low inflation rate, offset the prices.

READ MORE: Do wages in Switzerland make up for the high cost of living?