Cyprus has a long-standing and historic tradition of 4,000 years in wine making. In ancient times it was a great source of wealth for the island, supplying ancient Egypt as well as the ancient Greeks and Romans. Commandaria is a sweet wine and known to be one of the oldest in the world. According to legend it was made originally for Richard the Lion heart and the Crusaders. Zivania is almost pure alcohol, made from highly-distilled grape juice it is very strong and not for the light hearted- it gives an intense burning kick. With the abundance of fresh fruit on the island, fresh juices are very invigorating not to mention extremely healthy. ‘Airani’ is a traditional Cypriot cold drink made with live yogurt and mint and is extremely refreshing, especially on a hot day. ‘Soumada’ is a drink made from almonds and is served hot and is soothing and gives you a feeling of warm comfort.
Cyprus coffee is served literally everywhere on the island. Such is its popularity- a perfect accompaniment for playing games or just shooting the breeze. Cyprus coffee is very different to European coffees in that it is brewed in small pots with long handles. Called ‘mbriki’, this pot is traditionally made of copper and has a wide base narrowing at the top ending in an overhanged lip. The coffee itself is made from fresh finely ground coffee beans and is poured in to tint porcelain cups. Each cup of coffee is made from one heaped teaspoonful of coffee and the sugar added while the water is cold. The amount of sugar added depends on your taste: ‘sketo’ (no sugar), ‘metrio’ (half a teaspoon of sugar), and ‘glykis’ (a full teaspoon of sugar). Cyprus coffee is always accompanied by a glass of cold water. The ‘mbriki’ (the traditional Cyprus coffee pot mentioned above) is heated on a stove or a small tray filled with heated sand that disperses the heat in a uniform way. When the sugar has dissolved, the coffee is allowed to come to the boil forming ‘kaimaki’ (a creamy froth) on the surface. The froth starts moving towards the centre from the sides and the coffee begins to rise, and it is at this point when the pot is moved from the heat. Cyprus coffee is strong and meant to be sipped slowly and at leisure. The thick layer that is left at the bottom should not be drunk.
KEO beer is a light straw-colored lager that is brewed in Limassol, Cyprus. Such is its great taste; KEO beer won the Gold Medal in the 1987 brewing industry world bottled lager competition.
LEON beer is an all malt beer using only malt, hops and yeast and was the first beer produced from the first brewery in Cyprus in 1937. It was the only locally produced beer until KEO was introduced in 1951. The company producing LEON obtained the license to produce Carlsberg locally resulting in the suspension of Leon production in 1962. The original recipe for LEON remained in the company and was re-launched several decades later.
Cyprus Wines and Comandaria
Cyprus wines date back to the days of ancient Greece. The local wine has been very important to the Cypriots since. Wine was a major part of Cyprus’ wealth with vines being depicted on ancient treasures that have been recently discovered as well as on certain decorative pieces in archaeological sites, for example the mosaic floors in the ancient sites in Paphos. In medieval times the renowned Commandaria wines were drunk by those passing through to the Holy Land. In local tradition Cypriots used to keep the wines in goat skins. New wineries have developed over the past decades. There is evidence that proves the presence of vines in Cyprus in Chalcolithic and Neolithic archaeological sites. The main area for wine growing lies on the southern slopes of Troodos Mountain. You can sample the local wines at various locations and sites throughout the island. The classic types of grapes found in Cyprus are Xinisteri, Muscat, Mavro and Opthalmo- all producing rich and hearty wines. The range of local wines has been expandein recent years to incorporate, fruity, delicate wines made from European strains such as Cabernets.
Zivania is one of Cyprus’ traditional alcoholic beverages and its production dates back 700 years. It is produced by distilling pressed grape residue in special stills or cauldrons in the same age-old tradition. This traditional technique separates the ethanol from its aromatic ingredients. The alcohol content ranges up to 99%- quite a kick! It is an excellent accompaniment for nuts and dried food as well as hearty meals. It is also consumed by the old generation in the mountain villages in the winter to keep warm and snug!