Meanwhile…We’re sipping Italian coffee in a chaotic Maltese institute


For his new book Youropeans, writer Mark Schalekamp travels to Europe’s many capitals. While there, he stops by a serious café to check the pulse of local coffee culture. This week he finds himself in Cordina, a 19th century coffee sipping institute on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

“Pronto, due cappuccino, e un coca-cola.”

Here all conversations take place in Italian, not Maltese, that incomprehensible Arabian dialect. Caffe Cordina dates back to 1837, an institute on the main drag of Valetta. An enormous terrace outside, located next to the presidential working palace. Inside all marble floors with a long bar down the middle beneath gold baroque vaulted ceilings. An old classic, which makes it hipster-proof: hipsters will find nothing to their liking here. That’s true for all of Malta, by the way. This is an island for old people – okay, old people and a handful of students here for few months to ‘study English’ and a few unlucky Africa refugees whose boat stranded here.

An old classic, which makes it hipster-proof: hipsters will find nothing to their liking here.

The old folks occupy Cordina, too. Let’s head inside – a rare rainstorm has cleared the large terrace – where you have to wait in a line for a table, because Cordina is one of those Maltese establishments you have to visit. The island, after all, isn’t chock-full of diversions.

“Where’s the coffee from?” I ask one of the baristas.

“Italy,” he says.

Right, as if.

“But coffee beans don’t grow in Italy,” I say.

He asks one of his colleagues, a man with a moustache and slicked back hair. He raises his shoulders.

“Take a look yourself,” he says, laying down a pack of coffee. Miscela d’oro. I lift up the package, turn it this way and that, but there’s not a single word about the coffee’s origin. Italian coffee, indeed.

“Tre espresso!” I order.

No less than 5 barista’s are manning the bar, and another 10 serving, all decked out in the Cordina uniform: white shirt, yellow tie and black vest. They are racing about and gesticulating in that organized chaotic way Italians have patented. Even when those Italians live in Malta.


Caffe Cordina, 244 Republic St, Valletta 04, Malta,

Article translated from Dutch by Moyee. All images ‘borrowed’ from Cordina Facebook site:) 



Comments are closed.