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Traveling With Travel Mugs In Europe...

Hello All,
In this day-and-age of personal consumption responsibility my wife and I are used to utilizing our travel mugs to reduce waste here in Colorado.
All the local coffee houses offer a refill price of $1.00 when you bring in your own mug- -as opposed to the usual $3.00-$5.00 per disposable cup.
Understanding the European culture of coffee time, has anyone used travel mugs during their travels and how was this practice received?
Thank you for your kind responses.

Posted by
1299 posts

Other than maybe Starbucks, coffee in Europe is generally served in an actual ceramic cup. Problem solved.

Posted by
2706 posts

I think it would depend on the country you are visiting. For example, in Italy and France, and a lesser extent Spain, coffee "to-go" is not a thing (I'm sure you can find it near offices or something, but not very common). You go into the cafe, sit at a table or stand at the bar and drink your coffee from a cup (not a disposable cup, a real ceramic cup). Hotel breakfasts provide coffee in real cups, as well.

I seem to recall Iceland, Greece, and England had more coffee to-go places, but I don't know about travel mugs. I don't know about other countries, I either haven't been or haven't really paid attention to their coffee customs. I tend to like going into the cafe and making it a break instead of ordering to go like I do at home.

Of course, if you have an apartment or a hotel with a coffee maker, no one is stopping you from filling up your mug and bringing it with you. But it might be unusual in some places to drink coffee while walking down the street.

Posted by
27713 posts

Europe isn't one country - 27 1/2 countries in the EU and a bunch not - and everybody does it differently.

In the UK, Caffé Nero, Starbux, Costa, Pret a Manger, and many independents give a substantial discount for a reusable cup.

No discount if you sit down and use china.

Posted by
5 posts

Hello All,
I apologize for not being clear.
"Of course, if you have an apartment or a hotel with a coffee maker, no one is stopping you from filling up your mug and bringing it with you. But it might be unusual in some places to drink coffee while walking down the street."
I was not asking about bringing our own mugs into a cafe- -I understand that is not the culture.
My inquiry was abut the perception of drinking coffee "on-the-go" in public.
Again I apologies for not being clear.
Thank you for your kind responses.

Posted by
6868 posts

I bring my Zorirushi stainless steel mug everywhere - work, travel, etc. No one can tell what's inside because it's opaque - I use it to store both cold and hot liquids (water, juice, coffee, etc.) I've never encountered any negative perceptions to carrying it around anywhere. Besides, even if I did, it's more important for me not to waste more plastic than what anyone may think of my mug (it's very innocuous, by the way, it looks like a small thermos). When I went to Germany for the first time decades ago, I noticed how leaps ahead they were in terms of packaging and recycling. You sound like you're on the same page. Not all European countries are as environmentally conscious though, but most Western European ones have a long history of it.

I would not hesitate to travel with any kind of mug, even if you don't see the locals doing it. Obviously, don't expect the kind of incentives as you see in your own coffees shop (e.g. bring your mug, get a refill for a lower price).

Posted by
5538 posts

In the UK, most drink coffee in the cafe or if they have a takeaway, they take it to their office. There is nothing to stop you walking down the street with a coffee, but it’s not the norm, as you may get jostled when drinking it in a city. An increasing number use reusable cups for takeaways.

In Berlin, for example, you cannot take open drinks on public transport, so few drink in public. In Portugal, France and many other countries, people drink coffee in cafes, not walking down the street.

Posted by
6624 posts

In Italy, coffee is an espresso. You can order and dump your Cafe Americano (often a watered down espresso) into a travel mug, but its not normal. Do it anyway if that's what you want to do.

Posted by
5460 posts

This is an old report, but in 1988, I gave a barman in Reggio Emiglia, Italy, a Greek Diner paper cup (new) and asked him, "da portare via, per piacere!" He did so, but looked at me like you might look at a pitiful old dog, as if to say, "Sure, if you want to skip the good fellowship of our bar, and the hotter beverage in a real china cup, have at it, Dumbo."

Posted by
1886 posts

To get around these cultural differences, I suggest holding on to an empty wine bottle, the larger the better, and cradling it like a sniffy baby as you stagger along the pedestrian footpaths. What you fill it with is your business.

I find it also helps if you leave a few buttons undone or laces untied as well.
Avoid bathing altogether -- that goes without saying.


Posted by
4455 posts

In Spain, Italy, France, Austria, etc. every place we stopped for coffee (standing or sitting) served it in a ceramic cup except at the airport. I agree with others that we didn’t see people walking around with cups in the historical parts of town......unless it was a cup of gelato!

I bring these to use in our hotel to skip using the flimsy plastic glasses. I like that they fold into flat discs for packing.

Posted by
21709 posts

Except for maybe at the hotel, it is unusual to get large cups of brewed or drip coffee. And getting a mug of coffee at a coffee shop might not work. Often if you ask for Americano coffee you will get a espresso draw and pot of hot water for you to mix in a cup. The coffee culture of France and Italy is very different than the US.

Don't find any places in Denver that charge a $1 for coffee in a travel mug. The local Panera only knocks off fifty cent for your own cup.

Posted by
2560 posts

Coffee in Europe is mostly espresso served standing up in tiny ceramic mugs. Two sips and move along. Leave your mugs at home.

Posted by
415 posts

Should you ever decide to go to Japan, walking while eating or drinking is very impolite (poor manners).

Posted by
11236 posts

Leave the mug at home. I can't remember the last time I saw someone walking down the street anywhere in Europe with a cup of coffee. And if I did, chances are they were Americans.

Europeans just don't eat and drink on the run the way we do. Nor do they normally overcaffeinate. They actually stop and enjoy their coffee out of a proper ceramic cup.

Posted by
1098 posts

Europeans just don't eat and drink on the run the way we do

Europe is a big place with many differences from country to country (and from city to city).

In Denmark many people will drink their coffee on the way to work. They buy it at 7-11 or Starbucks, so it is mainly paper cups, but using a reusable cup sounds much better to me.

Posted by
3491 posts

All the local coffee houses offer a refill price of $1.00 when you bring in your own mug -- as opposed to the usual $3.00-$5.00

Wow, I need to start getting coffee where you do! The best deal I have found around where I live is 10 cents off of a brewed plain coffee if you buy their reusable cup for a couple dollars to start. If you get anything that has even a vaguely Italian sounding name, you still end up paying $3 - $5. I guess the dimes add up over time, but I would have to buy 20 coffees just to break even paying for the refillable cup.

I have used a travel mug while in Europe -- I empty all of the instant coffee packets I find in my room into it and then add hot water to fill and then drink that before going to breakfast. I don't carry it to a coffee shop and I rarely do take away except at an actual Starbucks or Costa Coffee.

Posted by
337 posts

Mira, "un cafe para llevar" (a coffee to go) can be found in most bars in Spain.
What is not common is people drinking it while walking.

When I have to go to Pamplona early in the morning, I will stop at a bar between my house and my garage, and order a "cafe con leche del tiempo" and drink it on my drive. And at work, we do usually go out to one of the cafes by the office for coffee, but sometimes when I am busy, I will get the coffee to go and bring it back to my desk.

Posted by
21709 posts

Mark -- He references all the local coffee houses in Alma. It has to be only one, maybe two, given that you would be lucky to find 300 people in Alma on a good day. Our experience is the Europe is far more careful with re-usable dishware.

Posted by
1216 posts

The only place in Europe where I've seen people walk around with coffee mugs is in the UK. It wasn't uncommon to see workers walking to their jobs with a coffee in hand. However, if you go to any coffee place in France, Spain or Italy, coffee is mostly consumed on premises. Even in Paris' Starbucks, most young French people had their computer or sat with friends and drank it in store.

However as an American, you can get away with it, IMO. Just like the fact that Europeans can tell the Americans by the huge bottles of water we carry with us everywhere.