Coffee, Tea or Juice? The three most popular nonalcoholic beverages in Poland are tea or herbata, coffee or kawa and juice or sok.
Many Eastern Europeans are coffee drinkers and we mean, coffee so strong it will put hair on your tongue. But in Russia, Ukraine and Poland, tea is the drink of choice. And it's usually drunk in a glass with a fancy metal holder so one doesn't burn the fingers. Tea is usually a weak affair and served black with sugar and lemon. Herbal teas are very popular made with blends of dried leaves, blossoms, berries and herbs, often grown in one's own garden.
But Krakow loves its strong black coffee known as czarna, literally the word for "black" or a
czarna kawa which, in its most extreme form, is equivalent to espresso. Coffee with milk is kawa z mlekiem and coffee with cream or milk is called biały kawa, literally "white coffee."
Vegetable and fruit juices or sok owocowy, especially apple and black currant or czarna porzecka, abound and are more popular than carbonated beverages like colas, although those are a favorite with the younger set. A carbonated orangeade known as oranżada is enjoyed by all ages. Bottled water, with or without gas (carbonation), is also a favorite thirst quencher.
A compote (kompot) is a drink made with stewed fresh or dried fruit to which sugar and sometimes cloves are added. The most popular compotes are apple, morello cherry, currant, sweet cherry, strawberry, pear, and rhubarb. They are served cold in a glass with the fruit added. Compotes are "put up" in the summer when fruits are plentiful to last through the winter.
Kefir and buttermilk (sometimes with chopped chives) have always been popular thirst quenchers and, in recent years, yogurt smoothies are becoming more popular as are energy drinks.
A popular fermented yet legally nonalcoholic drink is kwas, which is a sour starter made by fermenting bread and/or beets or other vegetables or fruits. It is used in soup making, especially barszcz or żurek, and some people chill it and drink it as a health elixir.