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Swiss cafés – open from breakfast onwards – often sell alcohol and might also be called bars, although the latter tend to open their doors for late-afternoon and evening business only. Most people just pop in and pop out – a coffee in the morning, a quick beer – and tend not to while away hours in cafés (other than in Ticino, where relaxed afternoon people-watching is a favourite pastime). Around the country, daytime places for tea and cakes are dubbed tearooms, or left as nameless nooks attached to a Konditorei, pâtisserie or confiserie, pasticceria. Other than ordinary pubs, drinking venues vary according to region. A cosy Bierstube or Stübli – replete with wood beams and Swiss kitsch – is the evening meeting place of choice in both city and village in German-speaking Switzerland, while in Romandie and Ticino pavement cafés are more common.
As well as normal espresso, cappuccino and the rest, coffee has some local variations: in German-speaking areas Kaffee creme, coffee with sugar and cream, is popular, as is Milchkaffee, with fresh milk. Ask for Kaffee fertig and you’ll get coffee with Schnapps. In Romandie, café renversée is the local name for a frothy French-style café au lait. Tea (Tee, thé, tè) has its usual variety of styles, with or without milk, or, most refreshingly, as iced tea (Eistee, thé froid, tè freddo) in summer. A herbal tea is a Krautentee; tisane or infusion; tisana. With most Swiss tapwater purer than the bottled stuff, mineral water (Mineralwasser, eau minérale, acqua minerale) is only worth paying for if you fancy it sparkling (mit Kohlensäure, gazeuse, gassata). Soft drinks comprise all the familiar brands, aside from a hugely popular flavoured fizzy soda called Rivella, that tastes quite pleasant until you discover that it’s made from milk serum.
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