Sober in Poland – Compotes and Kwas

Introduction to Poland

Poland is an eastern European country on the Baltic Sea known for its medieval architecture and Jewish heritage. Warsaw, the capital, has shopping and nightlife, plus the Warsaw Uprising Museum, honouring the city’s WWII-era resistance to German occupation. In the city of Kraków, 14th-century Wawel Castle rises above the medieval old town, home to Cloth Hall, a Renaissance trading post in Rynek Glówny (market square).

The three most popular non-alcoholic beverages in Poland are tea or herbata, coffee or kawa and juice or sok.


Many Eastern Europeans are coffee drinkers and I 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.


Poland’s strong black coffee known as czarna, literally the word for “black” or aczarna 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 favourite with the younger set. A carbonated orangeade known as oranżada is enjoyed by all ages. Bottled water, with or without gas, is also a favourite thirst quencher.


A compote 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.

Dairy Drinks

Kefir and buttermilk (sometimes with chopped chives) have always been popular thirst quenchers and, in recent years, yoghurt 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.

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