Café Central was opened in 1860. It was colloquially called the Schachhochschule (transl. Chess University) until 1938 due to the many chess player who frequented the café. Among its regulars were the writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the architect Adolf Loos, and even Leon Trotsky himself, an avid chess player. However, after World War II the café closed its doors, and didn’t reopen until 1975. Nevertheless it wasn’t opened in the courtyard of the Palais Ferstel, named after the architect of the neo-renaissance building Heinrich von Ferstel, where it had been previously, but moved into the former bank hall and thus is now in a room with vaulted ceilings and large windows.
At this point, as I mentioned already, it is necessary to mention the many different types of Viennese coffee. This is an important lesson should you be planning a visit to Wien, as in some cases (for example Café Hawelka) there is no menu. You have to make an educated order completely without aid. Nevertheless, there is no need for panic: you simply have to keep reading and you shall be prepared with the basics.
- Kleiner and großer Schwarzer or Mokka: This base drink is probably most confusing as „Mokka“ doesn’t mean chocolate. It is simply an espresso-type coffee. Austrian law prescribes a minimum of 7.5 grams of coffee to be used in its preparation, and it is extracted using steam and pressure for up to 60 seconds. This process allows the tannic acids to be released, which in an Italian espresso (extracted in 18-25 seconds) doesn’t happen.
- Kleiner and großer Brauner: Similar to the kleiner Schwarzer, this is simply served cream (called Obers in the Austrian dialect). It arrives in a thimble-sized creamer, allowing the drinker to put in as much or as little cream as s/he desires.
- Schale Gold: This is also similar to a kleiner Brauner, except that it has enough Obers in it (already mixed) to create a “golden” color.
- Einspänner: A kleiner Schwarzer served with mostly whipped cream (Schlagobers).
- Verlängerter: A Verlängerter is a kleiner Brauner thinned with water.
- Melange: This is a Verlängerter, which is mixed with foamed milk (think similar to a cappuccino). See the previous post on Café Hawelka for a picture of a Melange.
- Franziskaner: A Melange served with Schlagobers instead of foamed milk.
- Kaffee verkehrt or Milchkaffee: Literally “coffee inside out” this is a lot of foamed milk served with a side of kleiner Schwarzer to mix together.
There are many other drinks, including a Fiaker (a Mokka with rum), a Wiener Eiskaffee (cold coffee served on top of ice cream), a Maria Theresia (a großer Schwarzer served with orange liquer) and so on. The above list, however, gives you the basics you will need to know to order the coffee of your choice. The most popular drinks are the kleiner and großer Schwarzer and Brauner, the Verlängerter, and the Melange. Your coffee will almost always come on a silver tray, accompanied by a glass of room-temperature water. I loved getting water with my coffee without needing to ask, as most German restaurant establishments frown upon serving their customers tap water. Here it is thankfully part of the tradition of some of the best coffee in the world.
Café Central can be found on Herrengasse 14 in the first district in Vienna, not far from the Hofburg Palace.
Interesting source (in German) on Viennese Coffeehouses: http://www.vienna24.at/kaffeehaus.php