The Cypriots are people, which have evolved from the contact and exposure of many different trading nations throughout the island’s long history. The people are open friendly and plain speaking, as well as being astute businessmen and entrepreneurs. They are well known for their hospitality and always make “foreign visitors” feel welcome and at home on the island.
The local population is Greek speaking. Cyprus was a British colony resulting in over 80% of the population speaking English. It is also useful to note that all streets signs etc. are written in English. Knowledge of German, French, Russian and other European languages is also increasing with the island fs increasing tourism and popularity.
Speaking of the local cuisine, it should be mentioned that in Cyprus the food is treated with great respect. Food is a cult and an integral part of the local culture. Here everyone eats a lot and with pleasure, therefore portions in local restaurants are large and generous.
In order to understand the flavour and taste a bit of everything one should order “meze” in a local tavern. Meze may include either fish or meat appetizers and can be served either hot or cold.
The content of meze may vary depending on the restaurant, but there is a set of traditional ingredients: olives, village salad, feta with olive oil, and a set of at least four sauces – tahini (ground sesame seeds), taramasalata (creamy sauce made from caviar, whipped with parsley and lemon juice), hummus (pea-sesame paste), tzatziki (cold sauce made from yogurt, cucumber and garlic). The sauces are served with hot pita bread or homemade bread.
If you ordered a meat meze, most likely you will be able to taste lukaniko (smoked sausage), dolma or, as it is called in Cyprus, kupepia (grape leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice), lundza (ham), sheftalya (pork meatball), stifado (beef with onions and spices), and kleftiko (oven baked lamb).
Fish meze is also quite popular, it includes squids, shrimps, oysters, mussels, crabs, and definitely octopus (stewed in red wine or fried), as well as other dishes out of different kinds of fish.
Usually meze is served for at least two people and its average cost varies from 16 to 22 euros per person.
Cheeses that, for sure, are the specialty of Cyprus, cannot be left out. The combination of good environment, rich ancient tradition of cheese making and strict rules on factories for the quality of production make the Cyprus cheese incomparable.
Feta is made of sheep milk, sometimes with the addition of goat milk. The more goat milk added the firmer cheese comes out.
Halloumi is the most famous cheese patented in Cyprus. It is made from goat and sheep milk, sometimes from cow milk, with the addition of mint. This cheese has an elastic structure so it is recommended to cut it in layers and eat it with bread and vegetables. Halloumi is also being cooked on grill quite often.
Anari is a very gentle, mild and slightly sweet cheese. Anari is produced of milk whey. Anari is used for making a sweet filling for pies of puff pastry.
In Cyprus for dessert, fresh fruits are usually served, while sweets are considered to be an independent kind of treats.
Lukum cannot be left out – it is a fruit jelly generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Real Cypriot lukum has a fantastic flavour; it is quite dense and very nourishing.
Pastry lovers should try out the loukoumades – a traditional Greek dessert, whose mysterious name conceals delicious donuts from dough fried in oil until golden brown crust. Traditional Cypriot loukoumades are sprinkled with honey syrup with nuts and cinnamon.
One of the most popular desserts is baklava, as Cypriots themselves call it.
Cyprus wines are considered one of the most ancient ones in the world. Their production started in 2000 BC.
Today there is not a single Cypriot wine that would be known better than Commandaria – a sweet dessert wine, which is considered to be one of the oldest wines in the world. Commandaria is a variety of large grapes grows on the southern slopes of the Troodos. Being collected among the latest ones in the harvesting season, it gets dry in the sun, which increases the content of sugar.
Vineyards in Cyprus are mainly concentrated in two areas: in the area of Paphos and on the southern slopes of the Troodos. Not only the local (Xynisteri, Ophtalmo, Maratheftiko and Mavro), but also imported grape varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carignan, Palomino, Riesling) are cultivated here. In total approximately 150 different sorts of grapes, that are used to produce fortified Muscat, Sherry, Malaga, scented, white, rose, and red wines as well as port wines, are cultivated on the island. Approximately 75% of production goes for export.