La vita inizia dopo il caffe! Life begins after coffee. Coffee is ingrained in Italy’s culture, much like wine and food. Their passion and love for coffee exude from the number of different drinks and dishes that they have managed to come up with around it. Almost 97% of adult Italians rely on coffee to get them through their day, with each consuming 6 kgs of coffee on an average around the year. Coffee not only energizes Italians but also runs their economy. But in spite of the popularity of the drink, coffee isn’t grown in Italy, it is only processed there. In fact, Italy is amongst the largest importers of coffee in the world. The imported coffee beans are roasted, processed and one-third of the coffee is subsequently exported to countries across the world. If you are traveling to Italy or are fascinated by its culture, you need to know about its coffee culture, which is also an important part of its history. Here are a few things you should know about the coffee scene in Italy.
The Origin of the Coffee Culture
It all began in the port city of Venice. The city which is famous for its beautiful canals is also responsible for introducing Europe to the allure of coffee. The first time coffee hit European shores was in the 17th century. It was introduced by Arab merchants. Although the initial reaction to coffee was lukewarm at best, due to its bitter taste, over time it became a common household term. The methods of coffee preparation have changed over the years and the method of preparing espresso, as we have now come to know and love, was perfected only in the early 19th century. Numerous beverages made from coffee use espresso as the basic ingredient, from cappuccino to marocchino.
Types of Coffee Drinks in Italy
Creativity is a virtue that the Italians are known for. But their creativity is not just restricted to paintings, statues, and design. Italians get creative with their coffee as well. From the espresso to the caffè ginseng, there are various different ways in which the drink is prepared. Here are some of the most commonly found coffee-based beverages in Italy.
- Espresso in Italian means ‘pressed out’, but at the same time, it expresses a sense of urgency. It is easily the most basic coffee drink in Italy. An espresso shot is generally the go-to drink for Italians. When a little something extra is needed to break that post-lunch siesta, they normally opt for a ‘lungo’ (long), also known as a ‘doppio’ (double), which is essentially a double shot of espresso.
- Easily amongst the most popular coffee-based drinks both in and out of Italy, Cappuccino is a mix of espresso, milk, and froth in equal quantities. While Italians love the drink, try ordering one past noon, and you would be lucky to get away with just an angry stare. Italians take their coffee seriously and Cappuccino is exclusively a breakfast drink.
- Macchiato is a bridge between an espresso and a cappuccino and is essentially an espresso diluted with a few drops of milk.
- A Marocchino is often lovingly referred to as an ‘espressino’. It consists of an espresso, sprinkled with some cocoa, followed with some foamed milk, and topped with some extra cocoa for that extra goodness.
- Caffé Latte is another beverage that is made with espresso, milk, and foam. While it may seem similar to the Cappuccino, they are quite different. The trick to its distinct flavor lies in the ratio of the ingredients. A Caffé Latte contains a higher ratio of milk to foam as compared to a Cappuccino.
- Caffé Corretto, often referred to as an Espresso Corretto outside Italy, consists of a shot of espresso topped with a dash of liquor, usually grappa, sambuca, or brandy.
Ordering Coffee In Italy
If you ever enter a bar in Italy, don’t be surprised to be greeted with a menu full of coffee beverages and croissants. Cafés in Italy are also called bars and while you would be able to get an apéritif in the evening, during day time people usually head there for a piping hot cup of joe. Grabbing a coffee in an Italian coffee bar is quite different from getting one in an American Cafe. Italians usually don’t walk out with to-go coffee mugs nor do they linger at coffee shops catching up with work. In Italian coffee bars, coffee is usually gulped quickly right at the counter. People walk in and out of coffee bars six to seven times a day, and they make it quick. However, if you wish to get a table and relax with friends, you are free to do so. But for the extra convenience, you will be charged extra and a coperto (i.e. service charge or tip) would be part of the bill. Even with the coperto, getting a coffee in Italy is quite cheap. The price of an espresso is regulated by the government, and even in this day and age, you can get an espresso for just 1 Euro. Just 1 Euro!
Grabbing a coffee in an Italian coffee bar is an experience in itself. Fortunately, Italian coffee is exported to different corners of the world. Various traders can deliver coffee to your door; while you would miss out on the unique experience of an Italian coffee bar, you will get to enjoy its exquisite taste right from the comfort of your home. Life doesn’t get any better than a hot coffee on a cold winter evening.
The Influence of Coffee on Italian Cuisine
In Italy, coffee has found its way into food as well. Tiramisu, one of the most beloved Italian desserts, not just in Italy, but all over the world is based on espresso. It consists of espresso dipped ladyfingers, covered with a mix of mascarpone and ricotta cheese topped with a layer of cocoa. The word tiramisu means ‘cheer me up’ and the dessert is the perfect dish to uplift your mood. Another common dessert in Italy, Affogato, consists of vanilla gelato topped with a shot of hot espresso. It is also common to see Italians consume a shot of espresso after a heartful dinner. This gesture is often seen as a complement to the chef.
Italians are just as fond of coffee as they are of pizzas and pasta. A trip to Italy and you are bound to get addicted to coffee as well. It is not just the taste, but also the process and passion that goes into preparing their favorite coffee beverages that wins you over. Whether you need a quick drink to get your blood flowing or an elaborately prepared and perfectly balanced cup of well-brewed coffee beverage to accompany your novel, you will always be able to find a wonderful coffee bar just around the corner.