Italians are serious about their coffee. My husband, Blythe, is also serious about his coffee. Here are his thoughts on the Italian coffee drinking experience.
From the cup that starts many hard working laborers day to the bottomless pot that keeps grad students alive while writing their dissertations, people all over the world love the black gold known as coffee. Although enjoyed by many, nobody approaches coffee with as much respect and passion as Italians. On a recent trip to Italy, I had the pleasure of participating in the Italian culture’s love of everything caffé, and it was an honor to watch the artists known as baristas work.
I could easily make a list of all of the differences between Italian coffee (and coffee culture) and the US/UK approach to coffee, but I think that would be missing the point. Instead, I will focus on what it is that makes Italian coffee so special… First, Italian coffee is centered around the humble espresso (known as un caffé in Italy). A perfectly pulled, smooth [tiny] cup of pure bliss, topped with an equally heavenly crema that beckons with its rich hazelnut color. Italians enjoy their espresso with a pack of white sugar, while standing at the bar. Although it is consumed quickly, the flavors dance on your tongue well after you have left the coffee house.
Note: Spend a few minutes learning what the different coffee drinks are in Italy (it might not be what you are used to) so that you won’t be disappointed.
Second, coffee (especially in the morning) is often consumed with a fresh baked, sweet treat. Things like croissants filled with chocolate, sugar covered donuts, and small chocolate pies. These are also eaten while standing at the bar.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, Italian coffee culture is centered around the coffee house. In the small town we were staying in, the coffee house down the street served as a central hub for both locals and tourists alike. It is where news is made and read, where the old men go to watch soccer and complain about their wives, and where you are guaranteed to always have a wonderful time.
Below is a short list to help you in your Italian coffee adventure.
Stand at the bar.
Have cake for breakfast with your coffee.
Order an espresso at least once (it is painstakingly crafted).
Order a double soy mocha frappe light.
Sip your coffee for an hour (it is not Central Perk).
Be afraid… After all, coffee is supposed to be enjoyable.