Un caffè per favore: Unveiling Italy's Rich Coffee Culture
Our love for caffè knows no bounds, just like the rest of the world. So it’s not surprising that coffee comes a close second to water, the most popular and consumed beverage on the planet. Ever since the first tryst between Italians and coffee took place in the 1500s, this morning juice became a crucial part of Italian culture! As coffee swiftly made its way into their daily routine, Italians have truly perfected the art of making and drinking coffee like no other.
As a matter of fact, Italians genuinely enjoy drinking and sipping on their favourite beverage throughout the day, often as an indication to take a break from work. In fact, you would even often hear Italians mumble the phrase, “Ci prendiamo un caffè?” in the middle of the day, which literally translates to, "Shall we have a coffee?".
While you may be able to tell your cappuccino from an espresso, you may not be aware of the set of ground rules for serving and consuming each type of coffee. Let us walk down the Italian caffeine trail and revisit a few interesting facts about the rich Italian coffee culture -
It all started in the gateway to the East, Venice.
While the locals of Hungary and Austria were already sipping on their favourite beverage prior to its arrival in Italy, coffee came into the country via Venice. The Venetian Republic was the most powerful maritime state in the Mediterranean back in the day. This led them to import countless “exotic” goods from Africa and Asia that paved a path for coffee and coffee snacks to make their grandiose entry into Italy. Initially, this much-acclaimed beverage was only sold in drugstores, where it actually rose to fame very quickly. Within just two centuries, Venice became home to over 200 coffee shops.
Fun fact: Caffè Florian is one of the oldest coffee shops in Italy. Dating back to 1720, this bar has been in the running for more than 300 hundred years!
While the world sips on alcoholic beverages at bars, Italians spill their (coffee) beans in bars!
Italy houses cosy bars in each street. Why, you ask? Well, in Italy, coffee shops are actually called ‘bars’ where they sell snacks, pastries, and alcohol, but mainly they sell coffee. It's recommended to take a stroll down the side roads to get a more authentic coffee experience that’s away from the tourist traps, while strolling through the streets of Italy.
Italian coffee is nothing if not prepared on a stovetop
Take it from us, Italians will never consume coffee made in an electric coffee maker. Italians do not believe in brewing tons of coffee at a time. They like to spend their time whipping up a cup of strong and dark coffee in a Moka pot. In most Italian homes, coffee is brewed on a stovetop and enjoyed alongside Italian cookies and savoured with good company.
Italians have a taste for different types of espresso
An Italian’s day is incomplete without a cup of caffè and Italian biscottis. While Italy’s Mediterranean climate is not ideal for growing coffee, Italians have developed a taste for a range of coffee beverages. Well, in all honesty, Italian coffee is not a homegrown beverage, rather it is a way of living! Italy sources their coffee from countries that are expert growers of coffee such as Brazil, Vietnam, Africa, India and the like!
The coffee ritual lasts for no more than two minutes
While Italians are talkative and social, especially around the table, or la tavolo, ironically they don’t spend time sipping coffee or lingering over the beverage. They believe that if they do not consume their coffee within two minutes of being made, the flavour will be lost and they will be left with a bland and boring beverage. When we stumbled upon this, we realised that it’s no wonder that Italians sip their coffee standing at the bar or take it on the go!
The right time for the right brew
Did you know that the Italians follow a very peculiar canon for each type of coffee? Well, let’s just say that if you wish to order a cappuccino after 11 AM in Italy, you will earn quite a few odd looks from the bystanders. Or perhaps, your order will only not be accepted by the barista! All in all, Italians truly detest the idea of ending a meal with or serving a meal alongside coffee! This is why Italians prefer enjoying their aperitivo hours with nothing else but biscottis and Italian cookies with their coffee.
Watch this space for more details on the enchanting depths of Italian culinary traditions, and explorations of the rich tapestry of Italian food and beverage culture.
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