I love coffee. So much so, that one of my younger sisters bought me Christmas gifts this last year entirely themed around the beverage – she even made an espresso scarf. Yet, I am ashamed to say that, until recently, I was oblivious to the serious coffee culture associated with Italy, a country I have been intrigued by since I was a little girl and will have the opportunity to visit this summer. Thankfully, I have been made aware of this connection before I travel and did a little research on my favorite drink.
Although coffee did not originate in Italy, its introduction presented the country with a new culture it closely follows today. Therefore, the menu in Italian cafes is much simpler than the highly modified – and sugary – selection at Starbucks. The CEO of Starbucks was, in fact, inspired to create the chain on a trip to Milan, but completely Americanized the product for a sweeter palette. Apparently, tourists are the ones to sit and linger at cafe tables, sipping coffee while reading or working. Italians tend to drink their coffee at the bar, fast and on-the-go and, therefore, not as hot. Also, because coffee is a fast happening, the drink sizes tend to not be as large as they are in America. Espresso shots of only a few sips, followed by a cleansing glass of water, are the most common way to caffeinate. Cappuccinos, espresso shots with warm milk, are never ordered after noon (so glad I learned that custom now). Americanos aren’t a thing (unless you lose a bet) and caffe correttos have a shot of liquor.
Further, family-centric situations, such as mealtimes, are a well-known association with Italy. This is why Italians typically have a primary, local cafe that they go to regularly. The customers, baristas, and fellow coffee-drinkers become familiar with each others’ faces and, thus, the surrounding neighborhood becomes like an extended family and a type a familiarity is attached with a specific cafe. I can’t wait to experience this coffee culture for myself!