In most countries around the world, coffee is a sacred part of people’s morning ritual. Brewing a pot at home or dropping by the local café on the way to work is how many of us get that morning boost to stay awake during the day. However, in Italy, coffee is much more than merely a morning pick-me-up. Italian coffee culture is something all of its own. The type of bean that’s used, where it’s from, the way it’s roasted, blended, ground, brewed, poured, topped – all these steps are a crucial part of the final product and experience. Each major city has its own unique coffee traditions, and like food, it is sacred to Italians where the day begins with coffee and ends with coffee. There are rules and rituals that must be followed at each step of production and consumption. Even the type and size of cup matters. There’s no doubt about it, Italians have created a coffee culture that is unlike anywhere else in the world. But to really understand why coffee is so sacred in Italy, you first have to understand Italians.
Italians know how to enjoy the finer things in life. They take things slow, savor everything, and only do things that bring them pleasure. Italians are a traditional bunch who honor their heritage, history, and family. They love art, architecture, and most importantly, food. Food to Italians is more than just sustenance and flavor. It’s a means of establishing a connection and ties to their family and friends. It’s a form of expression and passion. To understand a recipe, you need to really understand the region in which it came from, the traditions, the way of life, and the culture. Food is a deep and poignant part of their roots, and coffee is not much different.
Italian Coffee Culture
It’s a well-known fact that Italians love their coffee. Since its first arrival in Venice from the Middle East in the 16th century, Italians have worshipped this “black gold”. It became another ritual, just like food. Like tea to the Irish, coffee became Italy’s symbol of friendship, hospitality, and a way to bring people together. In Italy, you’ll find cafés scattered across town and city centers, where people meet to enjoy an espresso or cappuccino with friends and good conversation.
It’s Enjoyed Any Time of the Day
Unlike the rest of the world, coffee is acceptable at any time of the day in Italy. Italians will typically enjoy coffee steadily throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening, in small doses.
There’s a certain way to enjoy coffee in Italy. At breakfast, it’s commonly paired with some milk and a fresh croissant or pastry. Whereas at other times during the day, it’s consumed without a meal and savored all on its own. After meal coffee is always black since Italians find adding milk after a meal is heavy and prevents proper digestion.
Standing at the Bar
It’s not uncommon to find Italians drinking coffee while standing at the bar. Referred to as “al banco”, Italians will commonly enjoy coffee at the bar with friends. This is because coffee is seen as part of a social occasion.
More Than Just Espresso
“Coffee” in Italy is not the same as it is here in North America. In Italy, there’s espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, corretto, ristretto, and the list goes on. However, the most common is caffè.
The Process is a Form of Art
Italian coffee is all about the beans and how they are roasted and blended. They are extremely picky when it comes to the quality of the beans and the way they are blended. Depending on the region, you’ll either find full-flavored Arabica or caffeine-rich Robusta blended with Arabica. Italians are also master craftsmen at roasting the beans. Each step in the process is an art form, done precisely to ensure the beans retain the freshest flavor profiles.
Never Served in a Large Cup
Coffee is normally enjoyed in a small cup in Italy and rarely consumed in a large mug. And in many regions, coffee is often ordered in a glass instead of a porcelain cup, as many Italians believe it tastes better.
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