Italy and the Coffee Culture

by : Benedict Yossarian

Italians Love Their Coffee. Have you seen the Italian version of 'Survivor"? Just like in any other franchise of the series, the famished contestants are left stranded on a deserted island equipped only with the most basic of necessities. But have you noticed that the contestants were provided with implements to be able to make a perfect espresso? What happened to the 'basic of necessities'?

Well, for an Italian, coffee is an utter necessity. It is considered essential and without its presence all aspect of civilization will fall to pieces. Being stuck in a forsaken land mass situated across the Pacific does not change that fact. You may take away their mobile phones, you may take away their pasta or pizza, even their privacy, but not their coffee. No, not their coffee.

The sheer number of café bars in Italy only shows how serious the locals are with regards to their coffee. Want to start a state war? Ask two locals (originating from different regions) on how to make the perfect cup of espresso. Kidding aside, the fact is, Italians have painstakingly devised quite a variety of ways on how to serve coffee. From the roast to the service and everything in between, this is an art to be perfected.

In Italy, you need not go to an exclusive café to have a sip of good quality cappuccino or espresso. In truth, one can even opt to enter the most modest looking establishment and still get a hot drink of high quality. In almost every café, there sits a top of the line coffee machine polished more gingerly than the scooters parked outside.

Good Coffee & Great Coffee

With all this hype, one can easily forget that coffee beans are neither grown nor harvested in any part of Italy (for real!) Individuals around the world might say that the best coffee is grown in Italy, wrong! The more appropriate statement is, the best coffee is roasted and blended in Italy. A good cup of coffee stems from good coffee beans, however, only a master roaster can transform these beans into a drink worthy of being called great.

Coffee Beans

Italian coffee chiefly uses Arabica beans for its full-bodied flavor and its low caffeine content. But for those who want a taste of a much stronger drink, like those situated on the southern part of the nation, Arabica is blended with Robusta. The latter possesses stronger taste and higher caffeine content.

Roasting the Beans

In Italy coffee tastes a tad bit different in any given region because each and every state and even province, has their own technique in brewing the perfect cup. Of course, they blend the beans according to their own palate.

French versus Italian Coffee

An Italian roast results to a coffee that displays a rich shade of brown with little or no oil on the beans. This is far different from the roast coffee of its neighboring country, France. French coffee tends to have a deep dark color and is very oily. The roasting time? Well, this would depend on the kind of beans that will be roasted. But with the Robusta and the Arabica, the former posts a longer roasting time.

The Tourist, The Italian Coffee and The Locals

Leave your tall, grande, and venti at Starbucks. These coffee sizes are non-existent in Italy. Also, bear in mind that Italians drink their coffee as it is, and is being ordered after finishing a meal. It is only during breakfast that they consume coffee with a meal.

If you want an espresso, simply say 'caffe' and your drink will be given in a non-disposable cup. Espresso is intended to be finished promptly. The term 'to go' is non-existent as well. As with the price, drinking at the bar (while standing) and leisurely sipping your coffee at the table will make an impact in your wallet. The latter costs much (sometimes reaching four times higher) as measured against drinking at the bar. And last piece of advice; do not order cappuccino after eleven in the morning. The drink is supposed to be consumed in the morning, asking for one would be a blunder.