Italy’s Coffee Culture Runs Deep With Intrigue


Steeped in history, Italian coffees carry rules, rituals and rich flavor.

The following article, written by Sylvia Poggioli, appears on npr.org

Italy’s Coffee Culture Brims With Rituals And Mysterious Rules

Coffee — it’s something many can’t start the day without. In Italy, it is a cultural mainstay, and the country is perhaps the beverage’s spiritual home.

After all, Italy gave us the lingo — espresso, cappuccino, latte — and its coffee culture is filled with rituals and mysterious rules.

Caffé Greco is Rome’s oldest café. Founded in 1760, it’s also the second oldest in all of Italy, after Florian in Venice.

On a recent hot summer afternoon, Caffé Greco was packed with tourists on settees upholstered in red velvet. They sipped coffee served on tiny, marble tables, while admiring 18th-century landscape paintings that hang along damask-lined walls.

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Maitre d’ Simone Rampone said that thanks to the quality of its coffee, Caffé Greco soon became very popular and was a favorite of writers from all over Europe, such as “Byron, Shelley, Keats, Gogol from Russia, Stendhal.” He pointed out that we were sitting on the couch that belonged to Hans Christian Andersen, who for a time lived upstairs.

Coffee was introduced to Europe in the 17th century. But it wasn’t until the invention of a steam-driven, coffee-making machine in the late 19th century that Italy gave the world espresso.

Espresso is not a particular coffee bean or type of roast. It’s a method to brew finely ground and compacted coffee very fast, with very hot water, at very high pressure.

Moreno Faina is the director of the University of Coffee, based in Trieste. Owned by the Illy coffee company, it holds courses for baristas, coffee producers and coffee bar managers. This is how he describes Italy’s signature coffee beverage.

“So you need an espresso, you ask for an espresso and a barista will serve immediately the espresso just for you. In all other cases,” adds Faina, “when you ask for a coffee, the coffee has already been prepared, while espresso must be prepared on express order.”

A landmark in Rome’s Monti neighborhood is the Er Baretto café. Owner Marco Eskandar, an Egyptian by birth, and longtime Italian resident, reveals the secret of good espresso. Continue reading at npr.org. 

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