The Italian coffee culture explained (and why affogato will change your life)Edit Post
Contributed by on Oct 22, 2018
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Fancy a cheeky late autumn break to recharge before the pre-Christmas batteries start to wane? How about an Italian city break for a bit of culture and people watching? If that doesn’t perk you up, the Italian coffee culture will.
To blend in when you visit Italy, you have to drink coffee. Think about it; do you actually know an Italian who doesn’t drink coffee? Coffee is to Italians what tea is to Turks (and the Turkish drink a LOT of tea – Turkey’s average annual tea consumption per person makes Turks the biggest consumers of tea in the world). Sorry to digress, but the point needs to be made. Italians LOVE their coffee.
Of course, when it comes to coffee there are many places in the world you can taste a cup of greatness. But, if it’s more than a decent brew you are after, you’ll need to get a tad pickier. Coffee isn’t just a sublime hot beverage, it is enjoyed as part of a cultural experience, and nowhere in the world does this better than Italy. Rome is one of the world’s best cities for coffee, though there are plenty of other coffee hotspots in Italy. Wherever you end up be sure to pick a café with a view.
Italian coffee culture explained
To get the lowdown on Italian coffee culture, I spoke to European coffee packaging company, The Bag Broker. Their first tip on Italian coffee culture is NEVER ask for a coffee to go. To ask for a coffee to take out in Italy is apparently sacrilege. The coffee ritual in Italy is to be enjoyed standing at the counter. It’s a chance to chat and an experience that requires your full attention.
The second peculiarity of Italian coffee culture as explained by The Bag Broker is the fact that most Italians drink coffee standing at a bar. To confuse matters, in Italy, a bar is a café. There’s also another good reason to drink your coffee the Italian way and stand at the bar. It’s about a third or half the price cheaper than drinking coffee sitting at a table. So, unless you really need to rest those weary feet, get your coffee hit standing up.
Third on the cultural tour of how to enjoy Italian coffee is what to order and when. Italians share an unspoken rule of only drinking cappuccinos (milky coffee) in the mornings. According to the coffee experts at The Bag Broker, order a cappuccino after midday and you’ll get a strange look. It’s espressos for the rest of the day, and especially after eating. At the end of the evening, many Italians enjoy a caffè corretto, which is an espresso served with a shot of grappa, or sometimes brandy or sambucca.
Source: Desut Magazine
Here’s some other lingo you’ll need to know. Order a caffè and you’ll get an espresso. A caffè macchiato is an espresso with a spot of milk. Latte macchiato is a lot of milk with a spot of coffee. In Italy an americano isn’t really an americano (filter coffee), it’s an espresso with hot water added. If you would prefer a coffee bigger than an espresso (not an americano), try a caffè lungo; it’s an espresso made from the coffee machine with twice as much water.
Finally, never order a ‘latte’ in Italy. Ask for a latte and all you’ll get is a glass of milk. That’s a very disappointing cup of coffee. When in Rome, as they say, you may want to wean yourself off of the milky coffees.
Drum roll, what is affogato?
An affogato is the world’s simplest (yet strangely indulgent) pick-me-up. A cross between a hot beverage and a dessert, the affogato consists of a scoop of gelato (ice cream) and a ¼ cup of espresso (or more). It’s essentially gelato drowned in espresso and it will, I promise you, change your life. Once you’ve indulged, you’ll be planning when to have your next one.
One last tip if you are thinking of making the affogato at home, chill the glass first. The aim is not to immediately melt the ice-cream, but for the hot espresso to pool underneath. It’s the perfect (easy) dinner party dessert. Add a shot of liqueur if you must.
One last piece of advice
If you are heading for Milan, whatever you do don’t be tempted to go to Starbucks (they have recently opened their first store in Italy there). Can you believe it! Starbucks in Italy! An American coffee house chain in Italy is just wrong somehow. Why go to Starbucks when there are so many other great spots to get your coffee hit in Milan?
Goditi il tuo caffè!