Coffee came from Arabia. So Coffee or Kahve (in Arabic) was dubbed “the drink of the Devil” until a Pope tried it and decided it was too good to be left to the "Infidels."
We’ve still never lost that sense of sin, leaving a complicated love/hate relationship.
As Manager and Guide of the Secret Food Tour of Rome, here's some “secrets" into the world of Italian Coffee.
- It’s all about Time. Italians like it quick. The Espresso should be warm, not hot. But don't wait too long in case the barista says you’re chatting too much, and ask if you want another one.
For this reason we prefer to take our coffee standing up - and the price can’t exceed €1 even in the most touristic places.
Coffee in Italy is about energy, speed and adrenaline, not a relaxing chat, or a moment of meditation. It's not about sitting all day using the free wi-fi!
- Life is bitter, so add sugar. Coffee is about pleasure. Naples traditionally served Espresso with sugar already inside.
When I’m guiding a Secret Food Tour of Rome, most of the people I’ve met are reluctant to put sugar into coffee, feeling a form of transgression. But if you want to drink Coffee Italian style, you should not let anyone tell you how you should have your favorite drug. Do your own rules, feel free to add anything to your Espresso.
- Variety! Everyone has the right to ask for their favourite version of coffee, from the very mild and milky Cappuccino, possibly with a fresh baked “cornetto”, (aka horn-shaped) the Italian version of French “ croissant” to the deep dark Espresso, looking for the Red Bull effect. In the middle we have Caffè Macchiato, ( with a spot of foamy milk ) usually drunk mid-morning or afternoon.
The best moment for an Espresso is after a meal. You are full and caffeine won’t affect your stomach. Instead, it help to digest the rich Italian food. But a Cappuccino will drop an extra load of milk and not help digestion.
The size : Caffè Lungo ( bigger amount of coffee, American Style) or Ristretto ( shorter and more condensed than a standard Espresso). The Cup: You can have Tazza Grande ( Big cup ), or Vetro ( transparent cup made of glass pleasing to the eye).
- Blend. All Italians love a specific blend among the hundreds we have. We love Arabica beans but each city has many coffee blenders - you'll see their names outside bars. Illy and Lavazza are known the world over, but we have a hundred different blends, including some from artisanal factories.
In Rome, we have Cafè Sant’ Eustachio, and Caffè Tazza D’ Oro, nearby the Pantheon. You can have a coffee standing up with a special blend - and you can buy some to take home.
- Finally, Technique. Like wine and oil, coffee involves a special preparation ritual, especially at home.
Start with a regular 3 cups Bialetti Moka, then buy a €4 Kimbo pack, a Neapolitan Blend that equals Illy or Lavazza, and then smell the fragrance.
First fill the water tank until the pressure valve, and then the coffee filter creating a little soft hill, without pressing too much.
Then fix the two parts, put on low heat and wait for the smell and the noise to call your senses to your caffeine dose.
Put the amount of sugar you like, and have a bright special day!
And if you want to learn more, let’s meet in Rome, talk coffee, and discover local delicacies with the Secret Food Tour of Rome.