An Intro to Italian Coffee Culture

An Intro to Italian Coffee Culture

Italian Coffee Culture

Coffee is a large and exciting part of Italian culture. Espresso, which originated in Italy, is the heart behind Italian coffee. Each of Italy’s 20 regions has its own unique coffee culture, and there are many regional caffè variations. More on that in another blog.

Coffee culture in Italy differs from the United States, where coffee is used like a hammer to wake people up, or often as sweetened drink with whip cream on top, etc.

Italian coffee habits & culture is intertwined in people’s everyday life. It’s an inexpensive habitual moment of enjoyment and relaxation, often done multiple times a day.

There are many coffee drinks Italians love, but Espresso and Cappuccino are the two main dramatis personae in Italian coffee culture.

In Italy, coffee is normally enjoyed at the bar, or al banco, with friends and co-workers.

At practically any coffee bar, 1 Euro, can get you a small cup of espresso, with a thick coffee oil slick on the top, and robust liquid on the bottom. Add some sugar or a dash of milk or cream like the locals, and you’re in pure coffee heaven. The latter with cream or milk is usually called an Espresso Con Pana and Caffè Macchiato.

Arguably the second most famous Italian coffee, behind Espresso, is the Cappuccino.

Italian cup sizes are smaller than American sizing. And for 1-2 Euros most anywhere, you can get a great Cappuccino. Inside a standard size cappuccino cup, Italian baristas put espresso in first, then add steamed milk. Finally, they add sweet milk foam on the top. Delizioso!

People drink Espresso throughout the day and drink Cappuccino mainly for breakfast. Italians don’t drink cappuccinos after 11 am. Italian breakfasts are often a pastry or croissant, bread & jam, perhaps some ham, or cereal & milk, etc. Therefore, the large amount of milk in the cappuccino plus everything else is a meal in itself. In Italy, Cappuccino in the morning, never in the afternoon, and definitely not after a meal!

Italians drink their caffè rather quickly. They often prefer a quickie in a coffee bar, for a morning or afternoon pick me up. Head inside, stand at the bar, ask for a coffee, drink up, lay a Euro down, and they’re gone.

Also worth noting, drinking at the bar and sitting down could generate different prices. The reason is that most every city in Italy has city tax, so if you sit down in the bar, they use a tiny part of the city resources, and that generates a tiny city tax, which is added to the price of coffee. 

Since the Italian coffee experience is designed to be enjoyed socially and in small cups, to-go cups are almost nonexistent in Italy (but gaining a bit as Starbucks, et al open some big city shops).      

In the summertime, Italians also enjoy cold coffee drink options. One of the most common drinks is Iced Espresso. Also, Cold Cappuccino, which is cold milk into espresso, or a Caffè Shakerato (Italian-Style Shaken Iced Coffee) are popular.

There you have it - An introduction into Italian coffee culture. Enjoy your next cup of Saravella like a true Italian. Ciao!

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