To an Italian their first coffee in the morning is more than just a morning “cup of joe”. It is more like a religious experience!
If you are familiar with Italian culture then you know what I mean and will likely get a kick out of this article. If you aren’t, then you will find this article to be a fascinating look into the mind of an Italian.
If you are planning a trip to Italy you will want to remember our “lessons” on your hopefully frequent visits to Italian coffee bars.
This article serves as an introduction to Italians and Coffee, future posts will include “lessons” on how to enter, order and drink a coffee in an Italian coffee bar without embarrassing yourself ;-).
ITALY HAS COFFEE IN ITS’ BLOOD
It would be safe to say that Italy ‘invented’ coffee as the world sees it. History aside, just think about the jargon: cappuccino is the Italian word for hood, it is used because the steamed milk is like a hood for the shot of espresso that it is poured in. Latte is the Italian word for milk and is used for obvious reasons. Macchiato means spotted, which is fitting since a cafe macchiato has just a spot of milk in it. That is just to mention a few key word that are used in the coffee world.
History also shows Italy’s influence. It was in the late 1800’s that Angelo Moriondo presented us with the worlds first steam driven espresso machine. Although coffee isn’t grown in Italy, the roasting process has long been perfected there also.
AMERICAN COFFEE FRANCHISEES VS ITALIAN COFFEE BARS
In recent years there have been many attempts to franchise the idea of Italian coffee bars abroad. Interestingly Italy is one of the only countries in the world where such franchises haven’t been able to take off. To date, for example, there is still no Starbucks in Italy.
Coffee bars in Italy are very traditional, introducing new marketing ideas, such as frappuccinos, and flavors such as pumpkin spice, or blueberry to coffee is considered a blasphemy of sorts to most Italians. Kind of like pineapple on pizza, but I’ll save that for another post 😉
Most coffee bars are family run and don’t employ teenager barista on their summer break (who probably don’t even drink coffee). Instead they employ professional baristas, who have had to sweat to learn the tricks of the trade and have a passion for the art of making a perfect drink!
Thus, the quality of coffee that you will get in an Italian bar is very superior to that of which you get in a typical american franchise. Italians understand quality and will almost always choose quality over quantity. Newer else is this so apparent than in a coffee bar.
After reading all of this you may wonder just how much you will pay for such a great experience. Well, the tis the other reason that American coffee franchises haven’t taken off in Italy.
Italian bars are much, much cheaper! When I first moved to NY I was shocked my first visit to a coffee francise. The first shock was from the price, in Italy a morning cappuccino and croissant at the time cost around $2. The same order in NY was almost $10, at least I thought it was the same order. When I tried to drink my expensive cappuccino —served in a paper cup— I had a hard time getting through airy foam to find the coffee. When I did finally get a taste of the coffee I was horrified, and the croissant… I won’t even go there…
It was then very obvious to me why these shiny grandiose coffee franchise hadn’t been opened in Italy yet, and hopefully never will!
A WORD OF CAUTION
For a coffee lover there is nothing like the experience of a real Italian coffee bar. The quality of the coffee and the traditional atmosphere are amazing.
This having been said, I have spoken to many Americans who didn’t enjoy their first visit to a coffee bar in Italy. This surprised me until I realized that they weren’t prepared and felt awkward, frustrated and judged throughout the experience.
The phycological reasons for this then became obvious to me. They weren’t prepared and didn’t know what to expect, neither did they understand the process.
That is when I decided to write this article. I hope it has opened your mind to how Italians view coffee and why Italian coffee bars are so different from their Ameircan counterparts.
In short I will be writing an article with lessons on ordering a coffee in an Italian coffee bar. In this future post I plan on giving detailed instructions and also a quick Italian language for coffee lovers lessons. So stay tuned!
TO BE CONTINUED…