Italians consider coffee an essential daily ritual which includes multiple social and commercial aspects all of which contribute to their rich and varied culture and customs. Generation after generation, it stands as one of the most-anticipated everyday rites and the cornerstone of Italian identity.
Italians are fastidious when it comes to drinking coffee. Coffee permeates culture in Italy, leaving a crucial mark on how to consider, discuss and enjoy the most celebrated beverage in the world. Italians have applied a ceremonial approach to how to order the perfect coffee.
When you first enter a bar in Italy, you should order your coffee and get the receipt called scontrino, which will be handed to the bartender. Next, it is time to customise your coffee; Italians are known to be very demanding when it comes to how to drink their coffee. Some will order it in a caffè in vetro – a coffee served in a glass rather than in a porcelain cup, others might add some milk. These are two of the many ways in which one can order and adapt their coffee to suit their needs.
Coffee is generally drunk while standing up at the bar. This happens for two reasons: first, because it tends to be a shot of espresso taking less than a minute to be consumed; secondly, drinking it while sitting inside generally increases the normal price of your espresso.
Coffee culture in Italy has many rules, customs and habits. Firstly, offering a coffee is considered as a form of courtesy and hospitality when welcoming a guest to your home, office or workplace as it lets your guest know that they are welcome. Coffee is so deeply rooted in Italian culture that when two people want to hang out they say they are going to meet for a coffee. However, it is always coffee time in Italy, whether it is early in the morning, mid-morning, lunchtime, afternoon or even in the evening. The only exception is when one of the main meals, mainly lunch or dinner, are approaching, as Italians prefer to drink their coffee after eating and not before.
Espresso and Moka are central to the Italian classic coffee tradition. Let’s find out a bit more about these amazing beverages:
Coffee traditionally prepared with Moka is the lifeblood of the Italian family. The Moka is an everyday ritual that involves an aluminium coffee pot and ground coffee. The Moka, which produces a gentle bubbling sound and comforting aroma when ready, is often the first coffee Italians will experience. Every Italian “Nonna” (grandmother) would tell you that the best coffee is the one she brews on the stove with the Moka. The Moka pot represents an authentic way to demonstrate hospitality and convey a sense of family: a shared pleasure and a long-standing symbol of italianity.
Espresso is the Italian coffee par excellence: when ordering a “caffè” in Italy, it will always be an espresso. Everywhere you go, from North to South, you will encounter variations in colour and aroma, taste, and quantity. Your espresso can be ristretto, short, long, double, in a small or large cup, al vetro, decaf, macchiato – the list is endless!
There is one aspect however that never changes: consumption time! As it is prepared quickly, it must be drunk in the same way, taking only three sips whilst standing at the bar.
Now that you know the basic characteristics of Italian coffee and its deep connection to Italian heritage, you are ready to explore the “Bel Paese” or “beautiful country’ to discover Italian coffee culture for yourself!