Italian coffee for beginners
Text: Arne Adriaenssens | Photo © Pexels
No better way to start (as well as to continue and end) the day than with an energising sip of coffee. And where better to drink your cuppa than in Italy, the land of top-quality caffeine? But, are you familiar enough with the local etiquette and the café’s lingo to do so? As every self-respecting Italian bar has at least ten exotic-sounding varieties on the menu (which all end in ‘o’), ordering the right thing might be tricky. With this beginner’s guide, however, you will fool every barista into thinking you are a true expert of the black gold.
Let us tackle this myth first: coffee was not invented in Italy. Instead, the Ethiopians brewed the first cup of it, at least a century before Europe joined the party. When the drink entered our continent in the 16th century, Italians were amongst the first to drink it in high quantities. To date, the nation is extremely proud of its coffee culture. And a rich culture that is.
What should I order?
Italian coffee comes in plenty of forms: doppio, macchiato, shakerato and many other names only George Clooney can pronounce gracefully. Yet, to decide which one you want, you just have to ask yourself three simple questions: “Do I want milk?”, “How strong should my coffee be?” and “Do I prefer it hot or cold?”. Those who like their coffee black can either go for an espresso (a single shot of coffee), a doppio (two of these shots), a lungo (an espresso with twice as much water) or a ristretto (an espresso with half the water – the strongest one in the family). Cream lovers might opt for a cappuccino (an espresso with equally much milk and foam on top), a macchiato (an espresso with a splash of milk foam) or a caffè latte (an espresso with lots of milk). On summer days, a caffè shakerato (a shaken espresso with syrup and ice cubes) is the way to go.
How should I order?
Walk into a local-looking café, queue at the bar and order your coffee by its elegant Italian name. Don’t hesitate to ask the barista for some modifications like semi-hot milk or a little more water. Being picky about your coffee is not considered rude but a sign of involvement. Pay at the counter, take your receipt and pick up your coffee at the other side of the bar. Then, you better drink your coffee standing. Many cafés charge double if you dare to sit down with your cup of joe. And for that money, you’d be better just drinking two coffees, no?
When should I order?
For Italians, all hours of the day are perfect for a coffee. Yet, you can’t order whatever you want at any given time. An Italian will, for example, never order a coffee with milk in the afternoon or evening. After having enjoyed your breakfast cappuccino, you better switch to espressos and lungos.
How much: When escaping the crowded touristic squares, you can easily drink an espresso at a bar for anything between €0.80 and €1.20. Where to go: For a unique coffee experience, head to Caffè Florian at Venice’s Piazza San Marco. The bar has been around since 1720, making it one of the oldest coffee bars in the world.
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