If you’re lucky enough to be an expat in Italy, you need to know your way around the local coffee culture. Italy is home to the original café culture and is home to the world’s favourite brew. Today more coffee may be consumed in New York every day, but coffee is integral to the entire Italian culture and even if you’re an expat, you’ll be forgiven a lot if you can order a coffee correctly.
Italy in a cup – rules of espresso drinking
The origin of the Americano
The Americano originated in Italy when American soldiers sat in roadside cafés during the war and found the local espresso to be too strong. They asked for more water to be added and today this watered down espresso is still known as the Americano. If you order an Americano in Italy, you’ll immediately stand out as a foreigner. Rather try a caffé lungo – where you add your espresso to a cup of hot water and achieve the perfect blend of water and coffee, according to your taste.
Try to avoid a latté
In an Italian’s eyes, the latté is not a real coffee, but a watery mixture of a few beans covered in fatty milk. If you order a latte from a traditional Italian barista you’re more likely to get a glass of chilled milk. If you like milk with your coffee, rather order a caffé macchiato, an espresso topped with frothy milk – and you can enjoy a milk shot while still enjoying the respect of the barista.
Breakfast comes with a cappuccino
Unlike Westerners who tend to drink cappuccinos after a big meal, in Italy, cappuccino is enjoyed at the start of the day while sampling a local, fresh pastry. For many Italians, the idea of drinking a cappuccino at any other time of the day is just untenable and nothing will label you a foreigner as quickly as saying cappuccino after 9am.
You don’t have to order an espresso
Coffee in Italy is an espresso. If you ask for one, it’s tantamount to over-explaining yourself. Instead just ask for a caffé. You might be surprised by the tiny cup that arrives, but Italian coffee packs a punch so savour it.
There is no good time for coffee
In Italy, the day starts and ends with coffee. Anytime is good for coffee and failure to accept an invitation for coffee is tantamount to insulting your local Italian friends. You’ll also find that if you were planning to sit back and enjoy your coffee, you’re mistaken. Italians prefer to stand and enjoy their shot of caffeine at the local coffee bar. In fact, you’ll find that most cafes will actually charge you for sitting down. So stand, sip and enjoy!
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