Saturday, March 9, 2013

Drink Coffee Like an Italian

It's 2:00 in the afternoon and the only thing that is going to get you through the day is an extra shot of espresso. You trudge over to the closest Starbucks, which is three blocks away, and on the long walk there all you are thinking about is how your company should have chosen a location that was actually near a coffee shop. You finally get to the Starbucks, wait in line, and order a venti cappuccino, with an extra shot of espresso for good measure. In America, this is the norm, but in Italy (the coffee culture center of the world,) everything about what you just did is so very wrong.

If you are planning to take a trip to Italy and want to sip espresso like the locals, there are a few things you need to know:

1. In Italy, going to a bar at 7:00 AM is completely appropriate. "Bar" is simply the Italian word for what we call cafes.

2. In most cases, you pay for your drink before ordering it. When entering the shop, walk directly to the cash register and tell the cashier what you are ordering and pay for it. Then, you typically go to another counter elsewhere in the shop, place your receipt on the bar, and soon a skilled Italian barista named Mario will come over to ask you what you want. (Disclaimer: the barista's name will not always be Mario). When placing the receipt on the counter, it is customary to leave a small euro coin (ten euro cents will do) to "hold the paper down" for the barista. It's a small way to tip in Italian culture.

3. Do not order a cappuccino, latte, macchiato, or any other milk-based beverage in the afternoon. Italians only drink milk-based coffees in the morning. It is regarded as a breakfast item in Italy and you will stand out like a sore thumb if you order a cappuccino at 2:00 in the afternoon. Not to say that during my months in Italy I didn't stick out even if I ordered an espresso. I'm pretty sure that with my light hair, pale skin, blue eyes, and thick American accent, ordering a cappuccino at 2:00 PM wasn't the thing that identified me as an American.

4. After you've ordered, drink it at the bar, there is no such thing as "to-go" coffee in Italy. If you ask, some places may have a plastic Dixie cup you can take with you, but I have only seen this happen once my entire time in Italy. Furthermore, porcelain cups, rather than plastic, preserve the aroma of the coffee.

5. Drink your coffee at the bar while standing. Italian bars are unlike American cafes in that once you order, you cannot sit. If you want to sit and spend time at the cafe in Italy, you must sit right when you get there and you will have a server that will come over and take your order. You will also pay more to sit down, especially in a touristy part of the city.

6. Now, this next one may surprise you. When ordering an espresso, it is typical of Italians to order it "espresso con zucchero," or espresso with sugar. We often think as sugar being a very American thing, but this has been misinterpreted. Italians love to sweeten their espresso with sugar. But if that's the case, why are Americans seen as the fat, sugar-holics? Simple. Consider the size of an espresso and how much sugar is needed to sweeten it up. Now, think about a venti Americano from Starbucks, and how much sugar is needed to sweating that up. The Italians are a perfect example of "everything in moderation."

7. The last thing to be aware of is the different caffeinated choices you have. For instance, while Starbucks has popularized "macchiato" as a sugary, large beverage, in Italy, a macchiato is just espresso with a dollop of milk. Additionally, regular drip coffee is not so regular in Italy. They call it an Americano, and absolutely no Italians ever order them because drip coffee is flavorless compared to the usual Italian choices.

Below is a list of some choices to help you better understand what you're ordering:
  • Caffè: An American espresso, though you can typically refer to it as an espresso and they will understand. 
  • Doppio: Double espresso.
  • Ristretto: An espresso made with less water to concentrate the flavor and caffeine.
  • Americano: American coffee.
  • Macchiato: Espresso "stained" with steamed milk on the top.
  • Caffè Latte: A espresso with steamed milk. 
  • Caffè Corretto: Espresso "corrected" with grappa or cognac.
  • Cappucino: Espresso (or coffee) with foamed milk.
  • Caffè Freddo: Iced coffee.
  • Caffè Hag: Decaffeinated.
  • Caffè Marocchino: Espresso with a dash of hot milk and cacao powder.
  • Caffè Shakerato: Espresso shaken with sugar and ice. It is shaken vigorously until a froth forms.
  • Granita: Find out by clicking HERE. PS. It's AMAZING!

1 comment:

  1. Oh this makes me want to go to Italy so badly!!


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