Brimming with Italian Culture

Coffee today is an evocative symbol of the nation's history and flavour

Published: Tue 26 Apr 2022, 4:51 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Apr 2022, 4:52 PM

There is a product that represents true Italianness around the world: espresso coffee. A story of tradition and quality, a symbol of Italian taste, and a protagonist of the international market. A unique and special flavour, which everywhere in the world manages to convey the typical values of our country. Coffee comes from afar: its appearance in the West dates back to the second half of the seventeenth century when the Turks were expelled from the city of Vienna and in their camps, dark beans were seen for the first time whose origin or use no one knew. And precisely in Vienna, it was made for the first time by the Ukrainian diplomat and nobleman named Kolschitzky. It was a blend of coffee, honey, and milk that made the Viennese appreciate the drink.

From here, the history of coffee is a constellation of successes that see Italy as one of the poles of world production.

Already between the 14th and 15th centuries, there are testimonies that reveal how coffee was particularly widespread in Arab countries. The coffee plant was very popular because it was considered magical. In Arabia, coffee was used to stay awake during night prayers but also for healing purposes. In the 15th century, the first coffee shops began to spread in all Muslim countries: meeting places where men consumed bitter coffee in the context of music and games.

Rapidly coffee begins to become the flavour that most of all recall that sense of conviviality and family, an opportunity for friends and lovers to meet.

Today it is recognised as one of the most evocative symbols of our country, representing well-being, the Dolce Vita, and being an inevitable break in our days.

In Italy, drinking coffee is a real gesture that embraces both the gustatory dimension and the emotional sphere of consumers.

A drink that is part of a social ritual to such an extent that it is a candidate for recognition as an intangible asset at UNESCO.

Coffee is so entwined with the Italian culture that throughout the centuries each region elaborated its recipe with which coffee is prepared and served: narrow, long, double, in a large cup, accompanied or not by a glass of water.

Just think, for example, of the Livorno punch, which adds sugar, correction rum to the espresso and, optionally, a slice of lemon peel for a citrus touch; or with Salento-style coffee, made with almond milk syrup placed on the bottom of the glass and on which a not hot espresso and crushed ice are poured; or the Bavareisa of Turin, widespread in the city as early as '700 and prepared by mixing coffee with chocolate, milk cream with syrup.

There is one thing upon which coffee lovers agree: the black drink must have an extremely controlled bitterness, a good acidity, a good body, and leave a persistent aftertaste.

To make a real Italian espresso, it is fundamental to mix coffee of different characteristics and origins in the correct measure (Brazil, Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, India, and Indonesia — roasting each different coffee individually) which, combined, give a unique taste.

The coffee, once ground, has only ten minutes to keep intact the greatest quantities of volatile organic substances that create the aroma of the coffee, after which they are lost and the coffee begins to deteriorate.

Whichever way one prefers it, there is nothing like Italian espresso!

Cecilia Berardi

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