Coffee culture in Italy

If you’re a coffee lover, this blog is for you!

Firstly, I would like to share with you the magical history of coffee and how it found its way to Italy the coffee drinking centre of the world!
In the 14th century, coffee was used for medicinal purposes in the Middle East; believed to boost energy levels in the morning. (Even to this today we drink coffee to get our brains working!). By the 17th century coffee beans were distributed to Venice by the Egyptians, who kindly shared the liquid gold with the wealthy citizens.

Venice became the hub of coffee bars, the Italian coffee culture flourished; people discovered the hobby of attending the bars to socialise with one another, creating a vibrant atmosphere. Here’s a fun fact: if a man ordered a woman a coffee to her table, it was a gesture that he admired her. How sweet!

Fast forward to the 21st century, coffee bars are still the life and soul of Italian social culture, with just under 150,000 bars in the whole country!

What pubs are to the British, coffee bars are to the Italians. In the mornings, you will find people going to grab their coffee before work; traditionally cappuccinos are consumed before lunch time due to the amount of milk in the drink, which is harder to digest later on in the day.

Therefore, an espresso powers you through the day without the bloat.

caffe_cornetto

What do coffee bars offer to customers?

Apart from a wonderful range of coffee, the bars present the authentic experience for their customers. Beautifully designed for a quick drink or a lazy morning sitting around drinking, bars are perfect for everyone. Typically, the majority of customers drink standing at the bar, this is suitable for those heading to work or just wanting a quick drink. The prices are usually cheaper if you’re standing, as you don’t have to pay for service (some bars charge €1 for an espresso).

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, be prepared to pay extra for sitting in. However, the classic surroundings and stimulating atmosphere is worth the extra price!
It is tradition to order a cornetto (croissant) with your cappuccino or caffè latte, dipping the pastry into the hot drink is the perfect breakfast setting you up for the day.
You can also purchase alcohol (aperitif) before lunch; most bars also serve food, which allows customers to fulfil the authentic experience of watching the world pass by whilst enjoying the delicious food.

Due to the popularity of Italian coffee culture you can find a bar on almost every corner, so it doesn’t matter where you are; I can promise you will discover amazing coffee within an enchanting vibe.

Shall we learn how baristas make your favourite coffee?

Caffè Espresso

caffe espresso

One shot of the liquid gold will keep your brain active. Here’s the important part, if you order a ‘caffè’ you will receive a shot of espresso, not a cup of coffee like an americano. Best served on its own or with sugar: zucchero if you do not want the bitter taste.

Caffè Macchiato

macchiato

One shot of espresso with a dash of milk which slightly weakens the strength of espresso but not as milky as a cappuccino.

Cappuccino

cappuccino

One shot of espresso with foamed milk, best served at breakfast with a cornetto (croissant) or biscotti (biscuit).

Caffè latte

caffe latte

Now this for the latte lovers, if you visit Italy and order a “latte” you will be served a glass of milk accompanied with a strange look. Latte means milk, therefore; caffè latte means coffee with milk.

Caffè americano

caffe americano

If you’re a cup of coffee fan, order an americano which is a one shot of espresso diluted with hot water.
Of course, there are a wide range of coffee but these are the most popular coffees ordered by Italians and tourists!

Let’s see how to order your Italian breakfast at the bar

▶︎ Buongiorno, vorrei un cappuccino ed un cornetto semplice per cortesia
▶︎ Buongiorno, un caffè, grazie
▶︎ Buongiorno, un caffè latte ed un cornetto alla crema, grazie
You can have your espresso in tazzina (little cup) or in vetro (in glass)

Coffee at home

The growth in popularity of coffee became a world-wide phenomenon due to the craze of caffeine boosting everyone’s mornings. By the 1930s, engineer Alfonso Bialetti invented the “Moka pot” so Italians could indulge their espresso from the comfort of their home.

What is a Moka Pot?

moka pot

A moka pot is a metal coffee maker placed on top of a stove, the boiling water in the bottom vaporises into the ground coffee into the top section, creating a smooth shot of espresso. Bialetti’s magnificent invention unsurprisingly spread worldwide, where it is used in homes across Europe and Latin America.

To this day, the stunning variety of coffee machines are available for people to buy for their homes. In the touch of one button, you can create you very own barista style cappuccino. However, coffee made at home will never beat the passionate atmosphere within an Italian coffee bar!

Popular Italian coffee brands

All this coffee talk I’m guessing you’re gasping for a cup now! Want to know about the most popular brands? I’ve got you covered!

Lavazza

I would be surprised if you hadn’t heard of Lavazza, as it is sold worldwide. Established in Torino 1895, Luigi Lavazza a grocery shop owner discovered the art of blending coffee from all over the world.

After visiting Brazil, Lavazza realised the powerful taste of different coffee beans, 120 years later; the company import coffee beans from many countries in order to produce their distinctive taste. Lavazza brand themselves as “Italy’s favourite espresso” due to the popularity of the blended coffee.

Caffè Vergnano

“The real Italian Espresso 1882” Domenico Vergnano owner of a small apothecary in Chieri, the ‘secret’ coffee makers became the first coffee roasters. By the 1930s, Vergnano purchased a coffee farm in Kenya, as the business became a big hit lead to them expanding by opening three warehouses. 80 years later, Caffé Vergnano is now ranked 6th in the Italian market with 1882 coffee shops in 19 countries!

Segafredo Zanetti

Founded by Massimo Zanetti  “the King of coffee ” in Bologna, Italy. With a turnover of over €1 billion a year, Zanetti’s coffee industry is one of the largest coffee producers in the world. Segafredo has coffee plantations in South America, where the finest beans are grown; this is why their coffee is one of the most popular brands in the world!

The future of Italian coffee culture

No one can predict the future but I’m sure the coffee culture will continue to thrive in Italy and around the world. If you’re planning a trip to Italy remember to visit a coffee bar to engage with the authentic coffee culture. (Don’t order a “latte with 2 shots of vanilla syrup”, you will be given a strange look).

Raffaella Palumbo

Passionate about languages & good food. I hold a Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and French, a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions and the CLTA teaching certificate. My hobby is chasing the sun around the globe. My favourite quote: “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” (Frank Smith)

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