Author Archives: Barbara Zaragoza

The Art of Coffee Drinking in Italy

07 May 12
Barbara Zaragoza

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There\’s not a Starbucks for miles around. When you ask for coffee and want something that comes in a cup larger than the length of your thumb, Italians either look confused or smirk. For them, coffee is caffe and caffe everywhere else in the world is called espresso.

There are three kinds of caffe: \”long\” which is a double shot of espresso, \”short\” who is no more than the size of a tablespoon, and \”stained\” which comes with a dollop of milk foam. (In Italian, these are known as lungo, ristretto, and macchiato.) When you get an espresso, the best part is the creme or frothy espresso foam on top. It takes a knowledgable barista and a high quality espresso machine to perfect that art.

In the morning, Italians also drink cappuccino, which is a shot of espresso with milk and foam that comes in a regular tea cup. Italians, however, don\’t tend to drink cappuccino past eleven o\’clock in the morning. They also don\’t eat much breakfast, ordering a quick cornetto (croissant) instead. Sometimes you can see men drink caffe with a little \”top off\” or splash of liqueur, such as sambuca, making it caffe corretto.

Proper etiquette in these parts dictates that you stir sugar into the caffe before downing the shot in three or four sips. The caffe always comes with a cup of water, either lisca/naturale (flat) or frizzante (carbonated), which should be sipped both before and after drinking the tazzino in order to clean the palette. Most often, caffe is drunk al banco or at the counter as a brief sip-and-go.

Baristas often like to offer more than just espresso, although the tazzino is certainly the simplest and most popular of all dark brew beverages. The best twists similar to Starbucks innovations tend to be found at the cafe-bars of shopping malls, although a good specialty caffe can be found anywhere. Baristas announce their twists on billboards outside their establishment and name their drinks things like \”Tiramisu\” and \”The Grandpa.\” Watch out, though. Baristas generally don\’t reveal their secrets and these delights are considered proprietary.

Learn more about Italian Coffee Drinking. Stop by Barbara Zaragoza\’s site or check out her ebook Handbook of Neapolitan Caffe.