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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Italians and their coffee

“When in Italy do as The Italian Do”
The art of Coffee.

Dear amici,

This week I want to talk to about something very important for the Italians: il caffè, the coffee.

For us the coffee is an art form with many customs and traditions. In Italy there is a coffee drink specific for every time and mood.
Want to start a heated discussion in Italy? Ask a group of friends of family members how to make a perfect cup of “stove top” espresso! There are fully automatic espresso makers, pump driven espresso machines, lever piston espresso machines, and, of course, the classic aluminum espresso coffee maker “La caffettiera”, and the most popular brand in Italy is Bialetti. And the of course the discussion will continue with which brand everybody’s think is the best. Some of the most popular are, Illy, Segafredo, Vergnano. Molinari, Lavazza and Kimbo.
You’ll be surprised to see with how much passion and pathos everybody will participate in a discussion about coffee!!
Italian coffee’s tifosi, the big espresso’s fans looking for the perfect cup, will also debate various factors such as bean type, blade vs. burr grinders, tamp pressure, water temperature, humidity, and the water used. The story goes that the coffee in Naples is the best in the world and it is the water to do the magic trick.
Caffeine junkies not only have their favorite local torrefazione (coffee house), but even prefer certain baristi because of their ability to deliver a perfect caffè espresso.

A few years back, while in Rome for a photo shooting, I was staying at a nice cozy family hotel. The owner was a Neapolitan man. I thought that the coffee in the morning was excellent, so I told him that his espresso was great. Well, believe it or not he started to tell me that even though he was happy to hear that, he wasn’t very pleased with the coffee himself. He had also a Hotel in Napoli, and there the coffee was the best. So he had bought the same coffee machine and coffee from there…but even if everything was the same the taste wasn’t …and he knew now, that it was because the water in Rome wasn’t the water of Napoli!!

And I must say that coffee in Napoli has a kind of unique strong taste that you can only find there!!

Be aware that “caffè (with two f's) is both the beverage and the locale that serves it.

What kind of coffee should you order in a caffè? The possibilities can be as daunting as a Starbucks menu. Below is a list of the most popular caffeine-laden drinks. Keep in mind too, that we Italians generally don't drink coffee with any meal except breakfast. Coffee is often ordered after a meal, and only the unwitting tourist will order a cappuccino in a restaurant after lunch or dinner. I did it myself a couple of time while in Italy …very funny to see the reaction of the Italian waiter to  “Un cappuccino, per favore” after dinner!!
We really sit down for a coffee, so you won’t see Italians in Italy walking around the city with “un caffè” o “un cappuccino”!! This is something I’ve learned to do here in New York City!!
We do order coffee while standing at the bar if we are kind in a hurry !!
When ordering an after-dinner coffee, do not ask for an espresso, ask for "un caffè, per favore." See the list here below for more type of coffee!

Italian Vocabulary List: Coffee
Un caffè ( this is an espresso)—a small cup of very strong coffee, i.e., espresso
Un caffè Americano—American-style coffee, but stronger; weaker than espresso and served in a large cup
Un caffè corretto—coffee "corrected" with a shot of grappa, cognac, or other spirit
Un caffè doppio o un doppio —double espresso
Un caffè freddo—iced coffee
Un caffè Hag o un decaffeinato—decaffeinated coffee
Un caffelatte—hot milk mixed with coffee and served in a glass for breakfast
Un caffè macchiato o un macchiato—espresso "stained" with a drop of steamed milk: small version of a cappuccino
Un caffè stretto o un ristretto—espresso with less water; rocket fuel!
Un cappuccino—espresso infused with steamed milk and drunk in the morning, but never after lunch or dinner
Un granita di caffè con panna o Caffe shakerato—frozen, iced beverage (similar to a slush, but ice shavings make it authentic) and topped with whipped cream. Those are very popular in the summer!!

You will almost always get sugar with your coffee, and if you want to have artificial sugar ask for “Dietor” (the most sold brand in Italy) or “Docilficante”.

Buon caffe’ a tutti and stay tune for my next week’s blog about the “Accademia Italiana della Cucina”.



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