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Espresso in Italy is a culturally ingrained tradition. Everything from the finely ground espresso, the stainless steel, high-pressure machines, to the way it’s consumed. Unlike other parts of the world, Italians enjoy their morning caffeine fix at a standing bar accompanied by a pastry of their choosing.
No to-go cups, and definitely no Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Morning coffee is not only routine in Italy, but also a social ritual. It’s a time to start your morning conversing at your neighborhood cafe, catch up with the barista, and then head on your merry, caffeinated way.
When traveling in Italy, espresso, among wine, gelato, and pasta, are on the top of any traveler’s tasting to do list. Although, there are a few travel tips and rules to be followed when it comes to ordering and drinking espresso properly.
ITALIAN ESPRESSO DRINKING ETIQUETTE
1. NO LATTES ALLOWED –
Don’t make the mistake of ordering a latte, you will be highly disappointed when a glass of latte(milk) arrives in place of a steaming hot cup of espresso. After you experience espresso in Italy, you will understand that lattes are a poor excuse for an espresso drink consisting of watered down coffee mixed with 12 ounces of poorly frothed milk. For your creamy coffee drink fix, look no further than the cappuccino. It’s the perfect balance of strong, velvety espresso to warm, foamed milk.
2. CAPPUCCINO ONLY PRIOR TO 11 AM –
In no circumstance should you ever order a cappuccino after 11 AM. Your barista may give you a strange look, or even refuse to serve it to you. Cappuccini are considered to be a breakfast drink, and bad for digestion if consumed any later in the day or after a meal.
3. DRINK QUICKLY –
Espresso, or more commonly ordered as caffè normale, can be enjoyed either amaro (black) or dolce (with sugar), but both should be sipped quickly before the top layer of crema, a creamy emulsion of coffee oils, dissipate
4. ORDER AT THE BAR –
Italians rarely sit down to sip on their coffee, so order and drink yours standing at the bar. The reason for this is that the crema would most likely dissolve prior to the espresso being served at your table.
*Travel Tip: Coffee and food eaten at the bar is much cheaper than if you request table service. It can sometimes cost you double just to sit down.
5. SAY NO TO AMERICANO –
Diluted espresso made to mimic that of American drip coffee… just no. If the proper Italian espresso is too strong for your liking, opt for a caffè lungo, espresso runs through with a bit of hot water.
6. AFTER DINNER DRINK –
Coffee is not only part of a morning routine, but also is used as an after dinner drink due to its’ digestive properties, so a post-dinner shot of espresso even at 10 or 11 PM is not uncommon.
COMMON ESPRESSO DRINKS:
Caffè Normale – Espresso
Caffè Lungo – Slightly diluted espresso
Caffè Macchiato – Espresso with a dollop of foamed milk
Cappuccino – Equal parts espresso, steamed and foamed milk
Caffè Freddo – Chilled espresso
Caffè Corretto – Espresso and liquor
FAVORITES IN ROME:
Caffè Sant’Eustachio, Piazza di San Eustachio, 82
Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria, Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, 16
Caffè Farnese, Via de’ Baullari, 106
Casa & Bottega, Via dei Coronari, 183
Sciascia Caffè, Via Fabio Massimo, 80/A