As a coffee roaster and coffee passionate I had to visit Italy, and finally last November I did so.
I have a dear Italian friend and visiting him gave me the perfect excuse for a short yet super fun holiday in Italy. He lives and works in the North, in the Emilia-Romagna region. Since I arrived on Thursday evening my coffee cravings had to wait until next morning.
In Italy your day begins with a coffee, most likely at home, together with something sweet: a cookie or a piece of fruit tarte. And so we did. Then we headed to our first tourist destination: Florence! At a caffetteria at the Piazza del Duomo with a great view over the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Fiore we had to sit down for our second coffee of the day. I love that in Italy coffee is coffee, meaning coffee is an espresso. Life as it should be. At this point I have to confess a small sin, I asked for a macchiato as I like to start my day with coffee and some milk. My preferred morning drink is cappuccino or cortado but since I was in Italy I was going to have something Italian, hence a macchiato. The look from my friend when I ordered it was priceless. He asked me: are you sure you want something with milk after 10 am?
Ah, then I remembered reading about Italian coffee habits. The tradition is to have just one cappuccino, or any other coffee-with-milk drink: in the morning, and then drink only espressos for the rest of the day. I don’t really know the exact reason for this habit and probably neither do they. I read once that it could be related to lactose-intolerance which is more common in southern Europe. Someone intolerant can indeed drink a small amount of milk in the morning as in that one daily cappuccino, but only one. So, it has become a small cultural taboo to keep drinking milk with your coffee through the day and after 10 am is already a disgrace, apparently. Since the girl in the counter is used to funny tourists she didn’t find it a problem. My friend, though, was a bit ashamed.
The rest of the day I behaved and only drank espressos.
The fact that espresso is called coffee and thus not considered anything special should already be enough to love Italy. But I am also crazy about the fact that you can be sure to get a good beverage everywhere. Coffee quality is assured, no matter how small or modest the place looks like or how cheap the coffee is. I was blown away, espressos for 1 Euro!! But please note that you will pay more money if you want to enjoy your coffee while sitting outside in the nice terrace that if you have it inside in the bar.
It is surprising for some people to find out that Italy is not the bigger coffee consumer in the world; three Nordic countries are in the lead, followed by the Netherlands. The year consumption in Italy was estimated to be 3.4 kg per capita (in 2013) which places Italy at number 18. The number one consumer is Finland with 9.6 kg per capita per year (in 2013). However, according to Datahero.com Italy is after Japan the second country to pay the most money for their coffee. So clearly Italy is into quality and not quantity. It is a paradise for coffee lovers.