Italian Culture Sneak Peek: Coffee at the Bar

Italy is the land of food and slow-paced living. Both these things are tightly linked to coffee. It may seem paradoxical that Italian coffee, as the name itself “espresso” (express) says, only lasts a few minutes at most, if one sips it very slowly. One would expect Americans to gulp down their coffee in their typical rush. However, American coffee is a rather different business. American coffee is a watered-down drink to enjoy slowly, hence it lasts much more.

cappuccinoStill, the time devoted to coffee in Italy is a time of relaxation. For breakfast, Italians get their coffee at the bar, the Italian equivalent of a coffee shop, either standing by the counter or, less often, sitting down with their cup and their cornetto or some other sweet treat. Not only do we drink coffee for breakfast, however, but we also often
have an espresso after any meal. One last tip before we delve into the complex world of coffee: ask for a glass of water to drink before your coffee, to clean up your mouth in order to fully taste the coffee.

The world of Italian coffee is varied and complex. If you only order “un caffé”, the barista will make an espresso, but the choice of how you can have your coffee are almost endless. For example, you can order a caffé doppio (double espresso), a caffé ristretto (a more condensed and even stronger version of a normal espresso), or a caffé lungo (a more watery version of espresso). You can also have your coffee hot or cold, but do ask for a little ice and milk in your coffee if you are craving American iced coffee. Moreover, you can also order an Americano, which is a watered-down espresso that somehow resembles American coffee.

If you like milk in your coffee, you have a wide choice of drinks. You can in fact order: a macchiato, which is an espresso with a drop of either hot milk (macchiato caldo) or cold milk (macchiato freddo); a cappuccino, which Italians mainly drink in the morning, and which can be “chiaro” (lighter) or “scuro” (darker and stronger), depending on the coffee to milk ratio in your drink; caffé latte, again almost exclusively drank in the morning, made of hot milk mixed with a little coffee.

The list could go own to include ginseng coffee, which tastes a little like Chai latte, caffé corretto, an espresso “corrected” with liquor, or caffé al vetro, an espresso served in a glass cup rather than the usual porcelain cup.

Explore all the alternatives the world of coffee has to offer as you study in Rome, Italy!

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