Understanding Italian coffee

Understanding Italian coffee

In Italy drinking coffee is a ritual. Italians love going to cafés for their coffee and if skipped they won’t survive the day.

Before you order a coffee, let’s clarify first the difference between café and caffè. Well, coffee translates in Italian as “caffé“, while café is known as the “bar”, the place where you go to drink coffee. Another thing to know is that when you ask for a caffé here in Italy, you are asking for an espresso.

How to order and drink coffee like Italians? Pay for it first at the cash register (cassa), show the receipt at the bar and when it’s your turn, order your coffee. Drink it quickly standing at the bar.

When you go to your local café, you will notice that people know each other because they always go at the same time. If you are a regular client, the barista will usually know what you want before you ask for it.

Here are the different kinds of Italian coffee

  • Caffè (kah-fe): You can also say “espresso” instead of “caffe” if you want.
  • Caffè Americano or caffè lungo (Kah-FE LOON-go): espresso with hot water added. If you want an American style ask for a large cup, “tazza grande”.
  • Caffè macchiato (kah-fe mahk-YAH-to): “stained” or “spotted” coffee, this is an espresso with a dash of hot, foamy milk on top.
  • Caffè con panna: similar to the macchiato, but sweeter, this espresso is topped with whipped cream.
  • Caffè corretto (kah-FE ko-RE-to): “corrected” coffee, served with a drop of liquor, usually cognac, grappa or Sambuca, but feel free to add whatever you prefer.
  • Caffè shakerato (kah-FE shake-er-Ah-to ): a fresh espresso mixed with sugar and ice until it froths as it’s poured into a chilled glass. You can personalize it, adding a “gelato alla vanilla” instead of ice or adding booze or cream.
  • Caffè latte (kah-FE LAH-te): espresso with hot milk.
  • Latte macchiato (Lah-te mahk-YAH-to) – steamed milk “stained” with espresso, served in a tall glass.
  • Cappuccino (kah-pu-CHEE-no): Italy’s most famous coffee drink, cappuccino is espresso topped up with hot, foamed milk. Avoid stares by not ordering it after 11am. Italians have a thing about drinking cappuccinos only in the morning, because Italians consider milk as almost a meal in itself. So a cappuccino is considered a complete breakfast.
  • Marocchino (ma-rohk-ino): a shot of espresso, cocoa powder and milk froth. In northern Italy, hot cocoa is added.

If you’re travelling around Italy, you should try the regional recipes that are on offer. For example, Bicerìn (pronounced BI-che-rin) a traditional drink of Piemonte around Torino, consisting of dense hot cocoa, espresso and cream, artfully layered in a small glass. In Trentino they have a “cappuccino Viennese”, a frothy coffee with chocolate and cinnamon. In the Marche region, they have a “caffè anisette” for an aniseed-flavored espresso, in Naples have a coffee flavored with hazelnut cream. In Sicily try a “caffè d’u parrinu”, an Arabic-inspired coffee flavored with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder.

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