One of the addictions Italians are most known for, apart from the addiction to pizza, pasta and the Little Chick Cheep, is the one to coffee. Despite the fact that, globally speaking, Italians are not the world’s largest coffee consumers, we are used to worshiping and praising this tradition of ours so much that we ended up transforming coffee into one of our strongest addictions.
If you are born in Italy, your life will depend on coffee: you will start drinking it in middle school (or even before) and it will stick with you all your life, whether you like it or not.
In the morning you will not wake up without a coffee. When you plan to go out with your friends you will simply say “Let’s go for a coffee!” and when you have people over for dinner it would be very rude not to offer them coffee.
But when I say the word “coffee”, what do I actually refer to?
Coffee, as we Italians conceive it, is the so-called Espresso, which is what we usually get when we go to a bar and say: “Coffee, please!”.
Whether it is a “macchiato” or a “normale”, served with cream or with a layer of Nutella, coffee for Italians has to be short, very hot, drunk in tiny cups and usually accompanied by an “amaretto” or, even better, a “gianduiotto” (Piedmont does it better!)
Coffee for us is an institution, a unique experience, almost a lifestyle; it’s like beer for Germans, crêpes for the French and tacos for Mexicans.
That’s why Italians always try to preserve it, no matter what, and that means slamming the doors at Mr. Americano’s face. No way will you ever see an Italian person go to an Italian bar and yell: “An Americano, please!”. Too traditionalist? Well, that depends on people’s point of view. A heated debate has come to the fore during the last few years about whether to open Italian markets to famous American coffee chains or not. This has forced people to take sides in a civil war which is being fought with coffee-bean-loaded guns. On one side we have young people and travelers: they have been to other countries and experienced the international way of conceiving coffee; open-minded people to whom drinking American coffee has become trendy and, though they keep their “native” roots, they like to combine tradition with innovation as a nice excuse to try different combinations of tastes. On the other, we have the fierce, usually old, and determined coffee makers, sellers and lovers who fight their crusade to defend their St. Espresso with jaws and claws. They feel threatened by their “long lasting” rival and believe that the American coffee fashion must not spread through Italy for it would spoil one of our historical sources of pride.
As for me (signor Espresso cover your ears, please) I stand with the first!
Which side are you on?