It may sound as a cliché, but the first thing we Italians utterly miss and look for abroad after just a few days is “real” coffee. The coffee to sip at the café, perhaps quickly and standing by the counter, so as to start the day with the right sprint or to avoid falling asleep after our lunch break. For Italians the cup of coffee is an inalienable ritual and an established habit, something that builds ties and social relations.
But what is “real” coffee? It can be identified with what abroad would be called “expresso” or “ristretto”: concentrated and with an intense flavour and, possibly, some cream on top; a rarity outside Italy. As a matter of fact, in Italy there are many varieties of coffee and entering a café you are spoiled for choice. Do you prefer a long coffee, a coffee with a spot of milk (hot or cold), a strong coffee, a coffee in the glass, a barley coffee, a coffee with foam, a ginseng coffee? Not to mention the various types of cappuccino! The best idea is to try them all in one of the many cafés in the capital and find your own favourite.
Italians, however, maintain the ritual of the “cup of coffee” at home as well and you may have noticed the convivial habit to invite someone to “have a coffee”. The coffee at home certainly won’t be the American type, served in a mug, but will be made with a moka, which Italians keep in the pantry in various sizes. Do you know how real coffee is made with a moka? You first pour the right amount of water (do not go over the inside valve) in the bottom part, then add the grounded coffee in the filter without pressing it and finally set the fire, but not too high to avoid burning everything. When the coffee starts making the typical hum that signals that it is ready, the touch of class would be to mix it with a teaspoon before pouring it into the cup and only then enjoy the moment of pleasure and relaxation. An admissible alternative can be found in the coffee pods, which are inserted into specific coffee machines, ever more frequent in Italian kitchens, but the good old moka still stands the test of leadership.
The coffee ritual is so well embedded in Italian habits that in Naples and in some other parts of Italy, you could chance upon a “suspended coffee”. Do you know what that is? It‘s a coffee that has already been paid for by one of the café’s customers and that can be claimed by a later customer. A nice and very generous tradition, typical of southern Italy. Maybe sooner or later you too will drink a cup of suspended coffee!
And a great coffee to all! How do you prefer it?