Caffè è semplicemente un modo di vita per gli Italiani.
My mother is a coffee lover. So much so that it became annoying which led my younger sister and me to hide it somewhere around the house one morning. We made noises all over with our footsteps so as to make her go in one direction to try finding it while it really was hidden somewhere else. It was an entertaining day as she went from room to room and got frustrated with us. The frustration only made it more hilarious and she only got it back because my dad came down and wanted coffee…ain’t nobody playing jokes on or with my dad yall.
Flash forward a few years ahead and though I’m not an overly excited coffee lover as the rest of the world (to be honest, I could live without it and would take tea almost any day), I now have such a deep respect and appreciation for it that I told my mom she needs to move to Italia so that she can enjoy real coffee. Thank you, Italia.
Italian Caffe Culture is one you can only understand only after you’ve visited or lived in Italy and even then, you may still not grasp it fully.
For my West Indian people, think of it this way. It is to us what:
- carnival is to many
- reggae & dancehall is to Jamaica
- doubles & buss up shot is to Trinidadians
- And much more
And to me, it is bouillon (pigtail meat yes!), smoke herring, green fig(banana) salad (with saltfish), pudding, sushi and lime and grapefruit juice.
So I’m sure you can imagine it’s grand importance to Italians.
Caffè è semplicemente un modo di vita per gli italiani.
For all their passion and bravado for caffè, you would think they invented it! (Yes, don’t be ashamed, I thought they did too along with pasta)
So many falsities right? And that’s one of the many reasons I love Italy so much.
#Okiepedia time: Bare with me guys, it’s truly fascinating.
As the myth goes, coffee was discovered by some unknown goat herder who noticed that his goats were more jumpy than normal after eating some seeds from a bush.
This native bean of Ethiopia was first farmed by highlanders but it was the Arabs who began the trade of these beans firstly in northern Africa giving way to mass-cultivation there. Nicknamed “the wine of Arabia” because 14th-century explorers believed it to be a drug, that didn’t stop it from reaching to Europe by way of the Italian city Venice in the 17th Century.
We all know that Italy was and still is the religious center of the world and back in those days, there was a lot more skepticism and mysticism rather than full facts. So when coffee arrived with its eastern roots it was regarded as sinful and seen as an Islamic threat to Christianity. We’re all human and look to feed our desires though, so Pope Clement VIII after having tasted the drink decided that the taste and aroma were too outstanding to ban, thus becoming a Christian beverage.
Coffee was a luxury item which was enjoyed in a Caffè or coffee houses by the elite of society. It soon became cheap enough for the common people to afford as the production and availability of the beans increased also giving rise to over two hundred coffee houses on Venice canals. Eventually, the coffee drink grew in such popularity that coffee houses were built in Verona, Milan & Turin (where the oldest surviving coffee house is)
Named for the beverage that it served, the first café in Venice opened around 1683 and soon became synonymous with a comfortable atmosphere, conversation, and good food, this adding romance and sophistication to the coffee experience.
Caffè Florian opened with two simply furnished rooms on 29 December 1720 as “Alla Venezia Trionfante” (Venice the Triumphant), but soon became known as Caffè Florian, after its original owner Floriano Francesconi. The Caffè was patronized in its early days by notable people including the playwright Carlo Goldoni, Goethe, and Casanova, who was no doubt attracted by the fact that Caffè Florian was the only coffee house that allowed women. (Wikipedia)
Turin’s oldest surviving coffee house opened in 1763: Caffè Al Bicerin, situated on Piazza della Consolata, is home to the historic drink of Turin, the ‘Bicerin’, whose recipe remains a closely guarded secret.
I had the pleasure of seeing Italians in the element from morning till night which really left me dumbfounded. I wondered how they could spend all day at a bar, and by all day, I mean come in and out at different times of the day. My St. Lucian mind would usually echo in my creole dialect “zout rel ni l’argent” , in English, “Yall really have money”. Though they would maybe spend about 3-5 euros a day if they opted for the bar, in my currency it was equivalent to about 16-20 xcd. I’d be able to buy rice, ramen, and bread on that money. There were a few times I wanted to indulge in one but simply decided against it because that 1, 20 euro would be much useful in another way for me at that time.
I had to remind myself though, that it made no sense converting because I was no longer in the Caribbean but it does make one more aware of the spending habits and how little to one person can be a lot to another.
Being asked if I wanted a caffè became normal and so did my explanation of why I refused ¾ of the time because it doesn’t please my palate very much.
Regardless, I appreciated it dearly and wanted to know what is it about caffè that some of my Italian friends love so much. Below are their thoughts on what caffè means to them.
IT: Per gli Italiani il caffè è un momento di stacco; di piacere ;un po’ come la sigaretta. è qualcosa che fa parte della nostra cultura e soprattutto è un momento di condivisione perchè è più bello essere con amici o conoscenti per parlare, passare un momento di pausa in serenità e compagnia.
EN: For Italians, coffee is a moment of detachment; of pleasure; a bit like cigareette. It is something that is part of our culture and above all, it is a moment of sharing because it is more beautiful to be with friends or acquaintances to talk, spend some time in peace and companionship.
IT:Sono napoletano ed è una cosa molto importante. In pratica è un rito che va dalle preparazione fino al fatto che lo bevi in compagnia. Tutta e una ceremonia. è bastante normale quando viene qualcuno a casa, chiede se voule una caffe e dice si… non si rifuita. NON SI RIFUITA.
Caffe ed zucchero era una mercie abbastanza rara. Non c’e tutti potevano trovarlo. Era un dono/regalo-caffe in polvere e lo zucchero . Molte persone quando vengono fare una visita, trovare un’amica ecc, li portano il caffe, caffe in polvere e lo zucchero.
E viene bevuto tanto quando c’è una pausa di lavoro. Quasi tutti gli italiani vanno a prendere un caffè. è una scusa per fare due chiacchiere e una cosa molto veloce..15 minutes max.
Un Italiano beve almeno 3 un giorno, io ne prendo almeno 6
EN: I am napoletano and it is a very important thing. In practice, it is a ritual from preparation to when you drink in company. Everything is a ceremony. It is normal when someone comes to your home, you ask if they want a coffee and one says yes… you don’t refuse. YOU DO NOT REFUSE.
Coffee and sugar were rare goods. Not everyone could find/afford them. Many persons, when they went on visits or to meet a friend, they would bring coffee and sugar as a gift.
It’s drank whenever there is a break. Almost all Italians go to get a caffè. It’s an excuse to chat and is very quick… 15 minutes max.
An Italian drinks atleast 3 a day, I take atleast 6.
I love coffee for two reasons. Coffee is the first thing I have because coffee wakes you up! The second reason is that coffee is a moment with friends. When you don’t meet someone regularly, a lot of the time you invite them for a coffee in order to spend time and talk about your life
I can attest to her drinking coffee religiously every morning. I’d be up and about in the kitchen by 6 am and then she would come strutting in with her macchinetta.
Stay tuned for part 2 as we learn the do’s and don’ts about ordering caffè in Italia and how different it is from the American Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Costa etc.
Are there any rituals in your country which are similar to those of the Italian Caffe Culture? Let me know!
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