Bitterness is the peculiar sensory characteristic of coffee. But why is coffee bitter and why do we like this typically unpleasant taste in our favorite drink?
The term tradition (from the latin traditio, traditiònis,  deriving from the verb tràdere = «to deliver», «to transmit») is synonymous with custom, often defined as «popular tradition» or «folklore», understood anthropologically as the transmission over time, within a human group, of the memory of social or historical events, customs, rituals, mythology, religious beliefs, customs, superstitions and legends.
Italian coffee tradition has been honed over the centuries to a veritable art form.
Italians take coffee seriously: so, it’s not surprising that there is a whole system of rituals and behaviors about coffee and some of its preparations.
Moka coffee, espresso and cappuccino, for Italians are not simple “drinks”, but an essential daily rituals and veritable institutions that have become part of the national identity, recognized and appreciated throughout the world.
It’s not just about a good blend of coffee and good brewing.
There are shades linked to culture, traditions and habits, to place and context, to emotions and feelings that make the experience of a moka coffee, espresso and cappuccino a real Italian ritual.
THE TRADITION OF MOKA COFFEE
A coffee prepared with the moka pot is the lifeblood of the Italian household.
A home ritual involving an aluminum pot and a small mountain of ground coffee, which creates that gurgling sound and that incomparable, comforting aroma that sends people rushing to their kitchen.
Talk to an Italian grandmother and she will argue that the best coffee is made on the stove with a moka pot (always ready).
For many Italians, the “first coffee” of their life was prepared with their grandmother’s moka. For this reason, even today, moka coffee is “grandmother’s coffee”.
The moka pot is probably the most common kitchen utensil in Italian homes indicating it is the traditional Italian method of brewing coffee on the stovetop.
Everyone in Italy has their own style and methodology which inevitably are handed down from generation to generation, but the moka coffee is for everyone a way to demonstrate Italian hospitality and sense of family.
It’s a sign of good hospitality to offer guests, even those who pop around unexpectedly, a homemade coffee: it’s an indispensable pleasure, an encouragement, a pampering, a gesture of love, hospitality and sharing.
Here is how to prepare a perfect moka coffee…
THE TRADITION OF ESPRESSO
It is easy to say that the espresso is the Italian coffee for excellence.
In Italy, if you say “caffè”, you say “espresso”! At the bar you will never say “un espresso” but simply “un caffè”.
At what time? Coffee has no time constraints in Italy! You can request it any time of day or night.
That’s also why “let’s go for a coffee” this is the excuse most used by Italians to have a chat or a “pick up”.
The ritual goes with it, standing at the bar while you chat to the barista preparing it.
However in the espresso’s Italy, by merely changing cities, there are variations in the cup’s color, aroma, taste and quantity.
The significant differences in taste and consumption patterns in the various areas of Italy, in particular between North and South, are closely linked to the culture, traditions and habits of the people who consume it.
Add to this, the fact that when it is time to order, the variations on the theme are as many and different as there are people in front of the counter: ristretto, short, long, double, high, small cup, large cup, glass, decaf, hot macchiato, cold macchiato, lukewarm, with milk aside, with soy milk, corretto, marocchino, American, with cream, con la mosca, and so on.
To the detriment of the many preferences, one constant of Italian coffee doesn’t change: the speed with which it is consumed. An espresso must be express as it’s prepared quickly and just as quickly consumed: in 3 sips while standing at the bar, of course!
Here is how to recognize the perfect espresso…
THE TRADITION OF CAPPUCCINO
Nothing transports us to mornings in Italy more than a cappuccino with a cornetto. At the bar!
The sound of the grinder, the steam wands and the filter holder slamming on the floorboards comprise a symphony of breakfast music. Simultaneously, the aroma of coffee with the sweet fragrance of cornetti as the barista greets you with “buongiorno” starts your day off by feeding the body and the soul.
“Buongiorno” because morning is the only time of day to enjoy the cappuccino without being teased.
Italians never order a cappuccino after 11 a.m. It’s enjoyed only in the morning, never in the afternoon, and especially not after a meal!
Cappuccino is never on-the-go. Italians drink it standing at the bar or sitting at the table, reading the newspaper, almost always accompanied by a dessert.
Naples may have the sfogliatella while Rome has its maritozzo and Sicily claims the cannolo… but the cornetto remains the indisputable symbol of the Italian breakfast, “vuoto” (empty) or “ripieno” (filled) with “crema” (pastry cream), “marmellata” (with jam, marmalade or other conserve), “miele” (honey, this is often made with an integrale, wholewheat, dough), “cioccolato” (chocolate) or alla Nutella.
Italians are very habitual even in the choice of the bar for breakfast.
Why? Habit, ease, socializing and most importantly… the barista already knows what his customers will order, their preferences and what to serve.
Here is how to recognize the classic Italian cappuccino…
And you? Which tradition takes you to Italy?