Posted in Kafevend Blog
Coffee may have originated long ago in Ethiopia, and Brazil may be the world's top coffee producer today, but for many of us Italy is the nation most synonymous with the drink. Today's blog looks at how Italians established such a strong and lasting relationship with coffee, before going on to consider some coffee favourites there.
Venice was the first place in Italy to enjoy the delicious aroma of coffee brewing. The city had strong trading links with the Middle East, and by the latter half of the 1500s Venetian merchants had coffee to sell, though only the most well off members of local society could afford the price at that point. However, once European colonists had spread the cultivation of coffee to other areas of the world, the cost of a cup of coffee started to come down and by the 1640s coffee shops had begun to appear in Venice. Other Italian towns and cities followed suit and so in time coffee culture became an intrinsic feature of everyday life there. It even had the Pope's blessing; some members of the Church had urged its ban, but having tasted it, Pope Clement VII decided it was too delicious a drink to miss out on!
Fast forward to 1884 and the capacity to provide a quick caffeine hit was secured by Angelo Moriondo of Turin, who was the first to patent an espresso machine. Two decades later it was another pair of Italians, Luigi Bezzera and Desiderio Pavoni, who invented a single serve espresso machine. Now that a shot of coffee could be rapidly prepared it became the drink of choice for the busy Italian worker, who would pop to the coffee bar on a break, knock back an espresso while still standing up and carry on with the day.
As well as being a perfect pick me up in its own right, the espresso has become the basis of all sorts of espresso based coffee drinks. As well as obvious ones like the cappuccino, Italy has a lot more to offer, with some cities having their own signature espresso drink. One such example is Turin with the 'bicerin'. Served in a glass so you can appreciate its layered effect, the bicerin is comprised of chocolate, espresso and frothy creamy milk. While it was Moriondo of Turin who gave the world its first espresso machine, the city's links with chocolate are more deeply rooted still; a local duke married a Spanish princess in 1585 and thereby obtained access to the cocoa bean, which the Spanish had been keeping a secret for most of the 16th century!
Alessandria is home to another coffee and cocoa fusion known as the marocchino. It contains a shot of espresso, cocoa powder and milk froth. Like the bicerin, it's served in a small glass. And staying on the chocolatey coffee theme, a current Italian favourite is the nutellino. A coating of Nutella is spread onto a glass coffee cup, before a shot of espresso is added, then it's topped off with cream. Sounds delicious.
If you're looking for something even more potent than cocoa enriched coffee, there's always the caffè corretto, basically an espresso 'corrected' with a shot of alcohol such as brandy, grappa or sambuca. Either way, cocoa or spirits, these definitely sound like great coffee ideas to try on the run up to the festive season, especially if you're trying to cope with the stress of Christmas shopping!