Blue View - Italy's Coffee Culture

We’ve been without Internet for the past few days, so Saturday’s Blue View is Monday’s Blue View this week. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

A perfect cappucino

A perfect cappucino

We Americans certainly consume our share of coffee, but we're a distant second when compared to the Italians. They drink almost 50% more coffee per capita than we do, consuming 13.1 pounds per person each year compared to our paltry 8.8 pounds. It's not hard to see why... Italians love their coffee.

A pleasant Italian barkeep and his coffee machine

A pleasant Italian barkeep and his coffee machine

No restaurant or bar in Italy would stay in business long without a large, elaborate, beautiful coffee machine. A bar here might devote 1-2 feet of bar space to the beer taps, but you can be sure they will have a coffee maker that takes up 5-6 feet.

All those specialty coffees we're familiar with like espresso, cappuccino, macchiato and latte (although it's caffe latte here - ordering a latte will get you a cup of warm milk), were invented in Italy. They also have an 'Americano', which is an espresso, diluted with enough hot water to tone it down to the strength of a strong Starbucks coffee - to suit the American tourists, I guess.

It's not the least bit unusual for someone to hustle into a cafe or bar, belly up to the bar and order an espresso (usually just referred to as a caffe). On occasion, a shot of bourbon or vodka is added. With or without the alcohol, it is quickly tossed back, one or two Euros are slapped down on the counter, and the patron is on his way. We were on a bus one day when the driver stopped at a bus stop, hurried into a bar and returned two minutes later. We assumed he got a quick hit of caffeine.. hopefully sans the alcohol.

A hotel room coffeemaker

A hotel room coffeemaker

Many of the hotels here have espresso machines in the rooms. What a delightful way to start the day, enjoying a couple cups of espresso (diluted down to Americanos to suit my American palette)... so much better than the weak, anemic coffee generated by those bathroom coffeemakers provided by U.S. hotel chains.

We're trying to do our part to support the local economy when it comes to coffee. Our usual routine is to start the morning with a cappuccino or Americano or two before we head out. Then we have another cappuccino or two later, during the course of the morning if the opportunity arises. Spectacular scenery, interesting people and wonderful food aside, I could live in Italy just for the coffee.

As a bit of trivia, the Italians rank only number twelve in the world in per capita coffee consumption, while the U.S. is number 26. The Finns are number one with a whopping 28.8 pounds per person per year, more than double what the Italians consume. In fact, the Scandinavian countries hold five out of the top six positions. Must be those long, cold winters.