Coffee World: Italy and the Espresso Coffee Tradition
No guide book about Italy can be completed without talking about its espresso coffee culture. In the same way, no book about coffee can be written without mentioning Italy. Let's explore this unique connection further.
Espresso is a strong coffee that is concentrated and typically served in “shots.” It is very potent and strong, so one-shot or two can provide the caffeine kick you need to last you throughout the day.
It’s made by pouring pressurized water through very thin, fine ground coffee beans which is typically made using an espresso machine. The product is then a very small amount of deeply concentrated coffee with a crema, brown foam, that sits nicely at the top of the shot.
Espresso does not need to be made with a certain type of coffee beans, but can be made using any kind of bean. However, the beans must be ground to a finer consistency that can easily absorb the hot water and yield a delicious, strong cup of coffee.
Claimed benefits of drinking espresso
Espresso is essentially just a more concentrated form of coffee, which is the native carrier of many natural antioxidants and vitamins. There is a plethora of health and mental benefits of drinking espresso. Here are just a few.
1. Good for long term memory retention
Who knew espresso could be a method to possibly help you retain some crucial information for your next important exam? Drinking espresso has been associated with improving one’s concentration and ability to store information long-term. The trick is that you can’t drink too much of it, or else it’ll have the opposite effect on your body.
2. A high content of antioxidants
Coffee naturally has many antioxidants that come with it. Since espresso is a highly concentrated form of coffee, espresso carries its own good portion of antioxidants such as polyphenols and cafestol. Polyphenols help aid in preventing certain diseases and cafestol carries anti-inflammatory benefits.
3. Aids in weight loss / improves digestion
Drinking espresso can do wonders for your metabolism. Have you ever wondered why people usually tend to use the bathroom right after they drink a fresh cup of coffee? It is because the coffee kicks your digestive activity and really gets your body system going in the morning.
Due to the espresso’s natural anti-inflammatory components, it can help make your body feel less bloated and quicken your metabolism.
Who first coined the term "espresso?"
Italians are typically the first ones to be associated with coining the term espresso, which literally means “pressed coffee” or “pressed-out coffee.” It comes from the past participle of the Italian word, esprimere.
It is essentially what espresso is because it's tightly pressed ground beans which were pressurized with hot water.
Where did espresso originate?
Well, just like how the Italians were the first to coin the term espresso, it only makes sense that the espresso originated from the beautiful country of Italy!
People don’t know the exact date espresso was invented in Italy, but many say that it was around the 1900s. The legend says that a man by the name of Luigi Bezzera filed the patent for a machine that would force a little bit of boiling water through finely-ground coffee beans in a cup. Thus, the espresso was born and it has been a tremendous hit ever since!
Italy’s coffee history
Coffee and Italy really have such a long history together. Although the espresso may have made its name way later, coffee made history in Italy sometime around the 17th century. The first city where coffee was introduced in Italy was the City of Venice, where coffee beans were also a successful trading bargain.
Funny enough, coffee was sold to the rich and wealthy when it first arrived in Italy. However, as the City of Venice was ruled by the church, many saw the beverage to be sinful.
Soon after the Pope himself gave it a try, the drink became a hit amongst the lower class as well. Once the coffee gained popularity, the first coffee cafe opened up in Venice around 1683. It became a bustling point where good coffee was served and conversations began.
Best Italian drinks made with espresso
Italians know how to drink their coffee in fun, unique ways and that’s no stranger to how they use their espresso to make creative drinks.
Here are a few highlighted Italian coffee drinks that may have you wanting to fly to Italy just to get a taste of these amazing creations.
Starting off with a unique name, this coffee beverage combines both a delectable shot of espresso and a splash of alcohol. Not every kind of liquor goes well with the espresso, so Italians serve their coffee with some grappa, brandy, rum, or sambuca.
This drink is very popular in the United States and especially popular in Italy. The Latte is an espresso-based coffee that is made with warm, steamed milk. The warm, frothy milk helps to balance the decadent richness of the espresso.
Just like how the name of it sounds, this coffee seems to be a bit more on the fancy, decadent side. This is a classic beverage of espresso that has layers of hot chocolate in its mix, topped with some delicious whipped cream.
This special beverage isn’t served in a typical white mug, but it comes in a tall, clear glass where the main star is the three distinct layers.
The macchiato is similar to a cafe latte, but with a smaller amount of steamed milk. Italians typically love to enjoy this warm beverage in the afternoon time. The name, macchiato, literally translates into “spotted” or “stained,” which is what the steamed milk in the espresso is meant to mimic.
This drink is for those who love the taste of espresso but with less liquid. It only contains half the amount of water you can find in a shot of espresso. Nonetheless, this coffee is still really strong as it is just consumed with no other added creams and such.
The ristretto is very dark and reminds many people of the color of dark chocolate in comparison to the crema which is more of a light brown.