Drink Coffee like a True Italian

What is your favourite smell? Is it freshly baked bread, the sea, new books or fried chicken? I love the smell of coffee. I don’t remember when it was that I first started drinking coffee, but over the years, my coffee habit has changed and it has now become an essential part of my morning routine.

I make my espresso with a moka pot, which was a gift from an Italian friend. It is the Best. Gift. Ever. for coffee lovers (from £13 on Amazon)! My coffee would be ready before I finish washing up, and (apologies to my flatmate) the kitchen would be filled with the aroma of coffee. After being disappointed by the cappuccino from the buttery, I decided to get a milk frother and make my own. Life is too short for bad coffee. Now I make better coffee than the buttery and have saved enough to pay for a May Ball ticket!

Coffee might be something you drink to keep yourself awake, but in Italy, it is a way of life. You can hardly find a place that sells coffee-to-go. People go into a bar in the morning, have a quick espresso with a pastry, banter with the barista and they’ll be out of the bar before your full English breakfast is ready. Some bars serve espresso with a glass of sparkling water. It is intended to cleanse your palate before you sip your coffee. Ordering an Americano is a dead give-away that you’re a tourist! Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any latte art when I was travelling in Italy. Could it be something that the Americans have invented, just like the fortune cookies? (Oh yes, we don’t have fortune cookies in Hong Kong, and no we don’t eat dogs) I’ve been trying to do latte art but it’s harder than it seems to be.

There is an unwritten rule in Italy – never order a cappuccino after 11am. It is because Italians view milky drinks as breakfast beverage. They believe that drinking milk after a meal screws up digestion. In contrast, an espresso after dinner is believed to help with digestion. I’ve tried and I still slept like a top (to be honest, it’s very rare that I don’t). Don’t order a ‘latte’ in Italy, because ‘latte’ means ‘milk’. Another tip is to have your coffee at the bar instead of sitting down at a table. Usually they have two prices, and you could probably work out which is which. If you’re too embarrassed to ask or too lazy too google what the differences between cappuccino, macchiato, latte, flat white and Americano are, here is a pretty simple visual representation:



I haven’t been to a lot of cafes in Cambridge, but Savino’s on Emmanuel Street is definitely worth dropping by if you’re in town and are sick of the standard high street chains. The only problem is they are always so busy!


Originally written for The Cambridge Student newspaper


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