Most of the world’s coffee is grown in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. So if the Italians don’t grow it, how did il caffè become an Italian cultural institution?
The Italians don’t grow coffee beans, but they certainly do roast them. As of late 2010, one report counted over 700 Italian companies devoted to roasting coffee. By means of comparison, there are about 1400 coffee roasting companies in the USA – which has over five times the population of Italy.
In terms of roasting coffee beans, the Italians have plenty of different techniques, but one quality every processor strives to maintain is freshness. Rarely, if ever, is ground coffee available for sale in large packages, as the grounds tend to oxidate and become stale once the package seal is broken.
The popularity of Italian roasted coffee is matched by a high demand for the finished product, both in and outside of Italy. Between roasted coffee sales and re-exporting green coffee beans, $1.4 billion worth of coffee exports left Italy in 2015. Lavazza, Illy, Segafredo are just some of the names that have become internationally-recognized brands.
Italians do not consume the most coffee per capita – that honor belongs to the Finns – but perhaps they can claim to serve the widest variety of coffee beverages. In addition to the vocabulary you’ll learn for coffee drinks in Italian Through Food, here are a few more to add to the list:
caffè al ginseng: coffee flavored with ginseng extract
caffè marocchino: Moroccan coffee, this drink consists of espresso, milk foam, and cocoa or chocolate (or even Nutella). The Moroccan attribution is supposedly inspired by Moroccan leather, which can have a rich brown color.
caffè frappé: A Greek invention, a genuine caffè frappé is an iced medley of instant coffee, water, and sugar.
If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!