for Ordering Coffee in
A Survival Guide to the Piedmontese Café Culture
Far removed from the bottomless “Cup
of Joe” Americans have come to expect, the caffè savored in
In a city like
Fundamental characteristics of Italian coffee
Espresso, Espresso, Espresso
One of the first differences you’ll
note is that all coffee in
The Threshold for Taste and Temperature
When your coffee shows up “tiepido” (tepid), don’t send it back! The Italians have discovered that this is the perfect temperature for maximizing the coffee’s flavor. By using hot – not boiling – water, the “crema,” or rich burnished golden foam that forms atop the espresso, will preserve the coffee’s aroma without bitterness. Likewise, the milk is heated solely with steam, creating a “schiuma,” or thick, rich foam which complements the espresso’s “crema.” If you must have that caffè piping hot, ask for it “molto caldo” (“very hot,” pronounced mol-to kahl-do), but brace yourself for a sigh from the barista and an espresso that fails to meet the region’s highest standards.
Exquisite Coffee in its Purest Form
Great coffee doesn’t need any additives. You won’t find Italians adding lemon or salt to lift the taste of their coffee, or flavors such as French vanilla or hazelnut to make it more tempting. The Piedmontese coffee simply stands alone. Period.
Heading to the local bar
In Piedmont, as in the rest of Italy, a café doubles as a bar serving alcoholic beverages and food, and can also function as a pasticceria (selling cakes), latteria (serving dairy products) or gelateria (offering gelato or ice cream).
It’s all in the timing
Although cafés’ numerous treats are available throughout the day, Italian etiquette requires that you only indulge at specific times. For example, cappuccinos are a favorite breakfast of Italians but should never be ordered after , and ordering one at the end of a meal would evoke contempt or simply pity. Caffè (espresso) is another favored breakfast choice, and is frequently paired with a brioche (croissant). Italians never drink coffee during any meal except for breakfast, although they may opt for a basic caffè at the conclusion of a meal.
Navigating the bar menu
Following is a dictionary of the most popular drinks, and tips for enjoying them to the fullest.
Caffè (literally “coffee,” pronounced kah-fe)
- Add sweet whipped cream by ordering caffè con panna (pronounced pah-nah)
- Add sugar by ordering caffè con zucchero (pronounced zu-kero)
Caffè corretto (pronounced kah-fe ko-re-to)
1. Espresso "corrected" with a drop of spirits, usually grappa but you can specify cognac or another liquor
2. TIP: Even if you don’t usually add sugar to your caffè, it is a great way of rounding out the flavor of an espresso.
3. NOTE: No one except for manual laborers and old men order caffè correto before dinner.
Cappuccino (pronounced kah-pu-chee-no)
Bicerìn (pronounced bi-che-rin)
Marocchino (pronounced mah-ro-chee-no)
Caffè lungo (literally “long coffee,” pronounced kah-fe loon-go)
* Also referred to as Caffè doppio (meaning “double” and pronounced kah-fe dop-yo) or Caffè americano (literally “American coffee” and pronounced kah-fe ah-me-ri-kah-no)
1. Very diluted espresso in a large cup, resembling a strong version of American-style coffee
2. TIP: This coffee is usually only ordered by tourists
3. NOTE: This coffee is frequently more bitter and higher in caffeine than a standard caffè.
Caffè macchiato (pronounced kah-fe mahk-yah-to)
- “macchiato caldo” (pronounced kahl-do) with a bit of hot, foamed milk
- “macchiato freddo” (pronounced fred-o) with a drop of cold milk
Latte macchiato (pronounced lah-te mahk-yah-to)
1. The reverse of a caffè macchiato, this is a tall glass of warmed milk “stained” with a
shot of espresso
Caffè latte (pronounced kah-fe lah-te)
Caffè freddo (pronounced kah-fe fred-o)
1. Iced coffee, composed of a shot of espresso with ice cubes whipped up.
2. NOTE: This drink is typically served with a large amount of sugar, and is popular during the summer months.
Caffè decaffeinato (pronounced kah-fe de-kah-fe-e-na-to)
Caffè ristretto (literally meaning “restricted coffee,” pronounced kah-fe ri-stre-to)