“Life’s too short to drink bad coffee”
A phrase commonly used by coffee lovers. While we don’t know where this phrase originated from, coffee lovers everywhere agree that it is resoundingly accurate. Most of us would rather go without than to begrudgingly swallow a substandard brew. It is essential to most of us that we have the best coffee available. I and many are of the opinion that Italian coffee is the best coffee available. Why is it that so many coffee lovers and coffee professionals take this opinion? Let’s consider some reasons…
Firstly some history.
A fairly common misconception is that Italians invented coffee. In fact, the origins of coffee can be traced back to the Ethiopian plateau. Legend has it that a goat herder discovered the beans and their energizing properties. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent, including Italy where coffee became a household staple. Appreciated at different times as a medicinal product, an expression of a lover’s affection, a status symbol for the upper class and intellectuals, or a way for friends and family to come together, coffee became quickly part of the Italian lifestyle and to this day is considered an integral part of Italian culture. Given this background, it is not surprising that considerable resources have been invested over the centuries in achieving the “perfect coffee.”
Italians have been roasting coffee for centuries. The first coffee bar in Italy opened around 1683 in the city of Venice. The oldest existing Italian coffee roastery, Caffè Vergnano, has been around since 1882. In contrast, the oldest South African roastery in existence, did not start turning out coffee until over 4 decades later, and most popular South African roasteries which are currently operating started within the last 2 decades. There is no doubt that these roasteries have made a name for themselves by producing good coffee, however it is impossible to argue that any of them could have the same level of experience as many Italian Roasters where the methods and traditions have been passed down through the generations. Italian coffee blends, and roasting techniques have been perfected over time and are closely guarded secrets, usually kept within the company or sometimes within the family. A notable example of an Italian coffee family, is the Zanetti family. Marco Zanetti is a 7th generation owner in a family coffee dynasty dating back to 1700. The Zanetti family is home to established brands such as Segafredo, La San Marco and Caffè Mokarabia. Experience and know-how cannot be acquired in a few short years and every reputable Italian coffee company employs one or more roasting masters, each with their own secret recipes. Italian roasts tend to be on the darker end of the spectrum, exhibiting a rich brown colour with little oil on the bean, while producing an incredible variety of flavours and aromas. While a coffee aficionado can enjoy and appreciate a coffee from most roasteries, few would disagree that Italian coffee is different from others.
Italy is also the ancestral home of many of the drinks we know and love today. In 1901, Luigi Bezzera came up with the idea of forcing pressurized water through coffee powder to produce a short, concentrated drink, known as Espresso. Espressos form the base for most drinks which we enjoy at home or at restaurants, including Americano, Cappuccino, Latte, and the Australian Flat White. Of course, coffee is now a global industry and techniques, standards, and the science behind coffee have come a long way since Luigi Bezzera, however it’s only right that we acknowledge the role that Italian coffee roasters and coffee bars have played in making strides within the coffee industry. Without these key historical events, the world of coffee may have been very different.
Italian coffee is different from other coffees.
Why? All coffee roasters buy their beans from the same countries and yet Italian coffee has a distinct taste. This is largely due to the aforementioned techniques and industry secrets, but there’s more to it. Italian coffee brings with it the culture of Italy. It is truly an experience unlike any other. Cappuccino in the morning and Espresso after lunch, a perfectly extracted, aromatic, full bodied coffee every time from just 7 grams of ground coffee. Each blend with its own unique characteristics, much like the people and places of Italy. Coffee made from a traditional Moka Pot, or stove top espresso maker, or from home espresso machine brings the experience to life! Bonus points if you use Italian branded coffee cups.
Have you experienced Italian coffee? Have you tried the variety of blends and brands available? Every coffee lover should at some point get a taste of the proverbial homeland of coffee as we know it. Is Italian coffee really the best? Many would say ‘Yes,’ but I encourage you to decide for yourself. Explore the variety of Italian coffee, and experience what hundreds of years of tradition can produce. You won’t be disappointed!
Personal preference dictates that each of us can like what we like, and enjoy what we enjoy, regardless of what others think of it. In this article, I have explained why I believe that Italian coffee is superior to others. I understand that everyone may not agree with this sweeping generalisation and that it is perfectly reasonable to get amazing coffee from other sources. My only hope is that coffee lovers enjoyed reading it, and hopefully found some useful information.