Espresso, or simply caffè to the Italians, still reigns supreme in the land of gelato and spaghetti. No matter where you are in Italy, whether in the North or the South, Italians’ love for espresso doesn’t waiver. You’ll find the cuisine varies greatly by region: pesto in Cinque Terre, heavily meat and cheese-based dishes in the north, and fresh tomato-based dishes in the south. And of course the wines as well, but not caffè.
I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to Italy a few times since moving to Dublin last March. It happens to be my favorite country. Can you blame me? On my most recent trip to the Emilia-Romagna region, one of the food capitals of the world (home to Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar, and Parma ham among others), I specifically noticed that tea was sparse and if there, buried in the back of a menu. Yet, coffee could be found around every turn.
If I may be honest, I am an equal lover of coffee and tea and believe they both serve a purpose. I love enjoying that deep espresso, though I’ll admit it’s an acquired taste if you’re used to weaker drip coffee. But I started to miss ordering a mint tea after a heavy meal, which I often do at home. While starting to think about why tea culture hasn’t really made its way to Italy, I had an epiphany. This realization may be obvious to you, but as so many places around the world have embraced tea for its social, medicinal, and health benefits, why the resistance in Italy? It’s not like Italians don’t love to sit out on the piazza and enjoy watching the world go by or linger over a 3-hour meal. But when it comes to espresso, it’s almost a disappearing act. Have you ever been to a real coffee bar in Italy? Well let me tell you, people are in and out. Someone will walk in, stand at the bar, motion to the barista for a caffè, and within minutes has received her espresso and sipped it down. And let’s not forget the final act of using a teaspoon to get every last drop of the delicious froth from the bottom of the cup. Such is the Italian way of consuming coffee and I think this rapid enjoyment of the beverage has stalled the adoption of tea…or it at least must be a contributing factor. What do you think?