Coffee Politics

Coffee. The dark nectar. The reason you make it to work with your eyes open. The glue that repairs broken friendships. An excuse to waste hours of the day chatting with a cute guy over a cappuccino slowly going cold… More than just a strong caffeine hit. And let’s not forget, it is the famous best friend of students worldwide. Coffee is way more than just a beverage. It’s one of the drugs least frowned-upon all over the world- and the dealers who know exactly how to perfect their product are the famously thirsty Italians.

Italian simplicity

Drinking coffee is a natural movement in an Italian’s day. It is so ingrained in their routine that they don’t even realise they’re doing it. “Prendiamo un caffè?” is not so much a question in Italy, it is a declaration that’s rarely resisted by the addressee.

To explain how habitual it is to drink a quick caffè (a single espresso) whilst out on the go, bars often have two prices for the same drink. Your bill depends on if you drink al banco or al tavolo (at the bar/at a table); obviously costing almost double for those cappuccino-drinking tourists who almost definitely need the table to support their DSLR camera-weakened arms as they slowly sip away.

On that note, let me tell you rule numero uno about drinking cappuccino in Italy: it is a breakfast drink and you are likely to incur an eye-roll (or two) when ordering after midday.

Coffee done wrong?

Outside of Italy, however, for example in the UK, we have a different attitude towards coffee. Obviously there are the usual grab-and-go to the office types, but from my experience as a twenty-something-year old student, going for a coffee in the UK is often a much more leisurely affair. Coffee dates can last between 30 minutes to an hour or more! We English don’t simply order a coffee and drink it without a chair beneath us- are you crazy? We utilise the time to catch up with friends and treat ourselves to a nice piece of pie while we’re at it!

The best cappuccino I have ever tasted in Rome!
Furthermore, unlike the simple flavours of classic Italian coffee, popular places such as Starbucks and Costa in the UK give the opportunity for the double-shot-skinny-vanilla-latte-with-a-dash-of-cinnamon-or-cocoa-when-feeling-frisky drinkers to also join the party, often following fashions and celebrity trends.

So, what is the correct way to drink coffee? After living in Italy for the past 6 months, I have experienced both the quick caffè and the hours sat with numerous cappuccini being delivered to my table in my favourite cosy coffee shop. I have come to the conclusion that there really is no right way of drinking coffee. To avoid looking like a tourist in Italy it is important to obey the ‘midday rule,’ but apart from this, I would say that anything goes.

P.s, here’s a recent article declaring fashionable Starbucks’ entry into the Italian coffee market! How do we all think that’ll go?