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A Guide To Drinking Coffee In Italy

A Guide To Drinking Coffee In Italy

Emily Shaw

We’re Italian, which means we love coffee. It’s just as much part of our culture as a delicious pasta dish - which is why we’ve created two special blends for you to try.

Portofino coffee - whole beans - ground coffee - Scarpetta Pasta

But before you do, get to know the basics of Italian coffee culture - from the absence of the ‘take-away’ to regional specialities.

Never drink a cappuccino after 11am

Traditionally, Italians will never drink a milky coffee after 11am. Why? Because milk is thought to be too heavy to drink in the afternoon or after a meal. And if you think about how filling a cappuccino or latte can be, it kind of makes sense.

If you need a coffee hit during the day, think about an espresso - which in Italy we just call Caffé - or a variation of it such as a Doppio, which is a double shot. These drinks give you all the energy you need, without filling you up.

Keep it simple

While you might be used to ordering a pumpkin spice latte with a dash of whipped cream - that’s not really how we do things in Italy. Rather, we like to keep it simple.

So simple in fact, most coffee orders can be made with just one word. Classic coffees include the Caffé, Americano and Macchiato. There may be a few options to add sugar or a sprinkle of chocolate - but nothing like the complexity you might find in your favourite UK coffee haunt.

Italian coffee - Scarpetta Pasta

Size really does matter

When you order coffee in Italy, you probably won’t need to specify which size cup you’d like. That’s because there are specific sizes for each coffee and your Barista will serve you the correct one.

Don’t expect to be able to take-away

In most Italian coffee shops and bars, you can’t take your drink away with you. It’s expected that you’ll order your drink, take a few moments to drink it at the bar, and leave.

You can order a pastry to eat alongside it, and even have a quick chat with the barista - but generally the whole experience takes just a few minutes. Or as we call it, a quick pausa.

Do expect consistency

Wherever you are in Italy, the coffee you buy will usually always be heavily roasted, with a bittersweet taste and with a crema on top. 

Because of this, you’ll get your coffee fast, and the quality will be high - with no extravagant toppings or intensely sweet syrups to distract from the authentic coffee flavours.

Remember to enjoy regional coffees

Depending on where you are in the country, you might be lucky enough to enjoy one of Italy’s regional coffees.

For example, if you’re in the Piedmont region, we’d recommend the Bicerin, a style of coffee from Turin. This one’s a real treat, with coffee, chocolate and cream. When served, you can see all the layers individually - it’s then customary to stir them together, releasing a blend of warming aromas. 

At Scarpetta, we love the Portofino and Vesuvio coffee blends - both available to buy as ground coffee or whole beans. The Portofino is famous for its bitter cocoa and spices - along with a richly persistent aftertaste. The Vesuvio is another bold roast, boasting fragrances of toasted cereal and caramel. 

Vesuvio coffee - whole beans - ground coffee - Scarpetta Pasta

And remember to spread a little kindness

A tradition recently creeping back into popularity due to circumstances dealt by the pandemic is the caffé sospeso, meaning ‘suspended coffee’. 

Suspended coffees happen when a person buys two cups, but only enjoys one themselves. The other is reserved for somebody less fortunate. This tradition began in Naples. If you'd had some good luck you'd order an extra coffee for someone who hadn't been quite so lucky. Later, somebody less well off would be able to come in and ask if there were any sospeso available, receiving a coffee for free.

This caught on, and soon it was commonplace in Italy for people to be able to ask for a sospeso. A classic Italian act of kindness.

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