un caffé, per favore!
Coffee connoisseur, Sara Rosso is on the trail of what you might call, “slow coffee.” Her book, How to Order an Italian Coffee, features beautiful photographs as well as descriptions of the different varieties of coffee in Italy. Rosso writes that coffee has achieved iconic stature in Italy, part and parcel of Italian identity. She also includes a pronunciation guide, tips for understanding the coffee bar culture in Italy, as well as instructions for how to make coffee at home like one of the locals.
Rosso’s book provides a much needed escape from the land of calorie-packed and artificially-sweetened frappucinos. Starbuck’s itself, has taken note of this new trend and has launched a series of espresso tastings in Paris. Slow-drip coffee, indeed!
Ever curious about the future of food and drink, Trend Tablet caught up with Sara Rosso for an exclusive interview. Join us in discovering what makes Sara tick and what to expect next from world of coffee! Text by Beth Lauck.
What inspired you to move to Italy and to write about your adventures with coffee?
Here’s a little confession: when I moved to Italy 9 years ago, I wasn’t a coffee drinker at all, neither espresso nor American coffee.But coffee is a very social thing in Italy and I found myself getting the occasional cappuccino with friends and colleagues, and it took a few years before I started drinking coffee every day. It’s the cornerstone to my morning now.
Before moving to Italy, you lived in the United States. What can we expect from Italian coffee that we wont find stateside?
That’s exactly why I wrote the book, How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy. I think coffee culture in America has its own flavor, but in Italy, the great thing about it is it’s pretty consistent everywhere you go. That’s what traditional means, really: that there are certain expectations, rituals, and guidelines which are followed. There’s some innovation in coffee culture in Italy but you won’t find people walking around with a thermos full of coffee drinks that are supposed to last all morning. The only time you’ll see a coffee to-go is when someone is delivering that coffee to someone to be consumed immediately.
Are there different kinds of coffees for different times of the day in Italy?
It depends on the drinker, but most Italians prefer to drink milk in their coffee mainly in the mornings. They order a cappuccino or make caffè latte (milk and coffee) at home, and will drink an espresso mid-morning and/or directly following lunch. You’ll never see an Italian drinking coffee during a meal that isn’t breakfast.
What is your favorite type of Italian coffee and why?
I started with the marocchino (sometimes called espressino) which is like a little cappuccino (espresso + foamed milk) served in a glass cup with a little cacao powder. Now I drink a simple espresso in the morning, every morning. If you want to really know if coffee is good, try drinking it black. Sugar and milk often hide the imperfections of an average or bad coffee. If you can drink coffee with no decoration, you’ll know if it’s a good blend or not. Also, since the espresso is supposed to be consumed immediately upon serving, it shouldn’t be too hot, either.
How do you see the future of coffee unfolding?
I think the progression will move from those who have been handed an experience (in Italy, in a coffee shop) to experimenting themselves and trying to own more of the experience from start to finish. People will start making more and more coffee at home which will be close to bar quality, whether it’s hand pressed or actually investing in the expensive equipment. I still get my coffee in a bar every day because I like the ritual and the social experience. There’s something about depending on a person to deliver the kickstart to your morning, and I
share that waking moment with the people around me. Walking into the fresh air for a few moments afterward also helps compound that post-coffee high.
The slow food movement has been gaining momentum for the last two decades. Is there such a thing as “slow coffee,” and where are we most likely to find it?
The Slow Food movement was actually born in Italy, so it’s not surprising to think that coffee would also have a similar movement here. But I think the Slow Coffee movement is actually the reverse - it’s moving away from these giant milky sugary drinks and stripping coffee down to its traditional (in this case, Italian) simplicity. It takes less than half a minute from ordering to delivering the espresso so you can drink it. Many Italians like to go to torrefazioni, coffee shops which roast and grind their own coffee beans, which I think is a step closer to knowing where your beans come from.