Scuola Internazionale delle Arti, della Lingua e della Cultura Italiana

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The history of coffee

The history of coffee in italian cultureBitter or sweetened, in a glass or in a large cup, macchiato or shaken. No matter how you prefer it, there is no doubt: coffee for Italians is a real ritual! From the morning alarm to the evening digestive, every moment of the day can be marked with a good coffee. The secret? The intense aroma and the enveloping scent that emanate with each cup. Yet what seems to be a 100% Italian custom has, in reality, very distant origins. Let's discover them together!

With small red fruits that resemble cherries, the Coffea is an evergreen shrub that grows in the equatorial and tropical regions. It is a plant extremely sensitive to temperature changes, to humidity, and includes almost a hundred species of the Rubiaceae family. Only some of these varieties are grown for coffee production. The curious thing is that the aroma of these fruits is not contained in the pulp, but in the seeds! It is in fact the seeds that, roasted and ground, give us that full-bodied infusion with an irresistible aroma. The origins of coffee are shrouded in mystery: some date back to the 6th century on the highlands of Kaffa, a province of southwestern Ethiopia. Legend has it that a shepherd, having noticed the invigorating power that these vermilion berries exerted on grazing sheep, used them to make an infusion of unmistakable aroma, capable of keeping him awake all night.

Over the next ten centuries, the practice of roasting and grinding coffee beans spread throughout the Arabian peninsula and Egypt. It is with the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and the Mediterranean trades of the Republic of Venice, that coffee began to spread throughout Europe. Studies on its’ properties began in Venice; in his "De Medicina Egyptiorum" of 1591, the doctor and botanist Prospero Alpini, speaks for the first time in history of the coffee plant and its fruit. Carlo Goldoni, author of the comedy "La bottega del caffè" of 1750, is also Venetian, while the traditional "tazzulella e’ cafè, the cup of coffee celebrated in poems, songs and films of the last century, is all Neopolitan!

A must at breakfast and after lunch, to recharge between study sessions, or as an invigorating break between a meeting and a business appointment, the Italians have their own way of enjoying coffee, and having an espresso at the bar is an indispensable ritual. Served in a small cup and with a foamy hazelnut- color cream, coffee is drunk short, hot and strictly bitter.
What about you? How do you take your coffee?

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