BlackGirlTravel.com :: Travel Tip
Coffee Italian Style

Italian coffee bars rarely have a menu or printed sign listing all their coffee drinks. So it helps to know what you like. Here are descriptions of the major Italian coffee drinks.

:: Espresso: A single shot of espresso, measuring 1-1/2 ounces. Served in a warmed demitasse -- a small cup that holds about 3 ounces. To take the chill off ceramic demitasse cups, fill them with hot tap water while waiting for the espresso machine to heat up. Fancy machines have a built-in warming plate for cups.

:: Espresso Doppio: A "double" shot of espresso, measuring about 3 ounces. Served in a large demitasse cup or a very small coffee cup.

:: Espresso Ristretto: A "short" or "restricted" espresso of about 1 ounce. Made by cutting short the water flow when brewing. Very syrupy and intense.

:: Espresso Lungo: The opposite of a ristretto, made by adding an ounce or two of hot water to a single espresso to make a milder or "long" cup. When diluted with 3 or 4 ounces of hot water, this drink is sometimes called an Americano, because it has a similar intensity as American-style brewed coffee.

:: Espresso Macchiato: A single espresso "marked" by a tablespoon of frothed milk. Perfect when you don't want all the milk used in a cappuccino or latte but aren't ready for plain espresso.

:: Espresso con Panna: A single shot of espresso with a small dollop of whipped cream. Very decadent and very delicious. Especially popular in the afternoon in Italy.

:: Espresso Romano: Espresso served with lemon peel. Italians turn up their noses at this American invention for good reason — the acidity in the lemon peel detracts from the flavor of the espresso. Real Italian restaurants serve espresso as is, with the sugar bowl on the side and nothing else.

:: Espresso Corretto: A single espresso that has been "corrected" with a splash of brandy, grappa, or other spirit. Some Italians have this for breakfast. Not recommended if you want to keep your job elsewhere in the world.

:: Cappuccino: A single espresso topped with equal amounts of steamed milk and frothed milk. Steamed milk has been heated; frothed milk is both heated and aerated and has a stiff, foamy consistency. Often dusted with cocoa powder or ground cinnamon. Nutmeg, a common duster in America, is rarely used in Italy.

:: Caffe Latte: This translates as "coffee with milk" and is similar to the French cafe au lait or the Spanish cafe con leche. In Italy, the latte is a morning drink consumed at home rather than in coffee bars. It's usually made with brewed coffee (rather than espresso) and steamed milk. It doesn't contain any foam. Americans have adopted this drink as their own, partly because it's easier to charge $3 for a coffee drink in a large cup. Most American coffee bars use espresso and add much more milk than they do in Italy. Some American coffee bars also add frothed milk. A thin crown of frothed milk makes this drink similar to a cappuccino. When a lot of foamy milk is added, this drink is indistinguishable from a cappuccino.

:: Caffe Mocha: Italian companies make dozens of syrups that are traditionally used to make sodas. A shot of syrup is poured into a tall glass that is then filled with soda water or fruit juice. American coffee bars have adopted these flavorings, adding them to espresso, something most Italians would consider disgusting. A caffe mocha is made by adding about half an ounce of chocolate syrup to a single espresso. The flavored espresso is then topped with several ounces of steamed milk. The appeal of adding chocolate syrup to coffee is understandable. Adding vanilla, almond, or hazelnut syrup makes some sense, but raspberry or orange flavor would conflict with the coffee flavor.

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