Article 22: Worldview in a cup of Italian coffee
The essential content of the Italian-style coffee atmosphere is crystallized from the desire to define the national identity, to promote the immutable values of a people that was once the center of typical civilizations.
The history of Italy is the continuation of the civilizations of Etruscans, Magna Graecia, Roman… However, the invasion and settlement of many different peoples made Italy a multi-ethnic country, including even autonomous sub-regions. For centuries, Italy was only a “geographical expression”, with no national identity.
Italy was first politically unified under Rome – an empire dubbed “Imperium sine fine” – an empire that had no end, was not limited in either time or space, and at the same time is the model empire for the cultural, technological, military and social preeminence of the time. After the fall of Rome, Italy from the center of European civilization continued to fall into chaos and division. However, the dream of a lasting civilization has never disappeared. Italians had been and always nostalgic for their national roots, and they aspired to once again recreate a heroic and unified history. Because of that, Italy became the origin or strong implementation of the movements of Campanilismo (Patriotism), Risorgimento (Revival), Renaissance, Enlightenment…
Italians, when approaching coffee, also tried to create a new style of enjoyment, expressing their desire to identify the national soul and national character through the ritual of enjoying a cup of coffee.
Culinary style is always closely related to the concept of human existence. Ottoman coffee is considered a spiritual ritual, in the direction that people live according to the rules of the Supreme. The form of divination (Fassomancy) after drinking a cup of coffee is a prophecy about the future of the beholder. Italians, after receiving drinks from the Muslim world, have continuously improved their processing methods as well as their enjoyment. This is also the extraordinary thinking, mastering the operating laws of nature, proving man’s own existence.
The perfection of Espresso coffee reveals the world-view of Italians. The way coffee is prepared and enjoyed are expressions of ideas about people’s roles in life, creating a context for people to express what they want in their hearts. Espresso was born when the industrial revolution was developing and spreading in Europe. Entire society moved in the machinery of production and creation. The creative trend of application of this period was basically to expand and strengthen economic, political, military and religious power… Coffee became energy for both mind and body, bringing to the heart necessary motivation to create a knowledge society. The Italians created Espresso from their national heritage, engaging in contemporary life to create the future.
The process of continuously improving the style of coffee enjoyment has also set the “mission” for Espresso to continue and celebrate the brilliant civilization of the Italians. Indeed, the Italian coffee civilization became a symbol of modern life – new, full of vitality, dominating the coffee world during the 19th century, shaping and representing the style of coffee enjoyment in the whole of Europe. Along with the rise of coffee, Italy from the weakest country in Europe became one of the strongest. The economy boomed, artistic values revived. Cities with typical and famous coffee culture such as Rome, Venice, Milan, Padua, Turin… have become famous centers of Italian culture.
National soul essence
Espresso is prepared from state-of-the-art equipment that requires the highest precision of all brewing methods. Even small variations in dosage, extraction time, temperature, extraction yield, roasting date and even atmospheric pressure… can affect the taste of the coffee.
Moreover, the Italian Espresso cup is different from all Eastern and Western forms of coffee enjoyment by the wobbling Crema layer on the coffee surface, created during the extraction process through the Espresso machine without stirring. The technique of creating Crema depends on the talented hands of the bartender.
The delicate requirements, technical and artistic harmony has turned coffee makers – Baristas – into artisans who play the role of mastering and performing the concentration, color and form of coffee being extracted. In this sense, the Italians have a millennial tradition of artistic inclinations. The golden past reappears in every step of operation to create the perfect cup of Espresso. And so, coffee is now a drink that embodies national soul – national identity.
Variations of Espresso such as Cappuccino, Latte, Mocha, Americano, Lungo, Ristretto… were created so that everyone of different ages, genders, and times could enjoy a cup of Italian-style coffee. But in the end, despite the differences in ingredients and methods of preparation, coffee products created on the basis of Espresso have to form that typical Italian coffee atmosphere.
The two dimensions of tradition and modern create the identity of Italian style coffee. Even the voice of the identity, the deep desire of the Italians. Even though the environment and social circumstances change, psychological nature and national aspirations are still constant values, perhaps re-adjusting to adapt to life – which is indeed an art of humanity.
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Coming up: Understanding a cup of Cappuccino