Coffee, coffee, everywhere!

Megan recently returned from The Core Florence Program  and shares some coffee tips below!

“I’d rather take coffee than compliments right now” – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women.

When I was accepted into the 2013 Core Florence program, I decided that I wanted to immerse myself, as much as possible, into the Italian culture which, of course, included the coffee culture. At the time, however, I had no idea that it would evolve into a full blown coffee love affair!

Each morning began with a cappuccino from my favourite little bar on Via Martelli just down from where I was living, by the end of my time in Florence I no longer needed to order it – I would simply walk in and the cappuccino would appear! An espresso would follow afternoon classes, usually accompanied by a gelato, and a few more in between! Whether I was starting my day, winding down for the evening, escaping the world of study, seeking inspiration, or feeling content after a long day of sightseeing – coffee helped me celebrate each moment.

The coffee culture in Italy is like a language of its own and ordering and drinking coffee like a local is, in itself, an art form. It is not like ordering a coffee in Australia, where you can quite simply order whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want – soy milk, decaf, half strength, extra hot, grande size, double foam, and a shot of caramel … quite honestly, if you ordered something like this in Italy, they would look at you like you had three heads! The biggest change for me was learning that a cappuccino is considered to be a breakfast coffee, so if I had ordered one after lunch time … cue three-headed look! I must confess that since my return to Australia I have found myself still unable to order a cappuccino after noon, it just doesn’t seem right anymore!

Here is a popular Italian coffee cheat sheet, and for further ‘coffee culture’ reading check out

  •  Caffè: This literally means “coffee,” but folks—in Italy, it’s an espresso! You don’t have to say “espresso” when you order (although if they know you’re a tourist, they might ask just to make sure). Just two days ago, we saw a family react with shock when the “caffè” they ordered came—as espresso, rather than filtered coffee. Oops!
  • Cappuccino: Espresso topped up with hot, foamed milk. It’s named after the Cappuccini, or Capuchin monks, because of the color of their hoods.
  • Caffè macchiato: This means a “spotted” or “stained” coffee, and in this case, it’s spotted  with a splash of hot milk.
  • Latte macchiato: Guess what this means? “Spotted milk”—in this case, a lot of milk with a spot of coffee.
  • Caffè americano: American-style filter coffee doesn’t exist here. Instead, if you order an “American coffee,” you’ll get Italy’s best approximate: espresso with hot water added.
  • Caffè lungo: A “long” coffee, i.e. with more water. It’s different than an americano because the difference actually happens at the espresso machine: when the espresso is actually being pulled, the process is slowed down so there’s twice as much water involved.

 What are some of your tips when ordering food or drink in a new place?