Italian coffee: origins, history and traditions

Italian coffee is a delicious drink that has ancient and fascinating roots. Since the 16th century, when the first coffee beans were introduced to Italy from the Middle East, this drink has conquered the hearts of Italians and given birth to a unique tradition in the world. Today, Italian espresso coffee is recognized as one of the excellences of Made in Italy, and Italian bars are famous for their to prepare a perfect espresso. In this article we will explore the origins, history and traditions related to Italian coffee, immersing ourselves in a journey of flavor and culture.

How the tradition of espresso coffee was born in Italy

caffè espresso italiano

The tradition of espresso coffee in Italy originated in Turin in 1884, when Angelo Moriondo, entrepreneur and inventor from Turin, patented the first espresso machine to satisfy the needs of its customers. Moriondo was the owner of two historic premises in Turin, and his espresso machine was presented on the occasion of the Italian General Exhibition of 1884.
Moriondo's machine was able to prepare coffee quickly and with a dense and persistent cream, and represented a real revolution in the world of coffee. Over the years, the tradition of espresso coffee has spread throughout Italy, becoming a cultural symbol.
Today, espresso coffee represents one of the excellences of Made in Italy, and is served all over the world in the characteristic small ceramic cups.

Some of the most popular Italian coffee drinks

Italian coffee offers a variety of tastes and preparations that have consolidated over the years.

Among the most popular Italian coffee drinks, we find the espresso, a concentrated coffee-based drink obtained by passing hot water through the coffee finely ground. The espresso is served in a small cup, and is characterized by a dense cream and a blend of intense aromas.

espresso - una delle bevande al caffè italiane più popolari

Another tradition associated with Italian coffee is the "caffè correct", a variant of espresso coffee enriched with a small amount of liqueur such as grappa, sambuca or macaroon. This drink is often served after meals as a digestive, adding a touch of sweetness and depth to the coffee.

The cappuccino is another iconic Italian drink, made up of espresso, frothed milk with the steam wand in bars and at home with a milk frother. The contrast between the intense coffee and the velvety milk creates a balanced and creamy flavour. The cappuccino is often accompanied by a croissant or a brioche for a complete Italian breakfast.

cappuccino -  una delle bevande al caffè italiane più popolari

The caffè latte combines espresso coffee with heated milk, creating a silky drink, ideal for those who prefer a less intense flavour.

caffè latte -  una delle bevande al caffè italiane più popolari

caffè macchiato is a drink consisting of an espresso coffee with a small amount of frothed milk. This balanced combination of coffee and milk offers a light taste and a more delicate experience.

The ristretto is an option for lovers of full-bodied coffee. This drink is prepared with less water than espresso, which produces a cup with a strong taste, a consistent crema and with a lower caffeine content than a classic espresso.

Italian coffee is known for its high quality and rich flavor. When you order a cup of coffee in Italy, you can be sure that you are drinking a delicious and authentic drink.

Some of the traditions associated with Italian coffee

Italian coffee is accompanied by a series of traditions that make it even more special. One of the fundamental aspects of Italian coffee culture is the moment of socialization that takes place at the bar. Italian bars are places of meeting and exchange, where people meet for a coffee break and to share moments of conviviality. Sipping a coffee at the bar is a ritual that involves all the senses, from the preparation of the espresso by the expert barista to its irresistible aroma.

caffè al bar - una delle tradizioni italiane

But the pleasure of Italian coffee is not limited only to the bar. Even at home, the preparation and tasting of coffee follow traditions appreciated by Italians. It can take place through different methods, but one of the most iconic is the use of the moka pot (link to prepare moka coffee). Once ready, you can enjoy it in your favorite cup.

consumo di caffè a casa

Morning coffee: Italians drink the first cup of coffee in the morning, at home or at the bar. It's a way to start the day and to socialize with friends and family.

The afternoon coffee break: Italians often take a break in the afternoon to enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry. It is a moment of relaxation and meeting with friends or colleagues.

Coffee in the evening: Italians often drink a cup of coffee before dinner. It's a way to wake up and prepare for the evening ahead.

Coffee is an important part of Italian culture. It's a way to socialise, relax and enjoy a delicious drink. Enjoy the different moments of the day with good music and a good coffee, accompanied by our playlists Coffee Vibes - Cellini Caffè on Spotify.

How the role of coffee has changed in Italian culture 

In the 16th century, coffee arrived in Venice thanks to Venetian merchants, arousing wonder among Italians who had never tasted a similar drink. In a short time, coffee spread rapidly becoming a popular drink and the first coffee shops opened their doors in the lagoon city.
An iconic place that symbolizes the rich history and culture of coffee is the Caffè Florian in Venice. Founded in 1720, Caffè Florian is one of the oldest cafés in Europe and continues to be a point of reference for lovers of coffee and the Venetian tradition.
Located in the suggestive Piazza San Marco, the Caffè Florian has attracted intellectuals, artists and illustrious personalities over the centuries. Its elegant interior rooms and outdoor tables offer a charming atmosphere in which immerse yourself in the culture of coffee and Venetian hospitality.

Throughout the centuries, coffee has become an intrinsic symbol of Italian culture, and the barista has been recognized as a respected and admired professional. The culture of coffee has always played a fundamental role behind the counter, but today, in the post-Covid-19 restart phase, the role of the barista is even more crucial.

Coffee has occupied a predominant position in Italian history, becoming a cultural protagonist. The culture of coffee in Italy has been strongly influenced by literature, theater and music, helping to create an indissoluble bond between coffee and the national Italian identity.

Coffee consumption in Italy 

According to the YouGov 2021 report, almost 4 out of 10 Italians drink 2 to 3 cups a day and the same from 3 to 4. coffee consumption increases with age, and is greater in the South than in the North. Currently, Italy is positioned as one of the main consumer countries of coffee in the world, with around 95 million cups of coffee sipped every day, corresponding to an average of 1.6 cups per inhabitant.

Despite the rooted tradition of "coffee at the bar", domestic consumption represents the majority of total coffee consumption, with 82% in Italy compared to 79% in the EU.

The distribution of coffee consumption in Italy sees over 50% of the volumes of roasted coffee sold through large organized distribution (GDO), followed by a further 20.6% through traditional retail, specialized shops and e-commerce. The remaining 25.2% is consumed in hotels, restaurants, cafeterias and caterers (15.4%), and through vending machines and office coffee services (9.8%).

80% of Italians over the age of 18 regularly drink coffee. Italians largely consider themselves frequent coffee drinkers, with 33% describing themselves as coffee enthusiasts, 47% as regular drinkers and 11% as occasional drinkers.

coffee is drunk mainly at home, with 58% of coffee drinkers consuming it more than once a day. 83% of Italians drink coffee at home at least once a day, while 8% do it at least once a week.
As regards the consumption of coffee outside the home, 23% drink it more than once a day and 22% drink it more than once a week.

The most common place for coffee consumption outside the home is the bar , chosen by 82% of Italians, followed by the office. The restaurant ranks third, and finally the university or school.

According to the Italians, coffee is associated above all with the morning. 80% of coffee drinkers at home consume it for breakfast, while the most common occasion for consumption outside the home is mid-morning. Post-lunch and mid-afternoon are also popular times for coffee.

In summary, Italian coffee is much more than a simple drink, it represents a centuries-old tradition, an excellence of Made in Italy and a moment of socialising, at the bar as at home. It is an authentic cultural experience that combines flavour, tradition and society and its ancient roots mix with modernity, offering a wide range of tastes and preparations that satisfy every palate.