Caffè is the Italian word for
coffee, (likely from "Kaffa", the region in Ethiopia where coffee originated) and may indicate either the Italian way of preparing this beverage at home or espresso, which is prepared instead with electrical steam machines. Notably, a coffee house in Italy is genereally termed a bar, and only in some cases a caffè, as opposed to most other parts of the world, where a coffee house is termed a café.
Italians, and especially Neapolitans, pay special attention to the preparation, the selection of the blends and the use of accessories, all part of a special culture focused on the drink.
Normally, within the
coffeeshopenvironment, the term caffè denotes straight espresso. When one orders 'un caffè' it is normally enjoyed at the bar, either with friends or alone or chatting with the barman (Italian: barista). The espresso is always served with a saucer and demitasse spoon, and sometimes with a complimentary wrapped chocolate and a small glass of water. While Caffè Espresso is normally drunken quickly, often with the elbow of the arm holding the cup resting on the bar counter, it may also be enjoyed for the duration of the afternoon, which is often a community custom for retired seniors.Fact|date=July 2008 In some regions of Italy, the ultimate compliment to a baristais to turn the cup upside-down onto the saucer,Fact|date=July 2008 as to indicate you enjoyed the drink thoroughly, and there is no liquid left in the cup.
The necessary instrument, the "caffettiera", is essentially a steam machine made of a bottom boiler, a central filter which contains the coffee grounds, and an upper cup. In the traditional Moka, water is put in the boiler and the resulting boiling water passes through the coffee grounds, then reaches the cup. The Neapolitan caffettiera has instead a different working function, and needs to be turned upside down when the drink is ready. Its boiler and cup are therefore interchangeable.
The quantity of coffee to be put in the filter determines the richness of the final beverage, but special care is needed in order not to block the water from crossing it, in case of an excess of grounds. Some hints prescribe that some small vertical holes are left in the powder by using a fork.
A small fire has to be used, in order to have the appropriate water pressure: a high pressure makes the water run too quickly, resulting in coffee with little flavour. The fire under the caffettiera has to be turned off ten seconds after the first characteristic noise is heard, and eventually lit again in case the cup was not filled.
Some claim that the more coffees the machine makes without being cleaned, the more tasty the final drink is. A good compromise between hygiene and taste, is having the caffettiera cleaned once every two days, before the coffee remains begin to turn bad.
Italians usually add sugar, often quite a fair amount.
The "caffetteria" is the public service in which caffè was traditionally made with Moka, and in the 19th century it was the specialized place for enjoying it, while the domestic habit started at the beginning of the 20th century, when caffettiere became available to the general public.
In elder caffetterie, art and culture events were held, being places in which the upper classes used to spend relevant parts of their days. So many of these places became important sites (like, for instance, the famous
Caffé Grecoat 84, Via Condotti, Rome; established in 1760) and became famous for being the usual meeting points of artists, intellectuals, politicians, etc. It was mainly enjoyed by men, while women organised their teameetings.
For an appropriate formal afternoon service, the caffè is always brought with a silver pot, porcelain cups (which should be the thinner and the less decorated as possible) are always on a small dish and have their small silver spoon on the right (on the dish). Sugar is brought apart, in porcelain pots, with a separate silver spoon. After the consumption, smokers are usually allowed to light their cigarettes (the service typically includes a porcelain ashtray) if not in the presence of women (who usually invite them to do it, if they wish). Pastry is not properly indicated to accompany this ceremony, but an exception can be made in case there are women at the table. The coffee pot has to be left on the table, for a second cup. After-lunch coffee is enjoyed in separate smaller tables, not at the main one, and children are obviously not welcome to join the team.
Cappuccinois not related to the traditional domestic coffee, being made with an espresso machine. However, caffelatte (also known as a lattein the U.S. and Café au laitin France) is made with a simple mixture of hot coffee and hot milk, and served in cups that are larger than tea cups. Caffetterie usually serve caffelatte too.
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