If any of you are familiar with my posts on Zomppa, you will know that I am somewhat partial to a good cup of coffee. That first sip in the morning just brings such a soothing and comforting start to my day. I generally hate pretty much every aspect of mornings, so that first cup of coffee is the one oasis in what is otherwise a battle to get out of bed and attempt to function in a somewhat coherent fashion.
Okay so I am no expert in coffee, but I like to think I am. I drink it and having been born and raised in the country that feels it has essentially invented the art of good and proper coffee – Italia – I do believe it is part of my DNA.
Contrary to popular belief, the consumption of coffee did not originate from Ethiopia. The Arabs were making beverages out of coffee beans as far back as the 15th century, well before the legend of the local goat herder in Ethiopia discovering how his goats became more energetic when they ate those bright red berries. It is a cute story though and you read it here.
From the Middle East, coffee then made its way to Italy in the late 1500′s as it reached the port of Venice. The first European coffee house opened in Italy in 1645 and Italy proceeded to bring coffee to the rest of Europe and beyond. Interesting fact: coffee became more widely accepted after it was deemed a Christian beverage by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the “Muslim drink” which had come from the Middle East.
What I find fascinating is how this relatively simple beverage has become so engrained in the fabric of so many cultures over the centuries and how it is such a popular every day commodity worldwide with so many variations of serving it. A frequent international traveller, I often just ask for regular “coffee” when I arrive in a new country to see what I will get. For the purposes of this article, I’m sticking to black coffee as going into all the varieties once you add things like milk and chocolate will only complicate matters here.
In Italy when you ask for a “caffe” you get an espresso shot, this is whether you are at a bar or someone’s house. Difference being that at the bar you will get it from a sizable machine and at someone’s home you will often get it from a stove top Moka machine.
Fellow Latin countries like Spain, Portugal, and even France would tend to have similar minimalist servings to Italy when you ask for coffee although shots are slightly larger than in Italy.
Although I have never been to South America, I hear from friends that coffee will often vary from one country to the other, but again you will see similarities with southern European countries. One other common version will be coffee being filtered through the sock (no, not a regular sock, sock) percolated coffee which originates from the region.
In Arab countries you will generally be served what is often refered to as Turkish coffee, where finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot and served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. Turkish coffee servings are also rather small and even stronger than an espresso.
In the UK and Ireland, it can vary. In someone’s house that can often mean a simple spoonful of Nescafe instant granules in a mug of hot water, or a mug of French press cafetiere. If you pick up a coffee outside, you will find that people generally just ask for an Americano if they want a regular coffee.
In North America, when you get a cup of coffee, it has generally been percolated coffee though a paper filter. That seems to be whether you are in Starbucks or in someone’s house. Like the UK though, many folks also ask for Americanos.
So, if I had to give you my top 3 black coffee favorites, they would be as follows:
- Caffe/espresso in an italian bar
- Moka espresso made at home
- French press coffee
What’s your favorite?
Coffee Beauty Tips
As a side note, on my last trip to Italy (err, last week) I learned quite a lot about the beauty benefits of coffee. All I can say is don’t throw away those used coffee grounds, rather rinse them away once you have used them as a body scrub or on your hair. I don’t know how I missed this, but there are tonnes of recipes out there for natural body scrubs with coffee. Coffee is a great exfoliant and helps treat cellulite. When used on wet hair before you wash it, it will remove product build-up and leaves your hair smoothy and shiny (disclaimer: may darken your hair though). Coffee grounds are also supposed to help with bags and circles under the eyes. I am on a mission to explore and experiment further so will come back with a more in depth piece on my findings soon!