The simple coffee bean. It’s amazing how it can produce so many delicious drinks! But there’s more power in coffee beans than being the basis for tasty beverages. The majority of Umbra’s students are familiar with coffee culture in the United States, but at this year’s Coffee Workshop, 15 eager participants received an insider’s look (and taste) into the deliciously fascinating culture of coffee in Italy.
Professor Elisa Ascione, coordinator of the Food Studies program, first spoke to the students about the robust impact coffee has had on Italian culture and history. Although coffee is not originally from Italy, it was scooped up en masse when Arab merchants first brought it through the ports of Venice. Since its arrival, a vigorous cultural following has grown around the preparation, consumption, and enjoyment of coffee. Today, most Italians visit cafes for their caffeine fix multiple times each day. They tend to frequent the same cafes, building relationships with the owners and other customers while sipping their favorite drink. The tradition of going out for coffee has, in turn, become a social event.
While students enjoyed six different concoctions of espresso, milk, and water, Prof. Ascione highlighted the differences in what they were drinking. Cappuccino, for example, is enjoyed only for breakfast. An espresso (a single shot of strongly-brewed coffee) can be made lungo, with more water, or ristretto, with less water. Different quantities of milk and foam added to the coffee create different results, such as the caffè latte or latte macchiato. The different names can be confusing at first, but the group quickly mastered the terminology and discovered their own personal tastes for these delightful beverages.