Italian coffee culture: 5 things to know about how should you order coffee in Italy


Many Italians are currently up in arms over US coffee retail chain Starbucks’ efforts to open shop in the country. There is, after all, a huge deal to be said about Italian coffee culture.


After all, the first cafe serving coffee in Rome predates the US declaration of independence in 1776 by a full 16 years!

Now, Italians may not consume the highest amount of coffee per capita – that achievement belongs to the Finnish – but they sure do live by the coffee rules in a country where coffee rules.

Here are five things you should know about ordering coffee in Italy:

1. No milk after mornings

Coffee with milk is to be reserved only in the morning. Drinking something like a latte after a meal is considered odd in Italy, because milk only adds to the heaviness of the meal.

[Representational image] | Photo credit: Creative Commons

2. No bells and whistles

Do not expect the barista to comply to your requests of adding extra things like cream and froth or anything else to the coffee. Of course, there are some exceptions, but true Italian coffee is simplicity itself.

3. No ‘espresso’ or ‘expresso’

“Espresso” in Italian is a dosage or a measure, and not exactly a kind of coffee. So if you actually ask for a coffee, you end up getting an espresso shot. Say “double,” and you get double espresso.

But you may be looked down upon because Italians like to space out their coffee consumption. And please, never ever refer to it as “expresso!”

4. Don’t dilly-dally

In most cases, the coffee that you will be served will be of the optimum temperature. This is so that you can have your coffee as soon as you get it. Wait too long, and it may get too cold.

[Representational image] | Photo credit: Creative Commons

5. No sitting room

For Italians, coffee isn’t exactly a relaxation beverage. As in, they will not nurse the drink, choosing instead to down it fast and leave.

Thus, many cafes do not have sitting areas. This is in stark contrast to cafes across most of the world, where coffee is an accompaniment in friendly gatherings, or for when you decide to sit in a coffee shop and work. Do not expect to do so in most Italian cafes.

Got anything you would like to add about Italian coffee culture? Tell us in the comments below!

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