The vibrant southern Italian city of Naples seems to run on espresso. Marcello Uzzi, who offers high-end tours of his city, says the city’s excitement is due in part to its love of coffee.
A regular stop on his tour is Caffè Gambrinus, which was established before Italy was, back when Naples was a kingdom. “It’s like a temple,” Uzzi said.
And coffee here is like a religion.
“Talking about coffee, you know, it’s just like talking about pizza – it’s part of our tradition,” Uzzi said.
Espresso – simply called “coffee” here – takes about 30 seconds to brew, and a little less than that to drink.
But Moreno Faina, who works for the Italian coffee powerhouse Illy, recommends taking your time. He says it’s a real shame to simply knock it back. (And he knocks back a lot – about 10 cups a day.)
“Think about what happened before the 50 beans were selected,” he said. “How many people were involved in preparing the right cup of espresso. And then you have to appreciate the balance, the right level of bitterness, and the sourness, and the sweetness.”
There’s so much to know that Illy developed a University of Coffee at its headquarters in the northeastern port city of Trieste.
Barista Stefano Giannini is a sort of coffee professor at Illy. He said there are more than 140 rules that can affect the final result in the cup.
So, what exactly is espresso? “If you consider from Latin, expressum, it means ‘under pressure.’ This is the way we extract the coffee,” Giannini said.
Italians invented this highly-calibrated method of preparation, but first the beans are roasted and ground just right – an art in itself.
Illy imports coffee beans from about two-dozen different countries, and at any given time it has about 100,000 bags of it on hand. That is enough to brew more than 650 million cups of coffee.
That seems just about enough to fuel the city of Naples … which brings us back to Marcello Uzzi.
Doane asked the tour guide, “There’s a bit of competition here among different Italian cities. Who has the best coffee?”
“How can you compete with our coffee? It’s impossible!” he laughed.
Indeed, espresso is brewed under pressure – with a fair dose of passion, and pride.
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Story produced by Mikaela Bufano.
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