Thursday, December 17, 2009

Italian Coffee Shops

This is for all of you hard core espresso drinkers.  Running into a bar for a quick caffe is a whole different experience than what you get back in the States.  No flavors, no promotions, no overly friendly barista trying to up-sell some product (no offense, I was that very barista for years) you just walk up to the bar and order your drink.  Seconds later you are sipping down that wonderful elixir feeling better with every drop that touches your lips.

After spending my college years refining my skills behind the espresso machine you might be able to imagine my excitement to come to the holy land and see where it all began.  From the moment you enter into a bar you know that you're in store for a whole different experience from that offered at an American coffee shop.  There's no line waiting with a bunch of impatient customers to be rung up (unless of course fresh bombolini have just come out of the back, but that is completely worth the wait).  Why is that you ask to yourself?  Its simple, the caffe is prepared their way.  There are no major modifications, no milk choices, no flavors to be added, no sizes, you may ask for it to go from some places but you get a funny look from the barista if you do.  When you don't have to make a large, extra foam, nonfat, no sugar added 4 pump vanilla cappuccino its easy to make drinks fast, so there's no line.  You simply chose from one of a few simple variations of an espresso and that's it.

For those of you who have spent time behind the espresso machine you know how annoying it can be when a customer is always trying to reduce the price of their drink by having the barista add something extra after they've paid.  Is the extra 50 cents or so really worth constantly aggravating the person who is serving you?  Absolutely not!  They have solved that problem here in Italy.  First get rid of all size.  Now there is no possible way that the customer could "accidentally" order a small when they really meant a large, I don't even want to get into tall versus grande.  Next get rid of all additions to the coffee, and you'll never have to hear "whoops, I forgot to tell them that I want chocolate in that, can you add some for me?" again.  Finally, when getting a caffe here you pay after you have ordered and enjoyed your drink.  I particularly enjoy this part.  Now even if there were things to change about your drink, it wouldn't matter because you'll pay for whatever you order.  Additionally, I think its nice that they trust their customers to pay their bill after getting their drink.  Its a very respectful way of conducting business in my opinion.

Now if you like your coffee with all the frills that is absolutely fine.  I have no qualms with that, but when you get rid of them the prices of coffee drops dramatically.  While you're paying 4.50 each time you need a drink I have yet to pay over 2 euro, and that was even a bit of a rip off.

From a barista's perspective I think that this is the environment that we all hope for.  Where the customer is not always right, and where people who don't like coffee don't try and cover it up with all kinds of flavors and gallons of milk.  Its a place where the barista isn't challenged.  Ahh, wouldn't that be nice.

Rachael has found what she is calling best coffee she has had just yesterday.  Hopefully I'll be investigating this claim soon and I'll be able to give my professional opinion on its quality by the end of next week.  Check back soon to find out.


  1. There may not be the choice of flavours, exactly, but they do have more than espresso! Apart from cappucchino (not to be had after about 10.30 a.m. - unless it's Sunday) there's cafe macchiato (a small amount of frothed milk), cafe americano (with hot water to make it larger), cafe corretto (with grappa or some other liquer), etc.

    Sorry if the spellings are wrong. My Italian is not that good :-D