Here at Rae’s Café, we celebrate Italian Coffee Culture. Below is a great article from our friends at italymagazine.com, written by Barry Lillie.
It would be fair to say that Italians are passionate about coffee. So much so, you would think they had discovered it. They didn’t. To make up for this, however, they have invented a coffee culture unequalled anywhere else in the world.
When coffee was first shipped from the Middle East to Venice, it caused a furore and was almost banned from entering the port. Coffee houses were already established in Istanbul, but the fate of this stimulating drink was in the hands of Islamic preachers, who at first considered it on a par with alcohol. Eventually, it was accepted under Islamic law and trade began briskly in the 16th century.
Coffee houses in Venice sprung up and very quickly the black liquid, which was until now solely consumed as a medicinal drink, achieved cult status, making it a luxury item, out of reach for most of Venetian society. However, as coffee plantations became established within the European colonies in South America and Asia, availability increased, the price decreased and as it became more accessible to the poorer population, it ceased to be seen as purely medicinal.
With over two hundred coffee houses along its canals, the reputation of this wonderful new drink soon spread to the neighbouring cities of Verona, Milan and Turin. Elegant new coffee houses were built and some of these original houses still remain to this day.
Turin’s oldest surviving coffee house opened in 1763: Caffè Al Bicerin, situated on Piazza della Consolata, is home to the historic drink of Turin, the ‘Bicerin’, whose recipe remains a closely guarded secret. Once frequented by the aristocracy, including the likes of Puccini, Cavour and Dumas, the tiny space has only eight marble-topped tables meaning there is often a queue of people waiting outside to sample the delights within.
Coffee consumption soon spread to Rome and the rest of the peninsula, with imports arriving at the ports in Naples, Bari and Sicily. The spread nationwide escalated and it wasn’t long before every household in Italy became familiar with the drink, eventually evolving in a culture that is still relevant today.