Italian coffee shop culture


The last time I was back home in Perth, Western Australia for a visit I suddenly became a victim to reverse culture shock.

A bizarre affliction for an expat living in Italy as every day you are battling tiny little moments of friction between yourself and your new home, but slowly you begin to adjust and don’t think about the smaller things.

And apparently, you begin to assimilate the new behaviour into your own personality without realising.

Then when you are back to where you think is home believing, you will be able to settle in comfortably without the feeling you are an outsider, when all of a sudden you realise how much you’ve forgotten about your hometown.

Speaking mostly Italian, I find myself losing words and helpful phrases, sometimes my accent becomes a little Italianized without me realising.

In Australia I miss the spontaneity of Italians, their ability to organise things on the fly. I find it strange not just to turn up at friends homes with no fuss. Simply a bottle of wine and whip up a bowl of pasta with whatever is in lying around. Instead I am peeved at having to make social appointments in advance only to go out to eat at disappointing restaurants and pubs.

I never order pasta at a restaurant in Australia as I’ve gradually become a pasta snob (yes there is such a thing). I will not eat over cooked pasta, it must be al dente.

Coffee 3
Now I feel awkward at Australian coffee shops. Don’t get me wrong I still love, all-day breakfast and brunch is a dirty little pleasure I always indulge in whenever I can, but it’s just I have a problem with coffee in Australia

I’ve become an avid espresso drinker in Italy. Every morning I have at least two cups of the thick black delicious liquid, I can’t get enough of it, I even will drink it without sugar to get the most of the bitter, full flavour.

I don’t crave thick creamy milk lattes, I can no longer stomach full cream milk cappuccinos or frappuccinos. Out with a friend for coffee, I accidentally ordered a latte instead of a flat white as I didn’t remember the difference and then felt terribly sick afterwards.


There are a lot of little Italian peccadillos, which I seem to have picked up without realising. I want my coffee in a cup, not a glass (it gets cold too quickly in a glass, and it tastes better in a cup), I want my cappuccino warm not boiling hot and I think people are strange to order a cappuccino in the afternoon (as it usually is a breakfast drink). I am yet to find a good espresso in Australia that does not taste bitter or burnt.

I like going to an Italian Caffe’, known as a Bar and having a quick, strong espresso while standing up, or grab a quick grappa if I’m feeling cold in the winter, or the ultimate ice coffee granita with whipped cream and brioche sweet bread in the summer.

I often wonder where on earth I will eventually feel more at home, in Australia or Italy. I’m currently debating whether I might need to create my own nation apart to accommodate my strange culture shock affliction.


For the record in Italy the coffee selection is usually as follows:

Cappuccino [cap-puc-cì-no] : equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk

Caffè latte [caf-fè] [làt-te]: espresso with more steamed milk and less foam

Latte macchiato [làt-te] [mac-chià-to]: steamed milk “marked” with a splash of espresso

(These milky coffees are only consumed until about 11am)

Caffè macchiato [caf-fè] [mac-chià-to]: For the softer side of coffee, enjoy this espresso “marked” with a splash of frothy milk. Unlike the breakfast drinks, this lightly milky caffè can be enjoyed as frequently as normal caffè.

Caffè corretto [caf-fè] [cor-rèt-to]: Literally translated as corrected coffee, this drink features espresso with a splash of alcohol, such as grappa or sambuca.

Caffè americano [caf-fè] [a-me-ri-cà-no]: After trying drip coffee in the United States, Italians decided to offer tourists a taste of home. Their interpretation: espresso diluted with plenty of hot water.

Caffè lungo [caf-fè] [lùn-go]: This “long coffee” comprises espresso with a splash of hot water but is stronger than the americano.

Marocchino [ma-roc-chì-no]: A marriage of cocoa and espresso. A shot of espresso, a layer of foam, and a sprinkle of cacao powder in a glass mug that has been dusted with cocoa powder.

Shakerato: The shakerato is Italy’s answer to an iced coffee.  A chilled espresso poured over ice and shaken to a froth.

Caffè freddo [caf-fè] [fréd-do]: Literally cold coffee, an espresso which has been cooled down in the fridge or freezer.

Crema di Caffè [crè-ma] di [caf-fè]: A mixture of whipped cream and espresso coffee, a light coffee flavoured dessert.

Caffè affogato [caf-fè] [af-fo-gà-to]: Another variation of dessert, have your coffee literally drowned in a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream.

Granita di Caffè [gra-nì-ta] di [caf-fè]:  Shaved iced coffee usually topped with whipped cream and consumed with sweet bread for breakfast in Sicily.

Bicerin [bitʃeˈriŋ]: A Piedmontese drink similar to a hot chocolate. Served in a big glass mixing coffee, chocolate and whipped cream.

Caffè al Ginseng [caf-fè] [gin-sèng] : An espresso prepared with ginseng extract and needs no other sweetener.

Caffè d’Orzo [caf-fè] [òr-zo]: A 100% naturally caffeine-free coffee made with barley.

Caffè Decaffeinato [caf-fè] [de-caf-fei-nà-to]: Decaf

14 thoughts on “Italian coffee shop culture

  1. I love WA but think the coffee is one of the very few drawbacks.
    We keep wondering about SA or Sicily? But for the lure of family I think it would be Sicily.

    1. I’m going to have to make it my mission to hunt down a good coffee in WA, it seems strange that it doesn’t exist.
      I think I’ll be going back and forth between Sicily and Perth …

  2. Funny to read this. I think I’ve done the reverse. When I lived in Britain, I loved the coffee I drank in France and Italy (although anything was better than what they drink in the UK). But then I moved to Australia and I think I’ve become used to their great pride in ‘silky milk’ with my flat white (although I agree that a latte here is revoltingly milky). Suddenly the coffee I drank in France and Italy felt too thin… But now I’ve found that the best way to drink coffee in France and Italy is with the focus on the coffee itself, not the milk – a noisette in France, a Caffe Macchiato in Italy, and both are brilliant again. The fine art of coffee, indeed!

    1. Yes coffee is indeed an art form. Each place has its own forte, Sicily is espresso, flat white in Oz and pan au chocolat in France 😉

  3. My coping strategy is that I rarely drink caffè outside of italy! If I have any in Canada it is an espresso lungo at home, but I don’t touch North American drip coffee at all. I usually drink tea. When I am in Italy I do enjoy caffè ! Ciao, Cristina

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