Thursday, 7 February 2008

Milano: Italians and their Coffee (Part III)

No matter how long you stay in a place, there will always be some things that will perpetually amuse you about the locals. In India, the gossiping "aunty-jis" have been quite a spectacle to me. In Bahrain, the horn-honking rich Arab brats, who drove around the main street on Saturday night, made me smirk. Then, I came to Italy...and Italians just take the cake when it comes to amusing! As a people, they're passionate and gregarious by nature, and their enthusiasm no less of being contagious. Having been bitten by most of their favourite bugs, i.e. fashion, food and fun, one still remains a leering enigma...their passion for good coffee!

Myself being loyal to my Indian tea, or Chai as it's called, it took me quite some time to appreciate Italian coffee. A typical Espresso is a shot of deep brown coffee served in a little cup, and usually drunk on the counter of any remotely italian looking bar. One word: Strong! This is the purest form of Italian coffee, any slight variation, and there's another name for it! There's the Caffé Macchiato ( expresso "stained" with a bit of milk), Cappucino (steamed milk with expresso), Latte Macchiato ( Milk "stained" with expresso), Caffé Corretto ( coffee "corrected" with alcohol, usually Grappa), Caffé Americano (tall glass of expresso), Caffé Hag ( Decaf), Caffé Marocchino ( with some milk and cocoa powder)...and many, trust me, MANY more kinds...

To an ignorant outsider, like me, this special treatment given to a drink is nothing short of alluring. Watching Italians drink their espresso on the counter, any untrained eye would see it as a 3 second action, which doesn't require much thought or time to enjoy the drink. Eight years of experience however, opens your eyes to a lot more. It's not just an activity, its a ritual. Its an integral part of life. It's almost as religious as prayer. It's a lifeline! Try to take an italian of their coffee for a day, and there, you've unleashed a monster! It's this tiny little drink that keeps them so joyful and amiable. Miss a day of coffee, and all the grumpiness comes gushing out. Take my word for it, i've was NOT pleasant!

In Milan, like any other city, town, village, locale, etc, in this country, every corner has a bar or coffee shop or restaurant which serves italians their beloved drink. I've even written about one such place before, Lino's Coffee. But it is an entirely different experience making this coffee at home. Having recently moved into a typical century old italian house, I found several "macchine del caffé", i.e. coffee machines stacked up in the kitchen. There are 5 of them, all different sizes, depending on how many cups of coffee is needed to be made. Now, this Moka is a very special kind of coffee maker. I shamefacedly asked a friend to teach me, and he very professionally and proudly did. There are three "compartments" in this utensil. The bottom one is where you fill the water, the middle is a little containd, with filtering holes, where you fill the coffee, and then there's the top part, where you, well, dont put anything. The water boils in the lower container, and goes through, and then, with the coffee streams into the top compartment, from where you can pour the coffee out. Whoever thought of this thing must have been a downright genius, since making a coffee has never been simpler than this!

My belief about the love italians have for their coffee was reinforced when recently a friend, who's currently in America for an exchange program told me about her little exchange of words at the university caffeteria. It went something like this:
Friend: Hello, One espresso please.
Poor coffee girl: Ok, what size?
Friend: Umm, Bye.
Then she left.

So, if there's one (more) thing that you should never dream of messing up when around Italians, its their caffé!

That's all for now...there's a lot more where this came from.
Till next time...ciao!


adele said...

I wonder who that girl was...

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