Ordering coffee in Italy is taking part in an ingrained ritual of Italian culture, and like many rituals, it is full of seemingly strange rules. Before you get your caffeinated fix from your local barista, make sure you know how to order your coffee like a true Italian.
1. Milk is for mornings only
Any coffee beverage that includes milk, be it a cappuccino or latte, should not be consumed after 11 am or after a meal. Italians believe that the combination of hot milk and food in your stomach has an unsettling effect, so make sure to order your cappuccino before you start your day. Many Italians will have a breakfast of un cappuccino and a pastry, such as una brioche al cioccolato, as seen above.
2. Don’t drink and sit
If you’re ordering un caffè in an Italian café, you’ll probably notice that most Italians are standing and drinking their coffee. In Italy, cafés are known as bars, and for good reason – Italians order their coffee at the bar, drink their coffee at the bar, and pay for their coffee at the bar, all while standing.
3. Speaking of paying for coffee…
Different bars have different methods for their patrons to pay for their coffee. Some cafés have you order and pay at the register before bringing your receipt to the barista to make your drink. Others allow patrons to order and drink their coffee at the bar first, and then tell the cashier what they had to pay before leaving. To be certain, take a look at what the other customers are doing and follow suit.
4. Know what you’re ordering
When ordering your coffee, there’s no need to say espresso – a single espresso is un caffè. For those unfamiliar with espressos, you’ll be getting a small cup of strong coffee served on a saucer. If you ask for a latte, you’ll be getting a tall glass of milk. Order a caffè latte instead. There’s also typically no extensive list of flavored coffee, so try to keep your order simple.
5. Feel free to visit again later
Italians typically don’t drink un caffè doppio, a double espresso, but it’s not because they don’t consume that much coffee. Rather, Italians visit their local bar multiple times a day to drink several small cups of coffee, often chatting with the barista before going to their next appointment or errand.
If you don’t have the Italian coffee rituals memorized, don’t worry – the servers will be there to assist you, as most of them are friendly and happy to help.
Enjoy your caffè!