I enjoy drinking tea and coffee, but I am aware that caffeine is a drug and I am conscious of the implications. Some years ago, I gave up caffeine for a week. It took about two days for the headache to go away. This proved to me that I was physiologically addicted to the stuff and this realization changed my behavior. I decided to just have one cup of coffee each day, in the middle of the morning. The rest of the time, I would drink tea [3-4 cups in a day], which is considerably lower in caffeine.
After my recent trip to Italy, I have been thinking about coffee in that country …
Because I am limiting myself to a single cup of coffee each day, I want it to be a good one. I have always felt that the Italians do coffee best, so, five years ago, I bought myself an espresso/cappuccino machine. I have used it just about every day since and it is now overdue for service or replacement. It takes a little time each morning to make my brew, but I quite enjoy having learned how to do it consistently.
I noticed that, in Italy – or, at least, in Bologna – it has become common to serve a glass of water with a coffee. I had seen this before with an espresso, but not with a cappuccino, so this is an interesting change. The milky, frothy cappuccino is really only considered appropriate for breakfast. Having it at other times, even when I order with my best accent – “Due cappuccini per favore”, labels me as a tourist. Someone once told me that the Italian view of drinking coffee later in the day is much like we might feel about having Horlicks with lunch.
I am also unlike most Italians in that I do not take sugar. This got me into slight trouble a few years ago. I was working with some Italian colleagues and we went to have an espresso. As we were in an office, this meant that we had to use a machine. I was stuck. I could not fine the option for “senza zucchero” – the machine could only make coffee with sugar. I explained my problem to my colleague, who demonstrated the solution. He selected “coffee with sugar”. As soon as the tiny plastic cup appeared, he grabbed it and emptied the sugar onto the floor and popped the cup back into the machine. It was then filled with coffee and I got what I wanted. I felt that this was a very Italian solution to the problem. I noticed afterwards that the whole area in front of the machine was crunchy underfoot – this was not the first time that this trick had been used!