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History, Varieties, Origins and Brewing.

Espresso and Other Varieties

Italians like coffee. Correction Italians love coffee. So much so that according to, they consume 14 billion espressos every year, and account for 3.7 kilograms of the stuff per head. From all those beans, bars are selling on average 230 cups a day of which almost 60 percent are espressos and 13.5 percent cappuccinos.

So much information to take in, but perhaps the most interesting figure is the relatively small amount of cappuccinos being consumed on a daily basis. Of all the types of Italian coffee that are available, it is the shallow cup of espresso covered in a hood of steamed milk and perhaps a dash of chocolate powder on top that has become the symbol of the way that Italians consume their coffee.

King of the After-Dinner Table

However, the cappuccino is very much viewed as a drink to be taken first thing in the morning, after which the espresso becomes de rigueur. Certainly the latter is the undisputed king of the after-dinner table, and with good reason. A small bitter shot of arabica beans, or a blend of arabica/robusta is guaranteed to get the digestive juices flowing. However introduce a measure of frothy milk in the form of a cappuccino and your guests are going to find their full stomachs suddenly feeling rather queasy – nothing to do with your cooking, of course!

So restrict your cappuccino drinking to accompanying a morning cornetto, or croissant. And while we’re laying down the law, do not under any circumstances order a corretto before at least 11am. Well, not unless you want to elicit pitying glances from your near neighbours at the bar. Like espresso, corretto should be restricted to after dinner, consisting as it does of a shot of espresso “corrected”, or should that be “pepped up”, with a measure of liquor such as grappa, sambuca or vecchio amaro.

If stopping during the course of the day for a quick espresso at the bar, either to chew the fat, or dilute the taste of the fat from the barman’s rather second-rate panino prosciutto, there are a couple of variations on the theme worth taking a shot at: macchiato and stretto.

More Macho Than a Macchiato

Macchiato translates as marked or stained, in this case the deeply dark surface of the coffee being pierced by a dash of steamed milk. A stretto is a lot more macho than a macchiato, consisting of the same amount of ground coffee as an espresso but with less water to provide a thicker consistency and, shall we say, more intense caffeine experience.

As well as these more serious forms of coffee consumption, customers can opt for a freddo, or iced coffee, when the Italian sun begins to make its presence felt, or a latte, which like cappuccino involves a combination of a shot of espresso and milk, but in this case the two are mixed rather than presented as separate elements.

Finally, for northern European or visitors from across that Atlantic who find all these a little strong for their palate, most bar owners will serve an americano, which again consists of an espresso shot but diluted in a large cup of hot water with a portion of milk provided in a little jug.

According to a coffee legend, an Arabian shepherd named Kaldi found his goats dancing joyously around a dark green leafed shrub with bright red cherries in the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Kaldi soon determined that it was the bright red cherries on the shrub that were causing the peculiar euphoria and after trying the cherries himself, he learned of their powerful effect. The stimulating effect was then exploited by monks at a local monastery to stay awake during extended hours of prayer and distributed to other monasteries around the world. Coffee was born.

Despite the appeal of such a legend, recent botanical evidence suggests a different coffee bean origin. This evidence indicates that the history of the coffee bean beagan on the plateaus of central Ethiopia and somehow must have been brought to Yemen where it was cultivated since the 6th century. Upon introduction of the first coffee houses in Cairo and Mecca coffee became a passion rather than just a stimulant.


c 850
First known discovery of coffee berries. Legend of goat herder Kaldi of Ethiopia who notices goats are friskier after eating red berries of a local shrub. Experiments with the berries himself and begins to feel happier.

c 1100
The coffee first trees are cultivated on the Arabian peninsula. Coffee is first roasted and boiled by Arabs making "qahwa" — a beverage made from plants.

The worlds first coffee shop opens in Constantinople. It is followed by the establishment of two coffee houses in 1554.

c 1600
Coffee enters Europe through the port of Venice. The first coffeehouse opens in Italy in 1654.

Coffee is introduced to the New World by Captain John Smith, founder of Virginia at Jamestown… Some Canadian historians claim it arrived in previously settled Canada.

The first coffeehouse opens in England. Coffeehouses are called "penny universities" (a penny is charged for admission and a cup of coffee). Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse opens in 1688. It eventually becomes Lloyd’s of London, the world’s best known insurance company. The word “TIPS” is coined in an English coffee house: A sign reading “To Insure Prompt Service” (TIPS) was place by a cup. Those desiring prompt service and better seating threw a coin into a tin.

The opening of the first Parisian cafe dedicated to serving coffee. In 1713, King Louis XIV is presented with a coffee tree. It is believed that sugar was first used as an additive in his court.

The first coffeehouse opens in Vienna. The Turks, defeated in battle, leave sacks of coffee behind.

The Dutch become the first to transport and cultivate coffee commercially. Coffee is smuggled out of the Arab port of Mocha and transported to Ceylon and East Indies for cultivation.

The first coffeehouse opens in Berlin.

Coffee Plants are introduced in the Americas for cultivation. Gabriel de Clieu, a French naval officer, transports a seedling to Martinique. By 1777, 1920 million coffee plants are cultivated on the island.

The Brazilian coffee industry gets its start from seedlings smuggled out of Paris.

One of Europe’s first coffeehouses, Cafe Greco, opens in Rome. By 1763, Venice has over 2,000 coffee shops.

The prototype of the first espresso machine is created in France.

A process of using natural gas and hot air becomes the most popular method of roasting coffee.

c 1900
Kaffeeklatsch, afternoon coffee, becomes popular in Germany.

The first commercial espresso machine is manufactured in Italy.

The invention of the worlds first drip coffeemaker. Melitta Bentz makes a filter using blotting paper.

Dr. Ernest Illy develops the first automatic espresso machine.

Nescafé instant coffee is invented by the Nestlé company as it assists the Brazilian government in solving its coffee surplus problem.

Achilles Gaggia perfects the espresso machine with a piston that creates a high pressure extraction to produce a thick layer of crema.

Caffè Carissimi Canada, a network of espresso service providers is formed in Canada, modeled after a visit to Franco Carissimi (roaster and equipment manufacturer) in Bergamo Italy. It becomes the fastest growing network of private and independant super automatic machines providers in Canada.

Coffee is the worlds most popular beverage. More than 400 billion cups are consumed each year. It is a world commodity that is second only to oil.





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