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A Latte More Than Just a Cup of Coffee

While many Americans visit their local Starbucks for coffee on a daily basis, not many realize that the entire establishment was first inspired by CEO Howard Schultz’s experiences in Italian cafes.  During a visit to Italy, Schultz discovered the sociological impact of coffee shops on the Italian way of life and pondered the possibility of providing the same experience to Americans whom he felt also would benefit from place other than work or home in which to savor coffee and socialize. Schultz was impressed with the manner in which the Baristas, or coffee bartenders, took pride in making and serving a variety of coffee concoctions.  He admired their connections with customers who customarily stand at a coffee bar sipping their Espresso before heading to work or during a mid-day break.   It is quite common to see Italians chatting while gathered at corner espresso bars similar to the proverbial American water-cooler conversations.

Starbucks would not exist without Italy, and Italians just might not exist without coffee.  Italians are coffee aficionados who will simply not visit an establishment that has bad coffee.  A typical Italian coffee menu looks nothing like the wide variety of cold and hot beverages served at Starbucks.  Coffeesearch.org reports that Italian coffee bars average sales are 230.3 cups a day of which:

  • 59.8% are sold as espressos
  • 13.5% are sold as cappuccinos
  • 12.3% are sold as correttos or Italian espresso that is modified by adding grappa, an Italian liqueur or brandy.
  • 9.9% are sold as macchiattos, which literally means 'marked' or 'stained' in Italian and in this case, is a beverage made with one shot of espresso and a teaspoon of milk, or the stain.
  • 4.5% are decaffeinated coffees

While nearly all Italians drink coffee every day, the National Coffee Association found in 2000 that 54% of the adult U.S. population drinks coffee daily (NCA Coffee Drinking Trends Survey, 2000).  This is another reason why the Italian lifespan is longer than the Americans’.  Many studies have shown that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease and dementia.  Better yet, coffee drinkers have fewer cases of certain cancers and strokes .

When you visit Italy, be sure to stop and savor an Italian coffee.  The experience is so much more than simply sipping a beverage; it’s a treat for all five senses.  From the slow-paced streets of Frosinone, the birthplace of my grandmother, to the canal-facing cafes in Venezia, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a poorly-pressed cup of Italian coffee.

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