Italianismi – The fragrance of coffee

The next chapter of “Italianismi nel mondo”, by Chiara Murru, explores the rich history and global impact of coffee, tracing its origins from the Middle East to its introduction in Italy. From traditional espresso, to its most popular variations such as cappuccino and caffellatte, coffee has become a staple in a vast array of beverages whose names have been spread worldwide.

The term “caffè” is usually used to describe both the tropical shrub plant Coffea and the beverage made from its roasted and ground seeds. The word originates from the Turkish “qahve,” which comes from the Arabic “qahwa.” Initially meaning ‘wine’ or an ‘exciting beverage,’ it later extended to denote the coffee drink. Introduced to Yemen in the late 14th century, it spread through Arab traditions and reached Italy in the 17th century through Venetian merchants.

Pellegrino Artusi, in his “Scienza in cucina,” emphasizes the widespread consumption of coffee in Italy, describing it as a precious, intellectually stimulating beverage. Coffee plays a central role in various global drinks, including espresso, caffellatte, and cappuccino.

Espresso, prepared on the spot with a special machine, was first documented in 1918. Caffellatte, a combination of coffee and milk, originates from “caffè e latte” and appears in its univerbated form in 1923. Finally, probably one of the most popular beverages in the world, cappuccino, named for its colour resembling Capuchin friars’ attire, has been documented since 1905 and is a prominent element in the global popularity of Italian gastronomy.


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