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Continental Drifter

Continental Drifter is the Alan Skyrme Photography blog first established in 2004 under the banner Continental Drift. In it we publish snippets about nutrition, information about fruit and food, articles about travel experiences, travel reviews and other related notes.

Coffee Heaven!


I love coffee. It's one of those basic commodities that I would have difficulty living without. Like cheese, bread and wine. And salami.

Wherever I go, around the world, I like to sample the local coffee - Turkish, Cypriot, Egyptian, Italian, java from Java, or Arabian. The style of preparation in each location differs but I like to savour the traditional coffee rather than getting a generic version. And I can make all of these types too!

In my family, we have always had "espresso" coffee. When I was I child I would arrive in the kitchen for breakfast and listen to the macchinetta del caffe begin to hiss and burble in the background - the smell of freshly made coffee filling the kitchen. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I drank pure coffee - as a child a shot of coffee was mixed with milk or with our "zabaglione"*.

In Italy, there are a number of ways of serving coffee, though I drink only two: Caffè or caffè corretto.

The rise of the franchise coffee shops (Starbucks, Costa, Nero etc) has brought more variety to modern coffee shops but the traditional bars have a limited range.

The typical ways of serving coffee in Italy are:

Caffè - the name is simple, indicating that it is the primary way of making and serving coffee. It is made with a purpose-built machine that steam-forces hot water through freshly ground coffee beans. It is, typically, a short drink served in a small coffee cup. Ordering "espresso" in Italy will be understood as the same beverage.

Caffè doppio is a double espresso - two shots in one larger cup.

Caffè corretto is a "corrected" coffee, a caffè with grappa (or other brandy-style spirits) served either in the coffee or in a glass on the side so that customers can add the spirit to the coffee themselves or drink it separately. I prefer the grappa in the coffee.

Caffè lungo is made with more water (hence a "long" coffee) akin to an Americano. This is a good option for those wanting to spend time drinking coffee.

Cappuccino is well known all over the world, though variations have been created in order to differentiate the product by coffee house. The traditional version is simply a caffè doppio (double espresso) with a little hot milk and some the froth from steamed milk. Modern renderings include topping the froth with a light dusting of either cinnamon or chocolate powder - which has led to the art of creating floral designs on the top of the cappuccino. As my late aunt would say "don't play with your food"!

Macchiato is a caffè with added foam from the hot milk used for cappuccino. It differs from cappuccino in that less milk is used. The term macchiato means spotted, hence the coffee spotted with milk and with a touch of the hot milky foam. This tends to take the edge off the strong flavour of a pure caffè.

Macchiato freddo is made in the same way as a standard macchiato but has cold milk added instead of the steamed milk.

Caffè latte is essentially milk with coffee rather than coffee with milk. I don't like milk so I have no idea how this tastes!

Caffè Ginseng seems to be a relatively new addition to the Italian menu. I hadn't noticed it on sale anywhere in Italy until this year when my mother asked for one. In the north of Italy, it seems to be a longer drink than in the south, where it appears to be a variant of an espresso. It tastes nice but it is pre-sugared and sweet. 


Time for a coffee!


 * zabaglione - an Italian dessert, another story … a post on this to follow soon.