An old ritual good for the heart
Culture and customs among populations are often punctuated and embellished with more or less religious rituals. Very often the rituals become social engines and a pretext for meetings, as well as irreplaceable allies of particular times of the day. For many, it is impossible to imagine a morning without coffee, an afternoon without tea or a night at the pub without beer.
Domenico Modugno sang in a song : ... o cafè sulo a Napule' o sanno fà.., meaning only the Neapolitans know how to brew a good coffee. In Italy, coffee is certainly the focus of numerous meetings, from the most pleasing to the most professional one. It appears that there are at least 6 billion coffees prepared annually by over 150,000 Italian bars. Watching carefully the feats of the most experienced bartenders who attempt to meet the special demands of the italian customers can be a singular experience.
Interesting fact is that no information is requested regarding the variety or origin of the raw material, or the grinding or roasting techniques. The new extraction processes of the typical aromas according to the cru, as the "cold brew", "siphon" or "aeropress", are almost unknown in Italy. Which, on the other hand, has a long standing tradition and century-old relationship with coffee.
But what is known of this ancient custom? To learn more about this exciting fruit, we chose The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing - Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed by James Hoffmann (elected the world's best bartender in 2007), an educational and intuitive text, rich in meaningful images.
The detailed geographical location allows an overview of 35 producing countries, from Bolivia to Zambia, as well as the different features and the variety of flavours that come from the most remote corners of the planet.
The book also teaches us the importance of water and how to store coffee in order to keep it fresh. The World Atlas of Coffee takes you on a journey to discover coffee in all its shades and combinations, with information unpublished in a manual until now.
Of course, to fully understand the organoleptic properties and hints of each cup, you must embark on a learning curve and a refinement of the senses, perhaps with the guidance of a good text. The book, published by Octopus Books, starts with the history of the magic plant, then moves on to describing the process of harvesting of coffee makers from around the world.
If globalization has given momentum to phenomena such as Starbucks, a chain able to guarantee constant and reassuring flavours in each store worldwide, the world is now looking for uniqueness. The search for niche products that only an "alternative" public appreciates and demands. As always, the real distinction is knowledge and curiosity and recognizing the specialty of a single Guatemalan or Nepalese coffee bean or distinguishing roasting techniques, is not for all.
Especially in Italy, where the espresso is a cultural tradition that, at least apparently, would not require updating.
The characteristics of a good coffee found at the bar? According to Coffee Guru Andrea Illy: the nose must have hints of dried fruit or chocolate and not of earth or wood, it should be silky on the palate with a balance of sweet and bitter sensations, without too much acidity. The cream should have a light brown colouring with black streaks and a compact density, without holes.
Knowing has always meant living and developing awareness on everyday actions which we rarely pay attention to and that would instead help us to obtain, from these very actions, a maximization of pleasure.