The Italian Guide to Coffee Appreciation
Harbour City Focus
So much more than just a drink, coffee takes centre stage in the Italian way of life. The humble bean pops up throughout the typical Italian day, from a hasty grab-and-go cappuccino during the morning commute to a sociable afternoon spent in the town square savouring a rich espresso and fine conversation. So if you’re looking for a taste of la dolce vita with your morning cup, here’s everything you need to know about Italy’s most ubiquitous brew.
Italian is the lingua franca of coffee, but this can be a little confusing for those of us without native language skills. Fortunately, the basic coffee types are actually quite straightforward, typically consisting of a short, strong coffee shot – known as espresso – topped with varying combinations of steamed and foamed milk.
For example, the macchiato is an espresso with a small amount of milk added (macchiato is Italian for ‘marked’) while a ristretto is an espresso made with half the usual volume of water, creating a thick and wickedly strong shot. An Americano is an espresso topped with hot water.
But for all the flavour of a dark brew, it’s the longer, milk-based drinks that are increasingly popular as they offer the opportunity to sip and savour the coffee at leisure. The perfect cappuccino starts with a shot of good quality espresso that’s then topped with equal parts steamed and foamed milk, forming Italy’s favourite breakfast drink. Meanwhile adding a long stream of perfectly steamed milk and just a touch of foam to your shot creates a latte, a drink so popular that a whole art form dedicated to creating beautiful images on top of your morning brew now exists.
But there’s so much more to coffee than simply creating the perfect cup. Italy’s favourite drink can be incorporated into all kinds of dishes, blending especially well with sweets and chocolates. Authentic Milanese import Cova offers a decadent cocoa-dusted hazelnut coffee mousse cake, whose rich dark swirls pair perfectly with a lighter latte, while the affogato al caffè combines creamy gelato with a shot of hot espresso for a meltingly indulgent treat that those with a sweet tooth will find irresistible.
Meanwhile, over at Illy Caffè– a Trieste-born brand long regarded as shorthand for Italian coffee – there are over 30 varieties of coffee beverages on offer, including delicious drink-dessert hybrids such as the new Illycrema. This creamy confection combines Illy Caffè’s standout espresso with microcrystals of ice, delivering a singularly smooth blend. If you prefer an even more indulgent treat, the Half & Half Summer pairs Illy Caffè espresso with icy-yet-rich chocolate for a chocolate hit with a grown-up kick.
For a bespoke coffee, a trip to Harbour City’s The Coffee Academics pop-up should be on your bean-hunting agenda. This homegrown chain has released the Hong Kong Blend – a custom roast inspired by our city, based on research on how Hong Kongers from all walks of life prefer to take their coffee. So forget hastily scrawled names on a paper cup and head over to The Coffee Academics for a taste of a truly personalised cup.
Cova Caffè - Ristorante, Shop 116A & B, 1/F, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 2992 0720
Illy Caffè, Shop G61, G/F, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 3665 0311
The Coffee Academics, Kiosk 1, 2/F, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 3100 0082