Brendan McKenzie

How Coffee Became Synonymous with Italy

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Coffee is an integral part of Italian culture, and the country is famous for its espresso, cappuccino, and other coffee-based drinks. However, coffee is not native to Italy, and its introduction was relatively recent. In this blog post, we'll explore how coffee became synonymous with Italy.

Origins of Coffee

Coffee is believed to have originated in Ethiopia, where the coffee plant grows wild. The earliest known record of coffee cultivation dates back to the 15th century in Yemen. From there, coffee spread to the rest of the Arab world and eventually Europe.

Coffee in Italy

Coffee first arrived in Italy in the 16th century, brought by traders from the Middle East who had been introduced to the drink through their contacts with the Ottoman Empire. At first, coffee was considered a novelty, consumed primarily by the wealthy and exoticized by poets and writers.

By the 17th century, coffee had become a popular drink in Venice and other port cities, where it was sold in coffeehouses or "botteghe del caffe." These coffeehouses quickly became popular gathering places where people could socialize, read the news, and discuss politics and culture over a cup of coffee. Coffeehouses also became innovation centres, as coffeehouse owners competed to create the best coffee drinks, and inventors developed new brewing methods and machines.

Despite its popularity, coffee remained expensive and relatively exclusive until the 18th century, when prices began to fall due to increased production in the Americas. This allowed coffee to become more widely consumed throughout Italy, and by the mid-19th century, coffee was a staple drink for many Italians.

Today, coffee is essential to Italian culture and daily life, with coffeehouses and espresso bars in every city and town. Italy is also known for its rich history of coffee roasting and the development of espresso and other coffee-based drinks. The country has significantly shaped the global coffee industry and remains a centre of coffee culture and innovation.

Espresso and Cappuccino

Two of the most iconic Italian coffee drinks, espresso and cappuccino, both have roots in the early coffeehouses of Italy. Espresso, which means "pressed out" in Italian, was invented in the early 20th century to brew coffee quickly and efficiently. The first espresso machine was invented in 1901 by Luigi Bezzera, a coffeehouse owner in Milan. Today, the espresso machine is a fixture in coffeehouses around the world.

Cappuccino, made with espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, is also believed to have been invented in the early 20th century. The drink takes its name from the Capuchin monks, who wore brown robes with hoods that resembled the colour and texture of the cappuccino's foam.


In conclusion, coffee became synonymous with Italy thanks to the country's long history of coffee culture and innovation. From the early coffeehouses of the 16th century to the invention of the espresso machine and the cappuccino, Italy has played a significant role in the development of coffee as we know it today. Today, coffee is an essential part of Italian culture, and the country is home to some of the world's best coffeehouses and roasters.