What do Chinese acupuncture, Irish hurling and the polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa have in common? They are all examples of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity that UNESCO has recognised since it began anointing such things in 2003, racking up over 500 different practices and traditions so far. Italy now hopes to inscribe yet another custom to that list: Italian espresso.
According to the Italian Coffee Committee, there are more than 800 coffee roasters in Italy, and over 1,50,000 cafes that make espresso.
But traditional Italian espresso is not just any coffee. “It’s the only coffee in the world that has a cream,” said Giorgio Caballini di Sassoferrato, the founder and president of the consortium sponsoring the candidacy.
Turkish coffee, which made the list produced by Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in 2013, is boiled three times, he said. American coffee is percolated through a filter, while in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, coffee is lightly toasted and consumed at the dinner table, “like a beverage.”
That’s not nothing. Espresso cream, as per the regulations drafted by the consortium, “must be uniform and persistent for at least 120 seconds from the time the coffee has been dispensed without stirring,” according to a news release. The cream, according to the regulations, must also be “consistent, a dark hazel colour, with light streaks.”
“I can assure you that it if weren’t for Italian espresso and the social ritual of espresso coffee, Italy wouldn’t exist as we know it,” said Massimo Cerulo, a sociologist. “We cannot separate espresso the drink from the social ritual, because it is a routine, a socially shared practice.”
However, Luca Fabbri, a consultant for the consortium, said the regulations developed by the consortium had already improved the national coffee culture. “Even if we don’t get the Unesco recognition, we’ve already hit the jackpot as the Italian coffee sector is united,” he said. NYT NEWS SERVICE