For a non-coffee drinker like myself, the fascinations of Italians and their cappuccino fascinates me. Everywhere else in the world, most people drink a cup of coffee or cappuccino after a meal or with dessert. In Italy? Not so. A cup of cappuccino goes with breakfast and is never served in the evening. What exactly is cappuccino? It is coffee made with milk with the addition of a milk foam that sits on top.
I am always one who likes to immerse myself in local culture and habits. Since Italians love their cappuccino, I decided to be brave and order one as well. I never really enjoyed the taste of coffee and was hoping that this cup of cappuccino would change my mind. You may be wondering, “Where has she been all her life? Has she never really ordered a cup of cappuccino before?” The answer is – no, I really have not. I have had the occasional frappuccino from Starbucks but never loved coffee enough to try all variations of it. When I got my cup, it reminded me of hot chocolate. I thought to myself, “I think I can do this and might really become addicted.” The fragrance that wafted through the air to my nostrils made me want to inhale the smell even more. Coffee smells so good! The first sip was…interesting. My first reaction was that it was very strong. I decided to add not one but two packs of sugar. This helped it become smoother and more bearable. I took a few more sips and tried to savor the flavor but all I could taste was bitterness and the acidity of the coffee. Disappointed in myself I drank the whole thing keeping an open mind.
As if cappuccino wasn’t punishment enough, I decided to take another leap and try espresso. Besides cappuccino, espresso is another drink that all Italians seem to have a yen for. Espresso has a thicker consistency and is made by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee. A large part of espresso, I learned, is the crema. The whole allure of an espresso seems to be in the aroma and the crema.
When I ordered and got my first cup of espresso I was excited. I thought since cappuccino didn’t really do anything for me perhaps expresso will. I grabbed my cup excitedly and took a little whiff. It smelled perfect upon inhaling it. Then the confusion set in. How am I supposed to drink a cup of expresso? Do I take small sips? Or do I drink it down in one gulp? I glanced around furtively to see if anyone else was drinking espresso so I could watch them, but I was the only one. I took a deep breath and decided to gingerly sip it. Boy was it bitter. If I thought cappuccino was bad espresso is even worse! I then drank the whole thing at once which was a mistake because the aftertaste left me running to eat something to take the flavor away. Good thing there was some nuts which I grabbed and shoved into my mouth. Again with much dismay, I found out that at the end of the day I am definitely still a tea drinker. The conclusion? I love the smell of coffee but don’t like the taste of it at all. At least I tried. As my mother used to teach me, always try something at least once. I did. And that’s that.