Latin became the common language for science, and English for business, but when it comes to coffee, Italian is the preferred verbal and written code.
Most likely, every coffee shop in the world will present a cappuccino or a latte on their menu without giving further explanation of what these names mean. These days it’s less rare to find Italian-made coffee machines in restaurants and households and the list of Italian coffee names on menus seems to keep growing.
I prepared the following list of Italian coffee names and its literal translation into English:
And the list could go on. I found it fascinating how some of these names mean exactly what you would expect them to mean when you think of the coffees named after them. For instance, a latte’s main ingredient is milk, so it seems pretty obvious to call it so.
Equally fascinating are the names that seem to be more of an analogy. Hood? Well, this is a cute one. This name comes from the colour of the hooded robes worn by monks and nuns of the Capuchin order.
I’m not here to reveal any secrets. We all know there’s a huge Italian influence in Melbourne and Brunswick, and coffee’s culture has been imported and adapted to the local needs. We have imported the names and techniques but we have also added some names to the list. We have our own “flat white”, “long black” or “short black”. If someone in Italy is writing this same article they would be showing this list:
|Flat white||Bianco uniforme|
|Long black||Lungo nero|
|Short black||Corto nero|
Nor is it a secret that Brunswick produces good coffee and its residents love its culture. Pre, during, and post-work coffees sold from a tiny cute window are part of Brunswick’s streets daily happenings. This dynamic is even more evident during COVID times. Making a healthy socially distanced line to get coffee and being able to remove your mask to drink it is an indulgence that even regulation affords in these bizarre times.
While I enjoy the ritual of leaving my house to get a cup of coffee and get the feeling of socialising with the people queuing or with the barista, I have also grown an interest in having a nice homemade coffee. I once met an Italian who traveled with her coffee machine in her backpack; her name was Alessandra. She was so proud of it and she wouldn’t take the risk of not having a coffee the way she wanted. This was around eight years ago and to be honest, I found it a bit odd because back then I didn’t drink as much coffee as I do now.
Remembering Alessandra, I thought I could get a good Italian coffee machine for myself. I wandered around Lygon Street and Sydney Road looking for a shop that sold this product. Doing my best to pay attention but getting easily distracted, as is usually the case in these Brunswick streets, I couldn’t find a place to get the coffee maker. I decided to go get a tap, takeaway beer at the Edinburgh Castle. Proud and happy with my beer but a bit disappointed with not finding a coffee machine I walked a little further north on Sydney Road.
It must have been destiny because as soon as I raised my eyes, I saw the place I was looking for. I could read the words Di Pacci on a black and white sign nicely lit outside the business. This was before stage 4, so they were open. I entered the place and as I crossed the doorway, a bell-like sound announced my presence.
- Hi, how can I help you? – the guy who worked there asked.
- Hey, thanks! I’d like to buy a coffee machine.
- Sure, what kind of machine?
- Mmmmh, an Italian one? – by this time, I really wished I asked Alessandra for more details.
- Ok, we have machines for work, for home, grinders – he replied pointing to the wide variety of products they had to offer.
- For home! I want one for my home! – my inexperience with coffee products was evident, but he must have asked the right question because I felt proud of knowing what I wanted!
- Ok, we have a wide range of products for your home, do you have a budget in mind?
- Yes, I would like to spend around $70 dollars. I could remember what Alessandra’s machine looked like so when I spotted it at the store, I said, that one, I want that one!
- Sure! A moka express coffee maker!
- Yes! I looked at the various models they had.
- Which one would you recommend for me? Those look really cool!
- Well, that fountain-like one is cute but it depends on your needs.
- I live by myself so, having two espressos made doesn’t seem to be the best option now. What about that green one?
- What about it?
- Well, does it do something special or is it just a cool design?
- It’s just the design.
- Ok, I’ll take the most basic one then! And do you sell coffee too?
- We do! We can grind it for you here! $14.95 for 250g.
- Awesome, I’ll take 500g of your mild one. He started grinding it as we talked. What do those numbers on your grinder mean?
- It’s the level of grinding and it depends on your coffee machine, for your moka espresso it’s a four!
- Cool, what’s your name?
- Leo, my name is Leo. We had that moment in which you’re about to shake hands but then remembered COVID’s presence so we didn’t.
- Thank you, Leo, my name is Tony.
- Good to meet you, Tony!
So, Italian became our common language for coffee and we use analogies and literal words to verbally represent our coffees. I’m happy Melbourne has a growing coffee culture and living in Brunswick feels like I could welcome Alessandra and tell her she won’t be needing to carry around her moka express coffee maker because I’ve got one! I would tell her that she could use that spare room in her backpack to bring some coffee from Italy when she comes to visit me in Brunswick!