Cafe Americano no no no
During one of our menu discussions, we contemplated whether to serve the Americano at the coffee shop. It is one of those beverages that has a long and interesting history, one that I would like to share with you today. But in order to do that, we must first go back in time.
The sketch above compares two drinks linked by espresso. On the left a demitasse with espresso and on the right an Americano. The Americano is espresso with hot water added to it. Compared to the concentrated espresso, the Americano has a lighter body and less bitterness. It resembles a cup of brewed coffee, a blank canvas where any person can add cream and sugar to paint their individualized coffee painting. But where did this drink originate? The term Americano means American coffee.
Popular belief begins our story. During WWII American soldiers fought all over Europe. This beverage lesson centers around Italy. Unfortunately although I did well in my history classes, most of my knowledge of this time period comes from movies and authors like Hemingway. I am a true believer that positive things come from difficult situations. While in Italy, the soldiers sought out positive things in a chaotic environment. I imagine away from home and in a difficult situation, soldiers looked for signs of comfort as a reminder of home. And what better than waking up to a rich steaming cup of joe? Italy had a different approach to the morning coffee however. In Italy, a small cup of espresso will suffice. And as I enjoy both, I waiver between the theory “when in Rome” and enjoy your espresso or the soldiers search and need for comfort. Steven King wrote, “If you've ever been homesick, or felt exiled from all the things and people that once defined you, you'll know how important welcoming words and friendly smiles can be.” Our soldiers found their comfort from the smiles of the barista and the friendly word of the Americano .
I imagine at first the discussions between soldiers and baristas with varying language barriers sounded similar to, “I would like coffee please.” “oh cafe?” Confusion and frustration filled the cafe. Although they both used words that sounded similar each country had a different definition. Maybe at first it sounded like an Abbott and Costello routine. But eventually the Americano was born. The talented baristas added hot water to the espresso creating a new drink which satisfied the soldiers thirst and spread throughout Europe and the states.
Here is a video about the history of the Americano for you to enjoy.
Although I enjoy the history of the drink, in fact it is one of my favorite stories to tell while behind the bar, I struggle with whether to offer the Americano at Rosetta. I think back to all the times I have ordered an Americano, it was always a substitute for coffee. I either did not like what was available or I did not enjoy the way the establishment made drip coffee. The history involved and the unique customization of the drink itself(less water, more shots, adding sugar,cream etc.) has given the public a false sense of sophistication with this beverage. Although taste palates differ, I prefer a quality cup of pour over coffee or espresso to the Americano.
During WWII, the Americano was the substitute for a regular cup of coffee. So if we offer quality coffee made individually for each customer, is the Americano needed?