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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wake Forest chapter.

Since being discovered in the 15th century, coffee has become a morning staple in cultures and places across the globe. Although its origins remain the same, different societies have developed traditions regarding their unique concoctions. From kaffeosts in Sweden to frappes in Greece to ca phe da in Vietnam, coffee has transformed into numerous different forms and tastes. 

However, coffee’s role in society remains the same across cultures: to bring people together. No matter how each of us makes our coffee or what we have in our cup, coffee traditionally creates an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to come together. From its beginning, coffee was enjoyed in a social setting with the first coffee houses being called qahveh khaneh. Today, you can find cafes, coffee shops, and even chains like Starbucks in most major cities worldwide. However, the culture surrounding these “coffee commonplaces” differs amongst societies. 

Since arriving in Italy in early January, I have explored various pasticcerias to feed my caffeine addiction and immerse myself in the Venetian culture. What I have come to discover is how different coffee culture is here from the United States. First of all, ordering coffee “to go” is very uncommon and almost always signifies to the barista that you are a “stranieri,” or a foreigner. Conversely, ordering coffee to go has become more popular in the United States with the growth of chain stores, online ordering, and drive-thrus. Furthermore, ordering black coffee, as many Americans do, is extremely unusual as most locals tend to drink either an espresso, cappuccino, or macchiato. Yet, ordering a cappuccino, macchiato, or other coffee with milk anytime after 11AM is also frowned upon. This is because the milk in coffee in the morning is thought to make the coffee heavier and more like a meal, whereas milk after lunch is considered too much after a large meal. In this way, one can see how coffee in Italy is viewed as more of a cultural enjoyment than an energy boost to start one’s day. Moreover, once your chosen coffee drink is made, you are expected to take your time drinking it and pay on your way out of the establishment. 

This part of the coffee culture stood out the most to me as it truly highlights how the role of coffee in Italy is social interaction and enjoyment. While you are enjoying your coffee and possibly a pastry, you will likely interact with a variety of individuals. Whether you are enjoying your respective drinks in solidarity or striking up a conversation, this culture creates a unique social environment that stands as an intersection of individuals from all walks of life. However, despite this nature of enjoyment around Italian coffee culture, it is important to note that this period of enjoyment is only temporary as patrons typically drink their coffee quickly while standing at the bar. This aspect of coffee culture contrasts the typical pace of life in Italy. Italians are known for their long, enjoyable meals, seemingly without a care in the world, but they are quick and to the point when it comes to coffee. Regardless, noteworthy interactions between individuals still take place. For instance, at this point in the semester, two of the baristas in my favorite pasticceria recognize me and no longer treat me as a “stranieri,” but as a local in my own way, allowing me to practice my Italian while enjoying my pastry of the week even if just for a few minutes. Nevertheless, no matter what the distinct “coffee culture” is in whatever part of the world you may be in, it is incredible that coffee, merely a warm drink made from beans, can bring so many people together, even for just a few shared moments. In unprecedented times like these, it is important to remember the positive impact that some small beans can have on the whole world.

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Gabby Bognet

Wake Forest '23

Hi! My name is Gabby Bognet and I am a current junior from outside of Baltimore, Maryland. I am double majoring in Biology and Psychology with a minor in Chemistry on the pre-med track!