Sunday, December 3, 2023

Ordering Coffee in Italy: Why Choosing a Latte Could Offend Local Traditions

by Mads

Why Choosing a Latte Could Offend Local Traditions When Ordering Coffee in Italy?

Italy is famous for its coffee culture, with a long history of brewing delicious espresso, serving it in tiny cups, and sipping it quickly at the bar. However, ordering a coffee in Italy can be a daunting experience, as locals are often unforgiving of those who don’t follow the traditions. One way to make a faux pas is by choosing a latte, which could offend many baristas and coffee drinkers in the country.

The Culture of Coffee in Italy

Coffee culture is embedded in Italian society, and it’s taken very seriously. For Italians, drinking coffee is not just something they do to stay awake, but it’s also a social activity that brings people together. It’s not uncommon to see locals standing at the bar and sipping their coffee in a matter of minutes while chatting with the barista or their friends. Every Italian city and region has its unique coffee traditions, with different variations of espresso and cappuccino, among others.

The Meaning of “Latte”

While in many parts of the world, a latte is a popular coffee drink that consists of espresso and steam milk, which is often served in a large cup. In Italy, however, the word “latte” simply means milk. Therefore, if you were to walk into a bar and ask for a “latte,” you would most likely end up with a glass of milk.

Why Not to Order a Latte in Italy?

As mentioned earlier, Italians take their coffee culture seriously, and the baristas, in particular, take pride in their craft. Many baristas in Italy see coffee as an art form, and their expertise and passion are evident in their preparation technique, from the grinding of the beans to the serving temperature. By ordering a latte, you might be seen as someone who doesn’t appreciate the nuances of coffee, which could offend the baristas.

Another reason why not to order a latte in Italy is that it breaks the country’s strict coffee etiquette. In Italian culture, a cappuccino, which is made of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk, is a popular breakfast drink. However, it’s only acceptable to order it in the morning, and not after your meal or in the afternoon. By contrast, drinking a latte, which is similar to a cappuccino in its ingredients, is more common in the western world, but it’s not as popular in Italy.

What to Order Instead?

If you want to blend in with the locals and order a coffee like an Italian, you’re better off sticking to the classics such as an espresso, macchiato, or cappuccino. Remember that, unlike in other parts of the world, Italians usually drink their coffee standing up at the bar. If you want a table, expect to pay a bit more for table service.


In conclusion, ordering coffee in Italy is not just about getting your caffeine fix. It’s a cultural experience that requires a bit of knowledge and respect for the traditions. Choosing to order a latte might offend some baristas and coffee drinkers, but understanding the culture and customs will help you appreciate the coffee better and immerse yourself in the Italian lifestyle. Remember, when it comes to ordering coffee in Italy, stick to the classics and always drink your coffee standing up.

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