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  • Susan Welsh

Coffee, Keats, and me


I've been in search of the perfect cup of coffee ever since Italy. Yes, my tastebuds were forever altered after "experiencing" coffee from the two oldest cafes in Italy-- Cafe Florian in Venice and Antico Caffe Greco in Rome. Famed cafes aside, EVERY cup of coffee I had in Italy was rich and full and exquisite. Why is this?

Obviously context has a lot to do with the experience--the elegance of an establishment like Coffee Greco, located on the luxurious Via Condotti, near the Spanish Steps. A place this storied carries with it a mystique born of the spirits of the poets, artists, and musicians who breathed the air there, leaving trails of creative stardust behind. Surely the famous lover Casanova left some kind of amorous energy in his wake.

In the three years since my last visit to Italy, I have been trying to emulate the richness of a cup of Italian coffee and I have met with little success. I have watched millions of videos about how to properly extract coffee in my Bialetti, and I have researched and bought just about every brand of coffee bean at just about every price point. My conclusion--it's time for a return trip to Italy.

Of course there are a handful of venerable cafes in the USA I've yet to visit. Some of the oldest, like Cafe Reggio in Greenwich Village, which claims to be the first to serve cappuccino in the USA look promising, but not from a practical standpoint. I just want a cup of excellence in my everyday morning joe. There are a few local cafes, but none carry either the history or European influence I am craving. The modern American cafe often reeks of faux exclusivity, and/or hip pretentiousness that just isn't what I'm looking for. There's no need to flaunt your barista knowledge or select bean pedigree. It's a cup of coffee, people, not a 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon!

Which brings me back around to Rome again. Next time, I won't be a typical American tourist and pay $35 for two cups of cappuccino and cornetti. Instead, I'll stand at the bar like an Italian and down an espresso in one quick shot. And when I return home I'll have to live with the knowledge that I won't be tasting coffee like that again until I return to the Eternal City or any of the other lovely cafes in any city or town in Italy.


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