Trieste: Italy’s surprising capital of coffee

The day’s rhythm begins at the cafe in every Italian city. However, in Trieste, a city on Italy’s north-eastern coast, that rhythm is altered. Along with the familiar clinks of cups and hissing of steaming milk, you’ll hear people ordering “capo in b”: a mini cappuccino served in a glass that’s a Triestini favourite.

It’s one of the many reasons why this city in the top ruffle of the boot, sandwiched between Slovenia and the Adriatic, is unlike any other in Italy.

“When I first moved here, I thought I needed a PhD to order coffee!” exclaimed Maria Kochetkova, editor of In Trieste, an English-language magazine aimed at the city’s numerous expats. “Instead of ‘caffe’ (espresso), order ‘nero’; for cappuccino, order ‘caffelatte’.” The list could go on and on. She and her husband, Francesco Stumpo, an Italian from Savona, are happy to assist newcomers by translating Trieste’s unique cafe code. According to Kochetkova, connecting with the city’s coffee tradition is one of the best ways to truly become a Trieste resident.

For many Italians, cafes serve as a second living room. Following the home, this is frequently the scene of social life, as people of all generations congregate with friends to share the latest gossip and pass the time. However, in a country already obsessed with coffee, many people may be surprised to learn that this remote border city is frequently referred to as Italy’s unofficial “Coffee Capital.” Not only do the Triestini consume twice as much coffee as the rest of Italy each year – an astounding 10kg of coffee beans per person – but it is also home to the Mediterranean’s primary coffee port and one of Italy’s largest coffee brands: Illy.

“Coffee is definitely a thing here,” said Alessandra Ressa, an English teacher who moved to Trieste 20 years ago from San Francisco. “Rather than standing at the bar and drinking a quick coffee as in other Italian cities, we sit and take our time here; we make caffe appointments with one another. And no one is ever seen walking around with a to-go cup.”

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